What comes after high school can be both an exciting and scary time — taking the time to talk to your child about going to college will prepare everyone for that next step.
Kathryn Smith is the author of Mompreneur — an ongoing series tackling the issues facing working moms. Have a topic to suggest? Email [email protected]
The recent college admissions bribery scandal has shocked and horrified some people, but others view it as another example of the troubling relationship between money, access, and privilege in this country.
For mompreneurs who have a vested interest in both the higher education of their own children, as well as the creation of a highly-skilled and competent workforce, the scandal offers a chance for us to pause and consider the purpose of higher education — and how we talk to our children about going to college.
Where you go doesn’t determine where you’ll end up
While every good parent wants to see their child succeed, it’s important to make sure that the definition of success accurately reflects the child’s interests, skills, and ability level. Setting a high bar for achievement is a good thing — setting an unattainable bar is a good way to do a lot of damage.
For many kids, attending a highly-ranked school isn’t an option, but that doesn’t make them a failure or somehow destined for less success in life.
For years, Chris Gray worked as a high school guidance counselor in Connecticut. A mother of three, she has helped countless kids figure out where they wanted to go to school and how to maximize their chances of getting admitted.
When I asked her about the pressure that many parents put on their children to go to a prestigious school, she told me that it’s important to remember this: Even though having an Ivy League institution on a resume might snag your kid an interview, it can’t save them if they don’t know how to answer the questions — or do the job.
While every good parent wants to see their child succeed, it’s important to make sure that the definition of success accurately reflects the child’s interests, skills, and ability level.
Gray recounts a story to illustrate the importance of reminding kids fulfilling their hopes and dreams doesn’t hinge on getting into a certain school. She and some of her colleagues were sitting around the table in the teachers’ break room one afternoon when they realized that though some of them had gone to small liberal colleges, some to big state universities, and others to prestigious Ivy League schools, they were all in the same place, doing the same job.
Not going to college is a great option, too
If your child loves to read books, discuss philosophical ideas, and write papers, then going to a liberal arts school for a 4-year bachelor’s degree in English or sociology makes a lot of sense.
However, for kids who have never enjoyed the traditional classroom setting and are more interested in hands-on problem solving and real-world applications, a technical or trade school might be a much better fit. And admission into a vocational program should be marked as an achievement worth celebrating every bit as much as going to a 4-year school.
As the role of technology in society continues to change and grow, so will the demand for a highly-skilled workforce. If your kid can find an interesting, fulfilling career in a trade or the tech sector, that’s a really good thing.
Supporting the idea that blue-collar jobs are every bit as important to the strength of our economy and society — and just as worthy of respect and admiration as office work — is key to the health and future of our country.
College is about books, not beer
Without a doubt, the years immediately following graduation from high school are a time of incredible exploration, change, and development — and college provides a great opportunity for kids to learn to navigate new situations, ideas, and relationships.
It’s important, however, to remember that the point of school is to learn.
It’s important, however, to remember that the point of school is to learn. Pledging a sorority or fraternity, spending a semester abroad, joining a club, or playing a sport — these are all valuable activities that can complement the ideas and lessons students encounter in the classroom. But they should be viewed as icing on the cake.
Higher education is a stepping stone, not a perpetual spring break destination or 4-year party. The more your child is prepared to use their time at college as preparation for becoming a thoughtful, responsible, and contributing member of society, the better off they — and their future employer — will be.