Having a college or university degree is more important than ever in what has become an incredibly competitive job market. Even most trade careers require the level of education that comes with an associate degree. Currently, only 1.8 percent of people with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed, while those with just a high school education have a 3.5 percent rate of unemployment. Not only is having a college degree mandatory for most all professions, but it pays to have one. Those with a bachelor degree earn an average of $1,000 per week, while those with only a high school diploma earn half that.
So, what can you and your family do to ensure that your child continues his/her education after high school? The first step is creating a college-going culture in your household. Read the list below to learn ten things you can do as early as elementary school to cultivate, sustain, and meet the expectation that your child earns a college degree.
- First and foremost, use language that shows you appreciate the value of a college education and education in general.
- Remember that it’s never too early to ask your child what he/she wants to be when he/she grows up. Encourage any goals or dreams, no matter how silly. If you have any friends, family members or acquaintances even remotely in the field, have them talk to your child about his/her career. Connecting dreams to reality will help children see college is attainable and that hard work and perseverance pays off.
- Engage in and encourage activities that cultivate curiosity and a desire to learn. Visit museums, try new foods, ask questions, and engage in critical discussion with your children. For example, when trying a new food, you might ask why a certain food is more popular in one region of the world than in another.
- Encourage and set the expectation that your child takes rigorous and challenging coursework. Research shows taking even one college-level course as a high school student will increase the chances of attending and completing college.
- When traveling, try to incorporate a visit to a local college or university. Talk to your children about any of the college’s special programs or sports team that relate to an area of interest. If the college has a sporting event, get tickets. Maybe the college has a performing arts department that is staging a musical. Perhaps there is an art museum on campus. If in the market for souvenirs, consider school pennants and sweatshirts as souvenirs. Turn a room in your home into a mini college campus.
- As your child enters his/her teens, start to have more serious discussions about goals. Work together to investigate colleges or universities that specialize in these fields. If your child doesn’t necessarily gravitate toward one area in particular, start to talk about other criteria, such as location, proximity to home, large/small.
- Don’t let money get in the way. If students don’t think that their family can afford college, they might put the idea out of their head. Remember that there are myriad resources available to help everyone pay for and attend college.
- Attend college nights and fairs. These types of events host all types of higher education institutions, including private colleges, state universities, trade schools, and community colleges. There is an option for everyone.
- Celebrate hard work and perseverance. If your child becomes frustrated, help him/her work through the process until they get to the other side. Understanding that success comes through hard work and diligence, rather than “luck,” helps children become independent and confident learners who don’t get paralyzed in the face of conflict—qualities that will serve them well in college and in life.
- Remember that your child needs your help navigating this journey. The path to college is long and complicated and children and teens need the support of a caring adult to help navigate the process. Be that caring adult.