Congratulations, Arne Duncan, on your upcoming resignation as US Secretary of Education! We’re happy to hear that you plan to continue your professional journey as a change-agent for education in your hometown of Chicago. But please pardon my persistence, Arne, you still haven’t responded to my question and suggestions about programs to help high school seniors mindfully navigate the college research, application and selection processes. #AskArne
Excerpted from Trish Portnoy’s blog, College Push: Room 106:
The question comes up again in my Twitter feed…because educators and college planning professionals realize that many families are overwhelmed by and struggling with this process. Parents don’t know whom to trust, which websites to use, in what order to complete the tasks, or even what exactly needs to be done to apply to college. If parents aren’t comfortable with the process, how can they confidently approach it with thought to select the “right-fit” school that won’t strap their child with enormous amounts of student loan debt?
And thanks to @CollegeForAll we now get to continue this conversation! Parents need guidance and answers to the following questions, but not in a two-hour presentation where the whole college-thing is glossed over by experts who do it every day. I support weekly parent/child workshops where they can work together to complete tasks for “homework,” ready to come back next week, over the course of a month or two, with the information, knowledge and building blocks necessary to make mindful decisions.
1. How does college work?
Most teens and many parents aren’t familiar with the terms and vocabulary used in higher education…consider Early Action vs Early Decision, Undergraduate vs Graduate, Associates vs Bachelors, Registrar vs Bursar, Credits vs Courses, or Subsidized vs Unsubsidized. How can we convey the meanings of these terms beyond distributing a piece of paper with definitions?
2. How does a 17-year old know which major to pursue in college?
Students and their families are committing time and money to this endeavor, and they don’t want to waste either or do it twice! It’s a very early age to be making this commitment, but there are indicators and assessments available to guide each student to a course of study that should appear and feel like a natural fit. Let’s create programs to identify and explain free and available resources that will provide information to teens while they learn more about career opportunities available in the Information Age and within the global economy.
3. How do we find great schools for that major?
A great school or even a good school will have the reputation for properly educating and training future employees in the field. A savvy employer wants to quickly hire employees who can “hit the ground running,” know what to do and how to get the job done. An investment in a college degree carries the weight of the school’s reputation. Parents and teens need assistance looking beyond name-brand recognition to find the best opportunities.
4. What tasks and documents are required to complete a college application?
Some documents and tasks are completed by the guidance counselor, others by the student, one or two by teachers, and a few by parents, but they all come together to complete the college application. Who should be the project manager for this job and how can he/she get it done in a high-quality, timely, organized manner?
5. How do we pay for a college education?
Parents and teens should know the limits of their resources, in addition to identifying and taking advantage of opportunities for scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans. Ultimately, the final decision-making moments of selecting a college may be determined by finances, first.
6. Which school is the “right-fit” socially, economically and emotionally?
If the list of colleges has been well-crafted, then a high school senior should have at least two or three colleges from which to choose. Some students prefer to live at home while pursuing their degree, and some families prefer it, as well. Visiting each campus while classes are in-session is the best way for students to “see” themselves as future members of the community.
7. How do we prepare our 17- or 18-year old to be successful on campus?
Teens and their families must believe that the college student will be successful on campus. Education on time management, academic integrity, campus-life and safety, commuting, date-rape, hazing, binge drinking, and health and wellness is vital to college students’ achievement.
These self-directing questions may serve as a guide to small-group discussion and workshops because their answers will lead participants to the next step in the process.
We need programs and resources to bring college planning programs to the masses, low-income and middle-class alike, so parents and teens can answer these questions for themselves based on their family-mindset which may include interests, abilities, goals, expectations, limitations and resource allocation.
Trish Portnoy is a blogger, writer, app developer and high school teacher who helps high school students and their parents research colleges, understand their options, and make choices using resources from the Internet, guidance counselors and other helpful people.
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