Question: College? When do we start talking about college? Answer: NOW!

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kelly Mattinson

The best time to discuss and prepare for college is now. That said, your three-year-old does not need to decide where they are going to college BUT open discussion about attending college can be a common topic at the dinner table, no matter what age your kids are.  

I was raised in a family where college was expected.  Now, college is not for everyone, but in today’s world, a college degree is comparable to my mom’s high school degree.  I don’t say that lightly, the world is very complicated and a degree (a focused area of education) is going to help you succeed in a specific career, but success does not rely solely on a piece of paper.   College is not for everyone, the trades are VITAL and we will discuss that at another time, but for today we are focused on opening the conversation about high learning.  

When you are taking vacations/road trips as a family, why not drive through some of the wonderful colleges and universities in our world?  That being said, there are over 5,000 Universities in the US alone, so you won’t see them all.  Visiting campuses is fun. Each one is unique, many have a rich history and often the architecture is lovely.  Touring just opens the conversation about life post-high school.  

Watching movies, sporting events, and seeing where family and friends attend can also help you discover Universities that you didn’t know existed.   Use your PTA resources, encourage guest speakers to come to meetings, visit college fairs and see what the world offers. Exposure and investigation is necessary to choose the best college path for your individual student’s needs. It plants the seeds and will allow them to grow as your child matures.

My recommendation is to deal with each life chapter as it comes, elementary students should focus on their experience, middle schoolers the same – new exposures with electives and extracurriculars widen their experience and open it for high school life.  Please let your high schooler be a HIGH schooler.  Whether you loved high school or not; it is the time to learn a great deal about the world, other people, values, and what topics interest your student.  A well-rounded High School experience, coupled with familiarity with what’s out there, will help your student choose the college that fits them best when the time comes.

Once your high school student is adjusted to high school life, get ready to plunge into the college search. In other words, serious college exploration should begin in High School.   

Each young person’s journey is their own, each of your children will have a unique voyage… just support, share and keep an open mind to THEIR path and you will create a successful and happy citizen.  That is what is most important, don’t you agree?