The 9 Essentials To Planning A College Education

It's that time of the year. Another academic year ending. Thousands of students across the world are ready to cross over the chasm into what might be called " a leap into their future". That experience called College.  A first step into the adult world! 

The big questions to ask here- How prepared are the children? And, how prepared are the parents? What is the right time? How can we reduce disappointments (we all agree they cannot be completely avoided!)? What are the steps required to develop the various facets- Social, emotional, financial?

Here are a few things that can smoothen the ride:

Start planning early:

Experts recommend beginning to prepare your child very young- as young as sixth
grade. Jason Ma, an expert on educational consulting recommends starting this early to help them focus by reducing distractions and pruning neurons. In his method, he recommends establishing a ritual of regular check-ins with your child for directional guidance. Though he doesn't rule out change of hearts and minds, he recommends the periodical meetings to interrupt the tween's social media and gadget habits. Others recommend even starting something like a college journal to keep track of your child's waxing and waning interests. This helps a great deal in eventually finding the right balance between skills and interests. 

Inculcate great money habits: 

Undoubtedly, affordability is a huge factor in the final choice. Obviously, like most other things- a little planning goes a long way in being college-ready. Not only should you actively explore and make use of State-guaranteed tuition plans. Other countries have many insurance schemes covering educational expenses. Starting when the children are very young gives ample time for the fund to build up into something meaningful. This is also a great time to introduce your kids to good money habits. 

Don't rule out any possibility:

My daughter was in second grade when she came home with a major dilemma. And she sought my help. "Ma, I want to be a clown (no kidding!), a parkour artist, an ecologist and a scientist. Help me choose one."  My first reaction was amazement. I was thrilled at the way she saw everything as equal opportunity. It would be sabotage to slash any choices for her. So, I told her, "Why don't we research what skills are required for each of those?" She is still trying to decide between being a parkour artist and an ecologist. While I am not sure what she will end up choosing, I am rest assured in the fact that she will grow up truly believing she can be whatever she chooses to be! 

Emphasize on training

The choice of the right college and major for your child becomes much easier when the training begins early. Taking college courses during school can help them in three critical ways:

1. It provides a compass for their subjects of interest. 

2. It eases their transition into the freshman year by reducing their load while holding down a job and trying to fit into a new social group. 

3. It helps bring down the cost of their courses, because most credits at that level cost
less per hour than a college. 

Get their hands dirty:

There is no better time than this to introduce them to real life skills while being under your watch. Stressing on managing their own time, doing their own laundry, managing feedback, etc. are all skills that will go a long way to free up time for other important stuff during their freshman year.

Pick the right size:

Most parents would be thrilled if their child had a chance at Harvard or Stanford.
However, the right college for your child should be based on several other parameters.
How socially adept is the student? Does this college have opportunities for undergrads to get involved in Research? In other words, pick what's right for your child and his interests. The answer is not always being at a top school. Dr. Lomax recommends beginning to visit colleges or other significant travel destinations as part of family vacations. This not only helps the whole family get a better picture, but also helps the child start thinking early about where to go. 

Nag them:

The search phase for the right college can be an operational nightmare. Taking the SAT or other admission tests, application deadlines, writing cover letters- it's likely to get a little overwhelming. It's okay to nag a little - only because you don't want any chances run over because of something silly that was overlooked. 

Ask the right questions:

Once your child has picked up a school of his choice that aligns with their interests and skills; it is now time to reflect on how to best use this opportunity. Dr. Richard J. Light recommends a regimen of questioning that introspects what aligns with their core values. In a routine experiment he has been running on students for years, Dr. Richard suggests this simple 5-part exercise that have proven powerful enough consistently to steer students towards making better decisions about how to spend their time in college, to what they would major in, to what extra credits and activities they want to be involved in; and think about the ways they can make their time in college help not just their educational goals but also their long-term life goals. 

Work on the emotional overhaul: 

Finally! Yes, this is difficult for your teen and you! While your teen is busy struggling to steady himself in a new environment and learning new social skills to fit into a whole new culture; you will perhaps be spending sleepless nights alternating between grief over your empty nest, worry about your child, pride that he made it and wonder- where the hell did the years go? Dr. Gail Gross recommends an empathetic process to sail through this phase, which encourages you to draw strength from the rest of your family as well as provide support to them- including your teen.

About the Author:

Devishobha is the founder of Kidskintha- where parenting is inspired by kids. It's a specialised content zone for two important facets that touch a child's life- Parenting and Education. Get your own FREE eBook "53 Timeless Parenting Hacks To Raise Happy Kids" here. Watch out for her soon-o-be-launched line of merchandize exclusively inspired by everyday quips of children!

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