How To Decide If College is Right for Your Teen

I’m Not Forcing My Kid to Go to College

During my commute this morning, I was listening to a local radio show. Typically, I only half pay attention to it as I’m driving. BUT, this morning they were talking about a subject that made me pull over and dial in.

The host, Bert Weiss, shared that many of his friends are talking their kids OUT of going to college. This concept was mind-blowing for Bert. He had never thought about it because, like many of us, we were told, “you are going to college!”

Bert said there seems to be a trend of parents really taking a look at their kids and what they want to do in life. One of the hosts then mockingly said, “because I don’t want to pay for it.” This is the statement that made me pull off the freeway to call in.

While I wasn’t able to get through to talk to the hosts, here is what I would have said….

It isn’t about not wanting to pay for college. It’s about, do you have to? Parents are starting to take a hard look at the numbers:

  • Almost 40% of students who start college never graduate with degrees.
  • Six years is the current measurement standard for getting a four-year degree.
  • Unemployment and underemployment rates for college graduates is at an all-time high.
  • Total student loan debt is over 1.5 trillion dollars.
  • Over 30% of student debt is past due or under forbearance, accumulating crushing interest.

So yes, as a parent, I am going to take a closer look at what the options are for my teen to get an education.

Think about when you bought your home. You didn’t just look at a couple of houses and purchased one. You probably spent hundreds of hours looking online, then many weekends touring different ones. Why did you do this? Because buying house is a HUGE investment.

College is a HUGE investment of time and money! Parents and teens need to treat it like you are buying a house. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Help your teen identify careers they are interested in.
  2. Find out the job outlook and salary of those careers.
  3. Research the education needed for those careers. There are companies that are no longer requiring a university degree for some of their top jobs.
  4. Pick the best option for your teen.

Of course, each of these steps has more to them for you to map out. Go to my website and get my free action plan to help keep track.

You can click here if you are interested in listening to the whole discussion on the Bert Show about this topic.

Don't let college planning fall apart - make it happen

Don’t Let College Planning Fall Apart

Don't let college planning fall apart

For many of us, either our teens are already in school or just about to start. Once it begins, we get into the hustle and bustle of our regular routines. We make sure our teens get to school, take them to band or sports practices, and ensure they get their homework done.

Amid our busy schedules, we need to make sure we’re staying on top of college planning.

Here are a few tasks, by grade level, for you what your teen should be focused on now.

Seniors

  • Decide where you want to apply and find out their application deadlines
  • Obtain letters of recommendations for college applications
  • Start drafting the college essay – experts say you should allow two months to do this
  • Get transcripts and ensure the information is correct – sometimes data error happens

Juniors

  • Sign up and prepare for standardized testing
  • Start or update an academic resume
  • Identify which majors you want to pursue
  • Schedule campus tours for the colleges you are interested in  (Use your school breaks to visit a campus when they are in session)

Sophomores

  • Talk to the guidance counselor and consider dual enrollment options
  • Keep track of accomplishments, awards, and recognitions to help prepare for college applications
  • Visit colleges during school breaks to start getting an idea of the type of college you want to attend

Freshman

  • Start identifying careers of interest
  • Keep track of any accomplishments, awards, and recognition – you will need this for your college application
  • Set and keep good study habits

Act on these tasks to make sure that college planning doesn’t get lost in the craziness of everyday life. Your teen’s high school years will come to an end before you know it. Check out our free resources page for campus tour guides.

College planning is tough when you go it alone. It’s much better when you can do it with friends. You provide your house and friends and we will bring food and drink and talk about college planning. Interested in learning more? Contact us at support@myidealcollege.org.

My Ideal College shares ways to help your teen take accountability.

How to Get Your Teen to Take Accountability

My Ideal College shares ways to help your teen take accountability.

My son woke up and said with a sigh, “It’s the last day of summer vacation.” Then he followed up with, “thank God for weekends.”

As a parent, I am a little sad that summer break is over. I like being able to spend time together and the flexible schedule summer provides.

But I can’t lie, I am glad they are going back. I do enjoy the fact that they are learning new things they can share around the dinner table. They are involved in after school activities that help them discover and expand their interests.

Another bonus with school starting is my food bill will go back down from not having to feed my always hungry teenage boys.

The start of a new school year is like when we watch the ball drop on December 31st. It’s a new year, a time to reflect on the past and determine what your teenager wants to achieve this school year.

We have a discussion with our boys right before the school year starts to help them figure this out. Of course, they say they want to get good grades. But they need to take it one step further to the specific action steps that will help them take accountability and achieve their goals.

We ask our sons these questions to help them figure this out:

  • What worked well for you last year in getting good grades?
  • What didn’t work well for you last year in getting good grades?
  • What specific activities or habits should you stop because they prevent you from getting good grades?
  • What specific activities or habits should you keep doing because they help you get good grades?

These questions are a simple and effective way for your teen to reflect on experiences and decide what things they want to change in order to move forward. It provides them with a level of ownership and accountability for their own success.

Four questions parents can ask their teen to help determine their future

Four Questions to Ask Your Teen About Their Future

My Ideal College shares how you can help your teen identify their future.

Your teen’s high school days seem to be flying by and like me, you are wondering when they will decide their plans after high school. What will they major in?

It can be hard to choose a major if your teen has no idea what career they seem themselves in down the road. Yet, to make a smart choice for the college they need to attend choosing a career path is an important step. A recent study found that 2/3 of college grads struggle to launch their career once they graduate. The third that didn’t struggle knew their major when they applied.

Here are 4 great questions to help your teen start thinking about their future:

  1. What are they interested in? What they are interested in is important in this question. Your teen shouldn’t rely on what others are interested in for them. Right now, they need to focus on truly interests them  – in school, life, your extra-curricular activities.
  2. What talent, skill, or knowledge makes them stand out from others? Do they tutor their friends in math because it comes naturally to them? Have they won awards in high school that could point them toward a possible career?
  3. What are their dreams and aspirations? What is their dream job? What aspirations do they have? What kind of life do they want to be living? When do they want to own a house? Where do they want to live? Do they want to travel?
  4. Where do they see themselves in ten years? Yeah, it’s a common question in an interview for a job but, it should really get them thinking. Owning their own business, running for political office, working in a laboratory helping to develop a cure for cancer?

I wouldn’t advise sitting your teen down and sound like a detective interrogating a suspect with these questions. This will just lead to anxiety, arguing, and pressure for you and your teen.  

Here are some options:

  • Have your teen put these questions in a journal. They can look at the questions daily or weekly and add their answers as ideas come to mind.
  • Put the questions on blank pieces of paper and post in their room. They can draw or write words and phrases to answer the questions.
  • Set aside a weekly or monthly lunch or coffee time with your teen to talk about these questions. Take them to their favorite place, where they will feel more comfortable and relaxed.

Sometimes our teens feel more comfortable talking about their future with other people besides their parents. Many times, our teens will try to say what they think we want them to hear. You might want to find a relative or family friend to have these conversations to help guide your teen.

If you do not have people you can reach out to, schedule a call with me. I would be happy to talk to your teen. Click here to send me an email and I will reach out to you. You can also get additional ideas by checking out my free resource, How Your Child’s Interests Can Lead To Their Ideal College. You can click here to access it.

My Ideal College shares what colleges are looking for in a student's essay.

The Why and How of College Essays

My Ideal College shares what colleges are looking for in a student's essay.

Last week, I provided ideas on how to help your teen when they’re reluctant to write their college essay. I fully empathize with these teens, as writing does not come naturally to me. Remember, the process doesn’t have to start with a blank screen or a piece of paper. You can click here to read my ideas in case you missed it.

Let’s talk about why colleges ask applicants to write an essay.

Think of a college like a business. They bring in candidates for open positions.  For each position, they want to make sure each candidate will:

  • succeed
  • contribute
  • be a positive reflection of the business

The same is true for colleges. They want to see all three attributes from each student they bring in. The only difference is they want students who will be a positive reflection of the college long after they graduate. They also want students who can write well and support their ideas with logical arguments.

So how does a college measure this for each applicant?

Businesses are able to bring in candidates for interviews and ask questions about strengths, values, challenges, and how they conquer obstacles. For a college, it’s not possible to have one-on-one interviews with each applicant. Did you know approximately 1.5 million high school students apply to college each year? Colleges overcome the challenge of learning about each applicant by requiring a college essay.

The college essay needs to help an admissions counselor understand a prospective student’s best qualities. This can be a challenging task for a high school student, especially if the student is shy or has low self-esteem. One way to help your child identify their strengths is to have them brainstorm times when they felt like they accomplished something. What specifically did they do to achieve that accomplishment?  Maybe they persevered, even though it was a tough situation.  Maybe they set out a plan and tasks to achieve a goal, or maybe they were able to influence others to help achieve a goal. All of these are great strengths for a teen to highlight in their essay.

The question colleges use a writing prompt for the essay can vary. Many colleges now use the Common Application. You can click here to see what questions are used. The applicant only needs to pick one question to use for their essay.

Would you like to help your child with writing their essay? Check out our Best Foot Forward Package.  In 20 minutes, your child will receive an ego-boosting report that outlines all of their greatest strengths. They can use the data in the report as a starting point to help them elaborate on what makes them stand out from all the other college applicants.

For more details, email us at support@myidealcollege.org.

We need to guide our teenagers in planning for college.

What I Have Learned Working with Teenagers

We need to guide our teenagers in planning for college.

Yesterday, I held one of my College and Career Action Planning for Teens Workshop. I always feel such joy when I see a teenager get excited. The look of excitement when they start seeing and planning their path of what they will do after high school.

Let me be real, though. Most kids come to the workshop because their parent said, “You are doing this.” I call these teens a reluctant learner. The parent is frustrated because their child has no idea what they want to do. They want their child to take some initiative and plan for their life after high school.

Many times it’s not because the teenager doesn’t want to plan. Of course, they want to move out of the house and live an independent life. However, they may not know where to start. They are overwhelmed with the amount of information being thrown at them. They may be scared because some of their friends have it all figured out. This can affect their self-esteem, which will impact their motivation.

My teenage son once said to me,

“A life without purpose isn’t a life.”

As parents, we need to help them find their purpose. We need to start working with our teens by their sophomore year in high school. Otherwise, you will always feel like you are behind. This will only cause anxiety and stress for you and your teen. You don’t want to spend these last years of high school being stressed out. You want to enjoy these times with your child before they move out of the house.

Sometimes, teens take guidance better when it comes from someone else. As a parent, I realize this may not be a new revelation to you. The phrase “it takes a village” comes to mind. Especially when it comes to helping your teenager figure out their way for life after high school.  Find other parents and resources that can help you. Check out my resources page on my website. I have different tools to help guide you. You can also schedule a call with me. I am happy to share advice, tips, and resources to help you and your teenager

find their purpose.

Contact me at laurie@myidealcollege.org.  I’d love to hear from you!

My Ideal College shares how to keep your child from struggling after college.

Helping Your Child Avoid Being a Straggler After College

My Ideal College shares how to keep your child from struggling after college.

I have dreams for my kids and my life. I envision them happily graduating from high school, then attending college which launches them into a career that they thrive in. They are living on their own, making money, and enjoying life. My husband and I are happy and enjoying our retirement years.

Do you have the same dreams for your kids and your life? I am sure you do.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality for most kids who graduate from college and their parents.

Jeff Selingo, an author about higher education for two decades, did research for his latest book, There is Life After College.  Here is what he found:

Two-thirds of college graduates struggle to launch their careers after college.

WOW! That really hit me like a brick when I first read it. I knew kids had a hard time getting into their careers, but I had no idea it was that many. I certainly don’t want my kids to be part of that two-thirds.

As Jeff says, “20 years ago getting a bachelor’s degree was golden in getting you into a good career. But now, it’s not. Many employers do not trust a bachelor’s degree, as a sign of workplace readiness, as more and more people have it. It’s more important today in how you go to college rather than just going to college. You can’t wait anymore until your senior year in college to get a job.”

What did the top third of college graduates do to jump into their careers right after college? According to Jeff’s research, these kids had these three key differences:

  • Confident of their major when they applied
  • At least one internship while in college
  • Less than $10,000 in student loan debt

What is the one thing you can do to have your child be in the top one-third who jump into their careers?

Help them identify their major while in high school.

Parents will tell me, kids change their mind too much to be able to decide on a major or career. They are influenced by too many things. Yes, kids do change their mind based on what they are exposed to through their family, friends, and the internet. It’s a hit and miss whether they find something that will end up being a fulfilling career for them. But there is a way for your child to have exposure to many different careers.

Step 1 – Have them take a career assessment. It will give your child exposure to thousands of jobs. A proper career assessment will match your child’s natural interests and abilities to actual jobs, not just job categories.

Step 2 – Research the jobs the career assessment suggests. Look at the job outlook for that career. Is it a growing or declining career. What is the salary? Where do you have to work to get a job in that career? Does your child want to live there? 

Step 3 – Meet with people in those careers. Have your child ask them why they like their career, What did they do to get that career? Your child can get our information interview questions here to get them started. As a side bonus, talking with these people might get your child an internship.

These steps will better ensure that your child is in the top one-third who launch into their successful careers after college. I can speak from my own experience. When I graduated from college, I struggled for several years in finding a career I loved. I changed my major, not sure of what I would do. I lived with my parents after college because I wasn’t making enough money.  Then in my mid-twenties, I took a career assessment and found a career I loved and thrived in.

Contact us if you are interested in learning more about career assessments and how they could benefit your child. Email us at laurie@myidealcollege.org.

My Ideal College shares all the costs associated with applying to college.

The High Price of Applying to College

My Ideal College shares all the costs associated with applying to college.

When we think of college planning, we think about saving for tuition, textbooks, or living expenses. What I am focusing on is when it’s time to actually identify, visit, and apply to college. I hear from parents who have been through the process who say, “I wish someone had told me how much money goes into just finding the right college.” Let me break it down for you.

College admission advisors suggest a child apply to 6 – 8 different schools. This is a combination of stretch, target, and safety. The costs can really add up when you start researching and applying to these different schools.

Here are the costs associated with identifying, researching, and applying for college.

Travel Costs

Visiting schools is crucial to help your child identify the best fit for them. You will want to visit schools when they are in session. It’s the best way to get a feel for the culture, campus life, classroom settings, etc. You also want to visit them during different times of the day. For example, what does campus life look like during the day versus night? Also, what is campus life like on the weekends versus during the week? Read my article here on making the most of your college visits.

With these visits comes the travel costs – gas, food, hotel, airline tickets, and car rental are just the basic costs. Let’s say your child is looking at six different schools. Two are local, three are a full day’s drive away, and one requires an airplane flight. When factoring in gas, hotel, food, airline tickets, and car rental for all these visits, you are looking at an expense of $3000.

Application Fees

U.S. News and World Report did a study and found that application fees range from $43 – $90. An average application fee is $50, so if your child applies to eight schools, that is a total of $400.

SAT/ACT Prep and Registration

Depending on your child, they may need help with getting their test scores up. There are free online resources like Khan Academy. However, if your child needs some one-on-one attention and could benefit from a tutor, you are looking at costs ranging from $2,500 – $3,500. Then there is the cost of taking the test. The SAT or ACT is $65, depending upon if your child is taking the essay or not. Then additional reports cost extra. Here are useful links about SAT costs and ACT costs. If your child takes a test twice, you are looking at a cost of approximately $130.

College Admissions Counselors

Some parents do not want to deal with the application paperwork and nagging their child to get it done. In these cases, parents will hire a College Admissions Counselor. This person will guide you and your child through the application and essay process. The average cost for this service is around $3,600 but can go up to $6,000.

Based on the scenarios and costs outlined, your basic cost in helping your child find and apply to college is approximately $3,500. If you add an SAT/ACT tutor, your price goes up to approximately $6,500. Include a college admissions counselor, and your total is approximately $9.500. This money is all for just helping your child pick and get into one college.

Before jumping into the college application process, your child should be confident with his or her chosen career path.  By seeking out and applying only to schools that offer majors in that career, you can better budget and plan for the high price of applying to college.  For assistance with helping your child choose their ideal college, contact us at info@myidealcollege.org.

Parents can help their child avoid this mistake when planning for their future.

Parents, Help Your Child Avoid This Common Mistake

Parents can help their child avoid this mistake when planning for their future.

I hope everyone is enjoying the start of summer! It’s so nice to relax and take a break from the daily grind of making the bus on time, homework, and being in the car for hours shuttling our kids to different events. I recently posted an article with great tips on what high schoolers should be doing over the summer to prepare for college. You can check it out by clicking here.

No matter what grade your high schooler is in, they should be thinking about and researching the colleges or technical schools they want to attend after high school. Most kids put their focus on choosing a college based on sports teams, notoriety, where their friends are going, extracurricular activities, campus life, etc. While these are all important in choosing where to go to school, they shouldn’t be the main reason. The main reason to choose a college is based on what they want to do as a career.

The main reason to choose a college is based on what they want to do as a career.

That’s why as parents, we shell out thousands of dollars or spend countless hours helping our child find and apply for scholarships, grants, and student loans. We want our kids to get an education that helps them pursue a career.

Many parents make the mistake of assuming a teenager is still too young to figure out what career they should pursue. Their interests change so much during this time. They think it’s ok if they figure out their major once they get into college.

Here is the problem with this thinking…

The downside of not choosing a college based on the major is that more money comes out of the parent’s pocket. The average length of attending college has gone from four to six years.

MORE TIME = MORE MONEY

The reason why this number has increased is because of kids changing their majors. As they jump from major to major trying to figure out what they want to do, it just adds to the time they spend in college. In addition, about six out of ten students who started college will not have a degree after six years, according to the National Clearing Research Center.

How will you feel as a parent if your child goes to school for six years and doesn’t earn a degree? That can be a dreadful mistake. Thousands of dollars spent, student loans that still need to be paid. It can be financially devastating for a family. Money is taken out of retirement plans to help pay it off, or the child spends years and years paying back the money that could have gone into their own retirement plans. My stomach turns at just the thought of it. I have clients whose kid has been in college for three years and they have no idea what major to choose. I am working with their child to identify the best career and major for them. If they had done this during high school, they could have avoided the costs they already spent on college tuition.

I agree that a child’s interests will change. They change because it’s all about what careers they are exposed to through you, what they learn on the internet, at school, and from their friends. That is a very limited view when you think of all the different jobs that are available. How can you help your child experience many different career fields all at once?  The answer is simple. Have your child complete a career assessment.

A career assessment is a quick and easy way for your child to match their interests to jobs they will enjoy and thrive in. I personally know the impact of what a career assessment can have on a person’s success in life. I went from different majors and jobs thinking I knew what I wanted but ended up hating the different jobs. I went to a career counselor when I was 24 years old. The results put me on a career path that I loved and thrived in. I was getting promoted regularly because I loved what I did and because I loved it, I did it really well.

Avoid making the mistake your child can make when planning for their future. Talk to your child. Many high schools offer career assessments. Some are better than others. You want to make sure it matches your child to specific careers and not just vague categories like  “the arts” or “computers.” There are thousands of different jobs in each of those categories. If your child has taken a career assessment but still needs guidance, let’s talk. I am happy to help.

Would you like to know more mistakes parents make and how to avoid them? Get my 4 Can’t Fail Steps To Getting Your Child into College. Click here and then click on the image for it. It’s FREE!

My Ideal College shares ideas to prepare for college over the summer.

Simple Summer Tips to Prepare for College

It’s summer time and either your kids are out for break or they will be soon. Summer is for fun and a break from the regular school year craziness. With homework, sports, band, volunteering, and projects, there isn’t much time for anything else. Summer break provides an optimal opportunity for your child to have some focused attention on starting to plan for their life after high school.

Here are suggested action items for your kids that are rising to the next grade:

Freshman
  • Get organized. The college application requires you to write down all the activities, awards, and volunteer opportunities your child does from 9th – 12th grade.  Check out our My Ideal College Countdown Organizer to help you with this.
  • Research different jobs. Check out Goadilo which has video interviews with people in a variety of careers.
Sophmore
  • Narrow down possible career interests. The best way to do this is for your child to take a career assessment. In 20 minutes, your child will have a list of careers they would enjoy based on research of many jobs. Click here to schedule a time to discuss this with us.
  • Meet with people in those careers and ask questions about working their particular field . Click here to download our Informational Interview Questions to get started.
  • Get and stay organized. See why above.
Junior 
  • Make a list of colleges or technical schools to visit and your criteria for them.
  • Find out the requirements for those colleges or technical schools.
  • Study for ACT/SAT if needed.
  • Get or stay organized. See why above.
Senior
  • Make a list of which teachers you want to ask for recommendations. You will want to request them as soon as the school starts again.
  • Work on your college essay .  College application specialists say you need to plan on two months to write and finalize your essay. This will give you time to plan it out, write a draft, and revise. Check out our Best Foot Forward offering to help your child get started.

Use these tips to help you and your child plan for their future. You can get our free My Ideal College Action Plan by clicking here. The My Ideal College Action Plan includes additional action items to complete so your child can find their ideal college. Keep this list in a place where you and your child can review it every day. The goal is to see your child succeed into their ideal college and their future.