“Creating a Targeted Higher
Education Experience – and Career –
for your Child”
As a new school year begins we must admit that we take a good (and deserved) measure of pride as we are able to observe the results of the preparations of many of the parents and high school students with whom we have worked. As these young people are entering their years of higher education they are tackling this next endeavor in different ways, with different goals, and with their own unique set of skills and talents. However, a strong work ethic and good skills are often not quite enough on their own.
Far too many parents view the college experience as a one-size-fits-all endeavor in which the only thing that matters is getting to the liberal arts school with “the best name” (whatever that means). This is absolutely incorrect, and we have no qualms about saying so. Our goal is to help students and their parents to prepare for the BEST educational (and future professional) experience possible, and this can entail looking at a significant number of different variables.
When we look at tailoring the higher education to the child (and not vice versa) we must be very aware of the ultimate goals of the student, his or her interests, and his or her strengths and weaknesses. All of these details, and many others, will go into determining which institutions will offer the best fit for a graduating high school student.
Not all colleges and universities are the same, and not all are focused on the same end results, so we need to help families to understand what types of institutions match up best with what types of students – and what types of careers they can lead to. With these topics in mind, we have decided to focus this month’s newsletter on looking at some of the different types of institutions that are available for students at the next level.
Please note that because we are serious about higher education, all of these options lead to the completion of a bachelor’s (or graduate, or professional) degree during the years of higher education – while some students may opt to attend different sorts of training or trade school programs, and this can be a path for a subset of each graduating class, our emphasis remains firmly on the best options in pursuing higher education. Remember, while the liberal arts institutions are definitely an option (and a fine one) for many students, it is always worthwhile to examine all of the options available and see what matches best with your kid.
Strategy 1: Technological Universities and Institutes
Some people might read this heading and think that we are referring to local “XYZ Technical School” – not at all! Rather, we are targeting high-profile, technical institutions throughout the country that are specifically focused on technology and the sciences. There are many of them, and some are among the best (and sometimes that most competitive) schools in the world.
Most science-oriented students will be well aware of the virtues of such places as Cal Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the famed “MIT”), or Georgia Tech, or Carnegie Mellon. Parents should be aware that these are truly outstanding schools, and they can be found in many different places. Students who have an interest in chasing technological pursuits will find a specialized technical institution to be a great fit for their interests – and they often are also relieved to find that their interests are shared by other bright young people, as well.
For the best of the best schools, like those listed above, the admissions requirements are extremely high, but they are always worth understanding and working towards. There are also similar schools that can lead to the same types of careers throughout the nation, and they can make a truly wonderful match for young people whose minds are intrigued by the right kinds of scientific and technological questions that forge our world and our collective future.
Strategy 2: “Special Focus” Institutions
This is an important option because there are young people who have skill sets and talents that might not always fit into the standard liberal arts curriculum. The artists, for example, or the gifted musicians, or the designers also have their own outstanding corners of the higher education world.
Gifted musicians, for example, may target musical conservatories (the famed Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, etc.) as well as the prestigious music schools at some famous universities (Indiana University, Oberlin, etc.) to receive world-class training for a career in music. And yes, people still do have professional careers in music – these kinds of training opportunities are not a guarantee, but they offer the some of the best pathways forward.
Other types of artists or designers can attend outstanding art or design programs at institutions (Savannah College of Art and Design, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, etc.) that are literally tailored to getting the most out of their talents and finding the best ways to utilize them in the world. As is the case with gifted scientific students at technological schools, artistic students can find it very freeing to pursue their educations alongside other like-minded people to challenge and inspire them forward
Granted, there are certainly a number of talented students will be more comfortable with just seeking out a minor in their artistic endeavors at a liberal arts school, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that at all. However, for those who are fully committed to developing their talents, design schools and conservatories can be an outstanding option for their educational and professional development.
Strategy 3: Academies – Not Just For Military Types!
The most obvious schools in this category are quite prestigious and are known to most people already… The Navy and Marine Corps have Naval Academy, at Annapolis, Maryland… The Army has the US Military Academy at West Point, New York… The Air Force has the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, Colorado. All of these schools will usually require the recommendation of a politician and some extremely strong applications – not to mention an interest and aptitude for leadership in a military setting – in order to gain admission.
Government academies not affiliated with the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines are also an option – the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York, also offer outstanding academic programs with career options in the public service. Like the military service academies, admission to these Coast Guard and Merchant Marine programs offers a scholarship for the four years of study, with truly outstanding training and academics.
However, there are also other academies that are NOT directly related with the military, and they often have extremely intriguing options that can lead to outstanding careers both within the military and in the civilian sector. First of all there are private military-style academies (such as The Citadel in South Carolina, or Norwich University in Vermont) where students are undergo a strict, military-styled education – and graduates may choose to pursue a commission as a military officer after graduation.
There are also a number of state-affiliated maritime academies offering training in engineering and other related fields – Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, SUNY Maritime College, etc. – along with practical experience en route to a bachelor’s (or even graduate) degree.
These are certainly options for someone with an interest in service in the military, yes, but as you can see there are also professional options away from the military, as well. The educational aspects are top-notch and the job market after graduation can be excellent, as well.
Strategy 4: Combined Degree Programs
Remember also that, even within the liberal arts structure, there can be special programs that offer specialized training and options for people who have interests and talents leading them in a certain professional direction. Many students do not have any idea what they want to do professionally after college, and that is not a big problem in most cases. However, students who already know that they want to attend medical school, or law school, or business school (or other professional programs) can apply to enroll in combined degree programs.
These are organized programs that lead directly to a bachelor’s degree and straight into the professional training afterward, assuming a pre-set grade point average and standardized admissions test scores. This saves time, money, and stress along the way, and can also guarantee the school a motivated student both at the undergraduate and the graduate level.
Sometimes the undergraduate degree and the professional degree will come from the same university, but there are also a number of affiliate programs where the undergraduate degree will be completed at a smaller college (usually in the local area) and the successful students then matriculate automatically at the graduate level at a larger university. Either way, these programs are a terrific pathway into the competitive careers of law, medicine, business, etc.
Until next month,