ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Getting Your Kid Ready for College

Updated on November 18, 2015

The Education Industry is a Business

The main mission of a college is to educate students so they can become productive members of society.

Right or wrong?

That statement is only partially true, because a college really exists to stay in business. Yes, education is its reason for its being. But every institution wants to survive. A college is no different.

Regardless of whether it is public or private, profit or non profit, a college looks out for itself first. Its students, while necessary for it to continue offering degrees, are secondary to its goal of staying afloat and moving up in the ever-competitive rankings, published each year by US News & World Report.

Although we've been conditioned to think that higher education is there to serve the public, in reality, it's there to serve a paying public.

There are exceptions, though. Full scholarships are still being given to elite students, but these packages are designed to ultimately benefit the institution.

Not Everybody Can Go to Every College

Until my own children began the college search, I operated under the assumption that students, for the most part, could go to the college of their choice. I did know that some elite universities, such as Harvard and Yale, were highly selective. Others, I realized, were a little less selective, and insisted you had good grades and test scores before they let you in.

However, as long as you had the credentials, I believed, you could go to any college to which you were accepted. If you couldn't afford to go, financial aid would make up the difference.

Little did I realize that tuition (along with room and board) at many private schools was inching closer to $60,000 a year. At some places, since we began our college search, it's even surpassed that. So, if tuition keeps rising, as it has in recent decades, we'll soon be looking at a price tag of $250,000 for a four-year degree.

So, not everyone can attend their dream school. Today, especially, college choice is often determined by affordability.

I've also come to learn that "financial aid" is a misleading term. It can mean the school gives you money for your education that you don't have to repay. Oftentimes, however, it really means a combination of loans.

College is not affordable for middle class families.
College is not affordable for middle class families. | Source

Making College Count: A Real World Look at How to Succeed in and After College

The Myth of a "Dream School"

The college-industrial complex has sold us a bill of goods. The average American family, however, can no longer afford it.

Many people still cling to the myth of a "dream school." I swallowed this one myself. I assumed there was one perfect school for every child. They might have to look far and wide in order to find it. But it definitely exists and it's worth the search.

I assumed that a student had to attend a dream school, even if it meant moving thousands of miles away.

What I know now is that nearly every medium to large-sized university can meet the need of just about everyone. One exception would be if your child wants to go into a very specialized field, such as engineering. But nearly everyone else can find something that interests them at any given campus.

Not being able to attend a "dream school" won't be a lifelong, crippling handicap.

You'll Get More Financial Aid at a Lower-Tier School

If affording college is an issue, it pays to look at schools in which your child will be an academic star. That's because all colleges want to attract the brightest candidates, in order to improve their rankings. So, under these circumstances, they'll likely offer generous aid.

Full-ride scholarships that waive tuition, and sometimes room and board, are very difficult to come by, unless your student really stands out. He or she probably won't get one of these coveted prizes at a school that already attracts a lot of elite scholars.

So, if you're hoping for a good aid package, look for a school where your child's profile is noticeably higher than the average.

The Perfect School?

Will you do anything so your child can attend his or her dream school?

See results
College acceptance letter example.
College acceptance letter example. | Source

Some Dual Enrollment Classes are Held at the High School

Sometimes a student doesn't even need to leave campus to attend a dual enrollment class. That's because college instructors and administrators are beginning to expand their services, especially in low-income areas.

These courses are often grant-funded and available at a very low cost to students, approved by their high school guidance counselor to take these classes. This wouldn't be a good idea for a student who struggles, as the grades earned in dual enrollment are etched in stone, and will appear on final college transcript.

The Benefits of Dual Enrollment

Your son or daughter can now earn college credits while still in high school. (However, if your school offers AP classes, this may be a better option.) This allows them to attend classes at a college. The courses they take also count toward their high school diploma.

This can potentially save you thousands of dollars in tuition, because your child can complete his or her first year of college before graduating from high school. Some students have even been able to earn an associate's degree this way.

Dual enrollment classes cost only a fraction of what you'd pay for a regular college course.

Early Action Versus Regular Deadline

The college acceptance process has changed a little since you mailed your own college applications. Back then, the deadlines were either right around Christmas, or, at less selective schools, whenever you got around to sending your admissions packet in.

Now, though, many students apply early in their senior year, usually before November 15. This has several advantages. One is that early action students usually have a higher rate of acceptance. It shows admissions officials that you are highly interested in attending. One college admissions expert compared this to adding 100 points to your SAT score.

However, there are some things to be aware of. You don't want to confuse this with single restrictive "early decision." This is a binding agreement. You are telling the school that if accepted you will attend.

Also, some private schools do not allow you to apply early action to another private institute.

Better early action acceptance rates.
Better early action acceptance rates. | Source

A Guidance Counselor Can Make or Break Your Application

Treat your guidance counselor very well. Admission decisions will hinge upon his or her recommendations. In fact, your high school counselor has enormous power. (Whether or not this is a good thing is a matter of debate. But it is a reality.) He or she is in direct contact with admissions representatives, and much of a counselor's job is building relationships with these officials.

He or she is expected to give honest information. Anything less will put their professional reputation on the line. It will also jeopardize the admissions of future students.

Be on your best behavior when dealing with your guidance counselor. This goes for parents, as well as for students.

Chasing Private Scholarships is a Waste of Time

Many people are under the mistaken impression that there are billions of dollars in unclaimed scholarships. However, this doesn't seem to be the case. Private scholarships are few and far between, and you can waste a lot of precious time chasing down this elusive educational funding.

Even if you do land some money, it probably won't help. That's because the school you eventually attend will probably count it as an asset, and reduce your aid accordingly.

Most scholarship money comes directly from the school you'll attend. This is known as "institutional aid." A student's time is probably much better spent keeping their grades up or working at a part-time job in order to save money for college.

Disclosure

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Comments

Submit a Comment
New comments are not being accepted on this article at this time.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    For my graduate school I was visiting my "uncle" and we went to SeaWorld, at lunch he asked: "didn't you apply at ......" I said yes I did and had not heard from them. He tossed me his keys and said: "go talk to them". And so I did. The graduate school started in a mere two weeks but they had over rejected as some of their choices had gone elsewhere. So I got in. What I add here is that personal visits to admissions can sometimes make all the difference. Great job!

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    It probably still could help. Talking face-to-face is often very effective.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

    My eighth grader recently wanted to know how much we had saved up for college for her. It seems that the topic is a very serious point of discussion even for 14 year-olds. They don't want to spend the rest of their lives paying off college tuition. When I went to college, I was flexible with what I majored in so that I could get the scholarship that I needed to attend. My Masters and Ph.D., for example, were free to me.

  • Suzanne Day profile image

    Suzanne Day 3 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    I like the idea of those college credits! Unfortunately, education is becoming completely out of reach of the public, while raising children is also becoming a fantasy for parents. Maybe when no children are born or raised, something might possibly be done about all this. Voted useful.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Thanks Suzanne, the cost of attendance has reached ridiculous, absurd levels, which might indicate a crash is coming.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Flourishanyway, children really are starting to think about this at a younger age. My goodness. But it shows maturity that she's thinking ahead.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This hub contains some very useful suggestions, ologsinquito. Finding and attending college in the United States today sounds like it's a lot more complicated than it was for me. This is a great time of year for a hub like this. My senior students are becoming very interesting in getting into college right now!

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi Alicia, you are absolutely correct. The college game is a lot different than it used to be. It's much more complicated now.

  • Deborah-Diane profile image

    Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

    After putting four daughters through college and working for a decade at a high school, I still found this article to be extremely information. Wish I had read it 20 years ago! Very helpful information that every parent should read.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Thanks for reading and thank you for the feedback. I do wonder if and when this bubble will crash.

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

    Olog you are indeed a prepartation guru for that first time college biter very useful impactful and comeplete voted up and usefu;

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Thanks so much Frank. I appreciate your feedback and your kind words.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

    Wonderful advice for parents and students who plan to attend college. Your opening with the dream school really puts everything else into perspective. You can achieve the same results if you search for them. Great post filled with lots of useful information.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi teaches12345, thank you so much. Everything has changed so quickly in the field of college admissions.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    A very helpful hub your layout is useful and informative your sound advice requires the attention of many beginners.

  • ologsinquito profile image
    Author

    ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

    Hi DDE, sending your children off to college is a huge step. There is so much to know and so many pitfalls to avoid.

Click to Rate This Article