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higher education

Higher education does count, if you do it right

One of the trends that we have noticed in the past few years is a growing uncertainty among some  with regard to the idea of higher education in general.  There are a number of folks who seem to have “fallen out of love” with the very idea of college or university studies for their children, and even the parents of some highly motivated and intelligent high school youngsters have begun to ask themselves some hard questions about the inherent value of an expensive undergraduate degree.

Well, as proud professionals when it comes to all of the details surrounding the preparations for higher education, we are able to view this issue from an inside perspective.  We see the entire college experience beginning years before admission and the freshman year even begin for a student, and we follow them through each semester leading right up to the day of their graduation – further, we also track the post-college efforts of our clientele as they begin their careers or head off to graduate or professional schools.  We are proud of their accomplishments and learn from the experiences of each individual.

So, with all of this insight gained, we are able to confidently reassure parents and high school students that graduating from college or university remains one of THE most important springboards to success for young people today.  (Note that we used the term “graduating” and not simply “attending.”  Finishing the process matters, as does how one goes about the process of getting there!)

Yes, college is expensive – and getting more expensive.  Yes, it is an investment of time – and we never have enough of that.  Yes, there are schools that would be a poor fit for some students – even prestigious schools can be a terrible place for some kids to study.  Yes, there are kids who have rough experiences at college – and the news media breathlessly report on a litany of other unseemly situations that can arise during the college years, as well.

We are keenly aware of all of these challenges, as they affect us directly.  Yet there is absolutely no question that a family and a student who are well prepared, who select the right school for the right reasons, and manage the processes of application, study, and graduation intelligently will be setting their child up for a bright future.  In this month’s newsletter we are pleased to report on just a few of the many reasons that obtaining a college degree remains important.

With that said, we are aware that not every high school student will go on to attend college – over 30% of American high school graduates will not immediately enroll, and that number may actually be trending upward.  Further, however, we also track the statistics regarding students who begin college ill-prepared and end up dropping out or having trouble, and we make it our business to help families and college students to avoid suffering these types of unfortunate circumstances altogether.

Our main focus is not on the overall statistics, however.  No, our professional focus remains where it should be – squarely on the families who rely on us to help them optimally prepare for their child’s success at the next level of education.  Here are just a few of the reasons that this next level of training is of the utmost importance for the development and growth of a successful future for today’s young people.

Reason 1: Critical Thinking and Responsibility

One of the most important reasons that attending college can make a huge difference in the life of a young person is their development of critical thinking skills.  The amount of reading and study, if taken seriously, can expand these skills and assist a young person in obtaining a better understanding of the world around them.

Critical thinking, however, is more than just exposure to ideas and thoughts.  Students who actually learn to think critically – especially in an academic environment – will be able to develop a voice for themselves, and be able to specifically determine and define why they accept or reject certain ideas, ranging from politics to social structures to artistic endeavors.

Furthermore, college allows young people to learn how to develop these skills and take responsibility for their actions.  This is a vital skill that can only help them in their future careers at all levels.

Reason 2: College Life Can Be Amazing!

The college experience can be one of the most thrilling and exciting times in a young person’s life, intellectually, developmentally, interpersonally, and in many other ways.  To miss out on this learning experience – or perhaps even worse, to start the process and have it fizzle out – is really unfortunate.  There are other ways for people to learn, certainly, but very few offer the experiences of a first-rate college education that has been planned for success from the very beginning.

Some families have generations who have attended the same university, creating a legacy that is meaningful to them.  Others have proud high school graduates who are the first in their family to be able to attend college.  Regardless of the circumstance, young people are right to look to their college years with enthusiasm and excitement.

Reason 3: College as a Prerequisite

Any American high school student who is interested in pursuing a career in medicine, law, dentistry, or other prestigious professions will absolutely be required to attend college before beginning with their next level of specialized studies.  In fact, in order to even have a chance at admission, they will need to perform at a high level academically, as well as prepare to take admissions exams specific to their area of interest.  (No, we are sorry to report that when it comes to these types of professions, taking the SAT and/or ACT did not signal the end of standardized testing for your child!)

These challenging and specialized tests, such as the MCAT for medical school, the DAT for dental school, and the LSAT for law school, serve to examine higher level academic preparation that are accomplished during the undergraduate years of pre-professional studies.  The initial level of preparation for these tests comes through completion of the academic prerequisite courses.  There really is no other track to training in these careers in the United States, and it is a highly competitive process.

With that in mind, the earlier a student is able to determine his or her interest in one of these professions, the more streamlined the process becomes.  Deciding on a professional academic track later on during college does not close the door, so to speak, but there is no question that it does often add some additional academic hoops to jump through – depending on the courses already taken earlier.

The bottom line here is that in order to become a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, etc. – a student is going to have to plan on multiple years of post-high school education at a very high level.  There is no other pathway available!  Even “combined degree” programs (such as BA/JD, BS/MD, etc.), which are offered to exceptionally motivated high school students, will include the completion of a bachelor’s degree as part of the academic package – the degrees are just completed over a shorter period of time.

Reason 4: Proper Preparation Avoids Disappointment

Many of the criticisms that are currently aimed at higher education point to the large numbers of students who either drop out of college, or those who actually muddle through to complete a degree and then have no idea what to do with it (and often no job to go along with it, either!).

Well, we certainly agree that these are outcomes that should be avoided – however, the good news is that they CAN be avoided, and we are pleased help families along a trek through higher education that shows them specifically how to skirt these types of pitfalls along the way.  It is not even close to enough for a young person to work hard in high school, gain admission to a great college, and then just think that things will somehow “work themselves out” from there… but often, that appears to be the mindset of many people.

In order to get through the process optimally, and without enormous amounts of student debt, the process needs to be planned in advance as much as possible.  Now, this planning process can still leave substantial “wiggle-room” for students who are not yet sure what they want to do career-wise, but it is absolutely imperative that the college years be prepared for in a way that will set families and students up for success and not for twisting in the wind.

In order to avoid disappointment in the college experience, it needs to be fully understood at the outset.  We are here to assist with that process as early as a family is willing to begin thinking about it… and quite honestly, it is almost never too early!

We are pleased to assist families in helping their high school kids prepare for their time in college, and we really do work with both the parents (on the financial side of things) and the students (on the preparation, academics, and application process) to make things run smoothly as possible.

In addition to our monthly newsletters, we have a strong focus on helping the parents of college-bound students to better understand the financial aspects of college preparation.  One of our best tools – and one of the most popular – would have to be our College Funding Workshops.  These workshops offer live, in-person interaction with some of the finest college funding professionals around.  They also offer vital information for parents who specific and up-to-date information about the financial implications of their student’s upcoming experiences in higher education.

These workshops are available without any tuition or cost to attendees, but because of space requirements we insist on advance reservations for attendance. This also helps us to keep an effective learning environment for each group.  For more information about future College Funding Workshops in your town, simply reach out to our workshop staff 614-934-1515.  They will have more details about locations, topics covered, specific time and dates, or other details.  Of course, they are also able to assist with making reservations, for those who wish to attend soon.

You may also be interested in reading our published report, which was written specifically for parents seeking strategies and insights with regard to future college expenses.  We have titled this report “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” Just like the workshops, we send this report to parents by request and it is always completely free of any cost or obligation.  If you wish to peruse your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” simply call our team at 614-934-1515 and they will be happy to place one in the mail for you immediately.

Until next month,