Saturday, September 27, 2014

Getting a Child and Yourself Ready for College

hopes and dreams in their eyes as well as the sun

Do you want to know how to make an otherwise youthful and energetic mom feel old? Have a child that is getting ready to go to college. That will do it every time.

There is a lot more to getting one of your children ready for college beside grades. There is the self reliance portion that cannot go  unattended. Not to mention the expense of anyone going to college. Today we are going to focus on the nuts and bolts of selecting the right college and how to pay for it.

Not Everyone Should Go to College

We have developed a mindset that unless someone goes to college they cannot be successful. This is not true. I believe that there are people who shouldn't go to college at all. Two of my sons are not interested in college. One tried college and didn't do well. His grades were fine, he just found out he wasn't that interested. Instead of being honest and telling his mom and I that he didn't want to be in college anymore, he kept going to the school, he just didn't go to class. It wasn't very long before his mom (my ex-wife) received a letter from the school telling her that he had been kicked out and he was going to have to pay back the grant he had received. Yup, he got a grant because of his mom and also my income. He wasn't interested in going part-time, now he is not in school and he is in debt.

For some reason we have come to the conclusion that everyone should go to college. If we were to accomplish this ludicrous goal, we would have no trades people. Having a degree doesn't teach you everything you need to know about anything. A degree is just a beginning. They teach the very basics of what you actually need to know.

I have found this to be true no matter the course of study. I have a degree in business management my wife has a degree in respiratory therapy. We have both found that the real learning doesn't begin to you get a job in your field. College teaches you the basics, that is all. After you get out of school it is up to you to learn the rest.

CEOs would be worthless without the carpenters, plumbers, and sales force. Every job is equally important, no matter what society says or thinks.

Apprenticeship Programs

When I was growing up apprenticeships were everywhere. Machinists, mechanics, plumbers, you name it. You could find someone who was willing to teach you a trade. Slowly all of that has gone away. My dad learned to be a machinist through on the job training and he worked on parts for the space shuttle. Gradually , companies started requiring formal training. There are becoming fewer and fewer options for learning something outside of the system.

I understand the argument given for this transition, that there should be standards that apply across the board. Part of this shift though is a desire for control by the education system.

Self Taught versus Instructor Lead

Now that I have you thoroughly convinced that I am against college all together, we are going to change gears just a little. I am a firm believer that any time a person can teach themselves something, they will have a better understanding of the concept. They may want or need someone more advanced to help with parts, but this is primarily, individual driven.

Lots of the things we take courses to learn could be done this way. My great grandfather was a self-educated doctor. You couldn't do this now because of the organizations and public perspectives. But this can still apply to several other job skills.

This idea should most certainly be applied to almost anything computer related. Anyone can pick up a book and begin learning a programming language. The more a person teaches themselves, the quicker a person will pick up on anything related.

A person should learn all they can about whatever they are interested in before they ever step foot in a classroom. They may find out they are not that interested or that they don't even need the class.

Put the Child in Charge

I kinda feel bad calling my youngest son a child. He is 18 after all, but he is still our child. When a family starts looking at college it is important to make the person that will be going to school, take the leadership role in finding the schools to talk to and learning about scholarships or student aide. They need to prove that they are ready to go to school. Far too many are pushed into college before they are ready. Most should take at least a year and work a job before going to school. This will give them tine to decide what they would like to study.

Our son knows that we will help him all we can. But he has to take the leadership role in finding funding options. He has talked to several schools and has even had interviews with a couple. We talk about each school, but he gets to decide which ones are still in consideration. I am thankful that he values our opinion and is glad that I do some extra research. Due to that alone he has taken some colleges off his list.


Funding is and is going to continue to be a major issue for everyone when it comes to going to school. For me when I achieved my associates degree I paid for it all, well kinda. The company I worked for at the time reimbursed 50% of all tuition and books as long as you received a grade of C or better. I saved up the money for the tuition my first semester and I actually held a yard sale that made enough to pay for my first set of books. Once I got through my first semester it became easier. I resold the books back and with the reimbursement I only had to add a little more each semester to get through school. I went to school during the day and worked full time at night. It was tough, but I got through. The government actually paid for me to get my bachelor's degree because my job was eliminated due to overseas competition. I guess that was their way of saying they were sorry for creating an atmosphere were companies were sending jobs to other countries.

When my wife was going to school, it was a different story. Her ex husband had left her and she was trying to find a way to support herself and her(our) children. She was able to get a grant and was working a low paying job, but in order to make ends meet she really had no choice but to take out student loans. We are still facing that challenge. 

We are going to talk about some of the ways to fund school.

Working Your Way Through

Working your way through school is tough. Trust me I know. Everyone I know who has worked their way through school has started at a community college. There is nothing wrong with a community college. I have found that a good community college offers just as high a quality education as many of the larger universities at a way lower price tag. If a person is careful they can  take only the classes that will transfer (if a 4 year degree or more is what they are shooting for). A person can take one class at a time if need be and still slowly peck away at their degree. 

Working your way through school has another huge benefit. A person really appreciates the education they receive and I believe applies themselves more if they are picking up the tab themselves. I am not saying that people who receive student aid do not apply themselves, my wife busted her but and did great. I am saying that I saw way too many young people whose parents were paying for their education that just played at school. Some of which dropped out because class was getting in the way of them partying. Even if they are not partying, some children just do not take school seriously if they don't have to pay for at least part of it. Remember the story of my son?


Scholarships are a great way to either pay for or help pay for school. I am going to talk about 2 different types of scholarships. Traditional and non traditional scholarships. 

Traditional Scholarships

Traditional scholarships are normally based on either extracurricular activities i.e. sports or academic excellence. I qualified for a scholarship for my bachelor's degree due to my grades at the community college level. This was granted in conjunction with the governmental help that I received due to my job being shipped to another country. There are scholarships for people on the math team as well as the football team. Tell your child to check with their high school counselor or go to the counselor at the college they are wanting to go to and ask about scholarship opportunities. You can find a list of these type of scholarships at As your child is looking through the list, they will find that a lot of the scholarships listed only apply to certain schools and some apply only to certain majors, there is help out there. 

Non Traditional Scholarships

A lot of large organizations have scholarship opportunities as well. Lowe's Home Improvement offers a scholarship for children of employees. The American Kennel Club (AKC) offer scholarships the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) offer scholarships. Whatever your child or even you are interested in their may be a scholarship out there. Lots of civic organizations have scholarships. They are going to have to do some major digging, but it can be done.

Mini Scholarships

At first I thought about including this in non traditional, but that wouldn't be fair, when most people think about scholarships they are thinking about big money. There are tons, yes tons, of small scholarships out there. While studying for my associates degree I heard about a scholarship opportunity from a horseman's club. The scholarship was for $500.00. I know you may be thinking, "That isn't anything when it comes to an education" You cannot think that way. You have to think that every little bit helps. 

I won that scholarship. How did I do it? I had to write a paper on something to do with horsemanship or raising horses. I wrote my paper on pasture grasses. Yes, I said pasture grasses. I can still tell you all about endophyte infected fescue and how it can cause still births in horses. Hey, I learned something and I got some money that I could use for school. Remember I paid for my associates degree myself and $500 was awesome.


Grants are a little bit of a sticky subject with a lot of people. The government really doesn't have the money that they are giving away. They are just printing a lot of it and borrowing the rest, but here is the deal. If you or someone who is thinking about going to college refuses to take grant money that they could have gotten, it is not going to reduce the governments spending. They are just going to give that money to someone else, someone who may not use it as wisely as you or your child. Again remember the story of my oldest son. He used the money so unwisely that he now has to pay it back. 

Grants require the student to go to school at least half time. That means at least 6 credit hours per semester, normally two classes. Grants will also pay up to a certain dollar amount per semester. I many circumstances if a person qualifies for a grant their tuition and books will be completely covered by good ole Uncle Sam. I still suggest at the minimum a part time job for living expenses, but if someone qualifies, I would jump at it. The college counselor can assist with filling out the paperwork to see if a student qualifies.

Student Loans

Student loans are a subject that I would like everyone to approach with caution. Please know that a person cannot file bankruptcy  on student loan debt, in fact they can actually garnish your social security payments for student loans. The only way you can get rid of student loans is to pay them and a lot of student loans start accruing interest the moment you sign the paperwork. 

Student loan debt in the US is currently at 1.2 trillion dollars. There are situations were student loans are a must. Remember the story of my wife? She could not have made it without the aide of student loans. I will never begrudge her for taking them. She was doing all she could. Having said that, unless you are in a similar situation, avoid student loans as much as possible. I believe she would tell you the same thing. They feel like a blessing when you are in school, but it doesn't take long for that blessing to turn into a curse.

Research Majors and Minors

Okay, this one is another biggie. When I first went to college, I was studying electronics. It took me two semesters to realize that wasn't for me. I did well in the classes, but I just didn't fit. I know one man who has more college credits at the local community college than some of the instructors. He probably has a doctorate's degree worth of college credit from an associates degree level school. He completed I think 4 different associate's degrees. He is not using any of them. He is an extreme case, but he illustrates my point perfectly. 

It is very easy to get so far into a program that a person feels like they have to finish even if they hate what they are learning. Read, a lot. Encourage your child to find people that are in the field that they are thinking about going into. Have them ask questions about their job, maybe even have them interview people in the fields they think they would enjoy. The more information they have about any given field, the more likely they will make the right decision.

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Don't Be a School Snob

It doesn't matter what school has your or your child's favorite sports team. The quality of education should come before that consideration. Look at every size school. Small and medium sized schools can do just as good a job and sometimes a better job than the large schools. Keep an open mind while looking at the facts.

Look at Accreditation. 

The course of study your child chooses will determine how important this point is. I could get my master's degree through several online universities, but if I want to work in any of the community colleges around here, where I get my degree from needs to be accredited by certain organizations. Every school has to list any and all accreditations. Look them up.

Be Supportive but Honest

A child going to school is a big deal. Not just for them, but for the parents as well. My wife does not want our son to go too far away for school. She is not just being the over protective mom either. That is part of it, but not all. He really is not ready for the full responsibility of making his own way. I have no doubt that he would learn it quickly, but if we can ease the transition we will. If he decided to go to a school across country and he was able to obtain funding, there is really nothing we could do to stop him. He is an adult, but he really wants and needs our assistance. 

He also values our opinion. The last school that tried to do a telephone interview didn't make it far. He told me that so and so school was going to call at 4:30 (our time). So I just hopped on the computer and looked up reviews for the school. They were not good. 5% career readiness. Ouch! I showed him everything I found and explained all of the different metrics. 4:30 came and went. No call. 5:30 the phone rings. After about a 3 minute conversation the lady asked to put us on hold while getting an admissions person. We agreed. We were put on hold 3 times only to be told that admissions interviews were running over and requesting another appointment to call back. I was not kind. That one is off the list.

I hope this helps you or someone you know in dealing with a child going to college. College can be a valuable asset for many people, but is not needed by all. I wish you all

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes

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