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Help Your College Student Prepare for a Career

February 25, 2015

By Mario Vela

Help Your College Student Prepare for a Career | A job and a career are very different. Help your child prepare for a career when they graduate from college with these 4 approaches. | The image shows a female college student in front of a chalkboard with diagrams that show how to get a job. She looks like she is floating away with the balloons drawn on the chalkboard.

It’s the time of year when college seniors and their parents worry about what comes next. Will they get a job? Will they be able to afford living on their own? While you’re thinking of your child’s future, have you considered how to prepare him or her for not just a job but for a career?

In my professional career, I’ve spent years helping colleagues and college students enhance and prepare for their careers. A career is much different than a job. A job pays the bills and happens in the present, but a career is made up of all of the jobs we have taken and will take, how we advance, and what our overall goals are.

I’ve noticed that first generation college students have a tendency to let their careers take control of them. There are two main factors that contribute to this:

  • Limited industry exposure
  • Limited networks

Basically, college seniors about to embark upon the adult workforce often don’t know what they’re preparing for, and therefore don’t have a plan for their future life-long career, but rather for their first job out of college. But you can help. There is a great opportunity to help your child learn what’s out there and prepare for a career by:

  • Visiting different companies
  • Meeting with industry leaders
  • Attending industry events
  • Working with faculty experts

When students understand the various opportunities available, from company culture to seeing a typical career path at a large organization, they can get a better idea of what is important to them. They can figure out the kinds of careers they want. The sooner they figure that out, the more prepared they will be to control their careers and make fewer missteps along the way.

Encourage your child to meet with his or her career counselor or advisor at school. They should be able to help your child arrange these opportunities like visiting different companies, attending campus networking events to meet with industry leaders, etc.

Once your college student knows what’s really out there, he or she can determine a career path and stick to it to ensure faster success.


4 Last Steps for College Admission

January 21, 2015

By Kevin Rutter

4 Last Steps for College Admission | A student fills in a multiple-choice test with a pencil.

This time of year, I start receiving daily requests from my senior students for assistance in completing the final stages of the college application process. Keep your senior on track by making sure he or she has completed these four final steps. 

  1. Letters of reference
    Don't leave this step for the last minute. Teachers and counselors have a full plate and it's difficult to fulfill last minute requests to write a great letter of recommendation. Sit down with your child and write a general letter of reference that highlights positive characteristics, academic achievements, and extra-curricular activities. Give this sample letter to recommenders to help guide them so they can complete it faster.
  2. FAFSA Documents
    The Free Application for Federal Student Aid requires W-2 forms and your tax information. This application will determine how much state and federal aid will be available to defer tuition costs. Remember that it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the money runs out, it is imperative that your child submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. Most high schools offer parent counseling sessions this time of year to answer questions and help navigate your tax situation.
  3. Interviews
    Several students of mine are currently having interviews to make the final determination on a scholarship opportunity or admission to an institution. Interviews can be tough, but there are some simple strategies that can help your child feel more confident about them.
    • Practice, practice, practice. Generally, interviews involve the same kind of questions: Tell me about yourself. Why do you want to go to school here? Tell me about a time when you were a leader. Where do you see yourself in five years? Review these questions with your child and offer suggestions to refine his or her answers.
    • Make a good first impression. First impressions also play big role in determining the outcome of an interview. Practice shaking hands with a firm grip and eye contact, have your student arrive at least 15 minutes early, and make sure he or she is dressed for success.
    • Send a thank you note. Sent after the interview, a hand-written thank you note is a nice touch that can separate your child from the competition.
  4. College Admission Test Prep
    These tests can produce a lot of anxiety. The best way to have your student feel better about them is to do some research about what specifically will be on the exam. Once that is determined, the student can put in some practice time. This is especially important for admission tests that involve timed essays. Getting the timing right takes rehearsal. Check with the school counseling office to see if there are any practice tests available so that your student can review the format and question types.

How can we help our daughter understand that college grades take priority over her boyfriend?

January 9, 2015

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can we help our daughter understand that college grades take priority over her boyfriend? | A college-aged female tries to study at the library while her boyfriend sleeps on a stack of books and she looks at him with frustration.

Question: Our only child went to a nearby college this year on a scholarship, but her grades were very bad her first semester. She’s had a long-time boyfriend, who is the same age but is not in school. We think her grades are suffering because her boyfriend is always at her dorm, so when she’s out of class, she’s spending time with him instead of doing homework and balancing academic with social time. 

What can we do, if anything, at this point to help her understand that school needs to come first and she needs to find a balance between social/relationship time and study time?

Answer: One of the topics discussed frequently in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books is showing your child the value of an education. Your daughter is an adult now, so your role as a parent must shift to accommodate this phase of her life. Here are some suggestions discussed in our books:

Earning Income
Discuss the career options she will have with only a high school degree (see Through High School and Beyond), and what the corresponding salary would be. Be transparent with your daughter about your own household expenses and help her create a budget with the salary you discussed. Being open to the reality of living costs can be very eye opening for a young adult. 

Financing College
With your daughter, review the requirements to keep her scholarship. When grades are poor, it will be difficult—if even possible—to get another scholarship later. Explain to your daughter that the longer she waits to finish college, the more difficult it will be to get financial assistance. She may struggle to pay for college out of her own pocket. 

Encourage a Supportive Relationship
Reach out to the boyfriend and help him understand you want to be on the same team for the success of your daughter. Explain that you are not against their relationship, but rather you just want your daughter to earn a college degree so that she can be successful later in life. If the boyfriend truly cares about her, then he should be equally supportive of her academic success.

Encourage him to enroll in that school so they can help each other be successful. You can even help your daughter budget her time with classes, study time, and social time. Teaching her that there is room to manage academics and a social life will continue to be a useful skill later in life. 

Identify a Positive Environment
Encourage your daughter to make friends at her school. Having friends with the same goals for finishing college will influence her in a positive way. Find out what social activities are at the dorms or encourage her to enroll in a club.

As a parent, your role is to teach your daughter to value obtaining a college degree, and then you must trust that you have provided her the life skills necessary to make the best decision and live a productive and responsible life.


Helping Your Child Choose a College

November 20, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

Helping Your Child Choose a College | Graduates toss their caps in the air.

Every year I work to support my students in finding the right college or university for their future studies. The most important thing I emphasize is that it is a process. It requires a great deal of planning, determination, and adult encouragement.

There are three areas in the college application process that cause the most trouble for students and provide the greatest opportunity for parents to assist.

Personal Statements 
A personal statement is a short and focused essay where a student writes about who he or she is and where he or she wants to be. These statements are often required as part of the application to a college or scholarship, as they help the selection committee get a better idea of the student’s academic and personal strengths. It is a great chance for the student to demonstrate who he or she is beyond what the transcripts show. Writing a good personal statement is also a process that needs plenty of time for thinking, writing, editing, peer review, teacher feedback, more writing, and more revision.

Parents, encourage your student to write a personal statement during junior year so he or she can get used to the process. Writing about oneself can be very difficult and I often have students who have no idea what to write about. As a parent, you are uniquely qualified to help define your child’s best qualities and provide a few examples of where you have seen your child using his or her positive characteristics.

FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the most important part of the college process because it will determine how much grant money will be available to your child. A grant is the amount of money a child can receive toward educational expenses without having to pay it back. There is a limited amount of government grant money and it operates on a first come, first serve basis. If you submit the application too late, the money will be gone.

Parents, you have a critical role in completing the FAFSA. The forms will require you to provide evidence of your family’s income by using your tax documents, W-2 and 1040 forms. You will be able to submit the FAFSA sooner if you have this information available. All schools offer free services to parents to help prepare these documents, so take advantage of them.

Comparison Shop
Students have no idea about how much things cost and often fall in love with a school or program without regard to the price tag. Shop around! For example, community colleges sometimes offer the same certifications at a very discounted price.

Before your child decides which school to attend, look together at every option and have a serious discussion with your parenting partner and child about costs. Taking these first steps should help get your child on the right path to choosing a college and financing his or her education.


Tuition Costs: In-State, Public, + Private

November 18, 2014

By Nikki Cecala

When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown. I wanted to live somewhere new and start fresh. I presume this is the feeling of most high school students. It’s a craving for an escape from the bubble of routine and normality. While going away to a 4-year college affords teens greater independence and exposure to these new experiences, it’s important to consider the tuition expenses and other costs.

Your teen can leave his or her hometown and attend several types of colleges. There are in-state public schools, out-of-state public schools, and private schools. Note that private colleges and universities often charge one tuition rate for all students regardless of where they reside, due to reduced state funding. Usually the cost of private institutions is significantly higher than public institutions. Attending an out-of-state public school could be less expensive than attending a private institution. In-state public schools are often a lower-cost alternative to the other two options.

Of course, the biggest expense regarding any type of college is tuition, but there are other costs to consider as well. Based on the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2013 report, I put this chart together to show you the cost difference in schools and where the money goes, from tuition and fees to room and board to books and school supplies. According to their research, the average cost difference between an in-state public school and a private school is over $24,000 a year!

Tuition Costs: In-State, Public, and Private | Total costs for in-state: $31,228; out-of-state: $45,638; private: $55,587

Reduced Tuition Options

As you can see, in-state public schools are significantly more affordable than out-of-state public and private schools in any location. However, there are some schools that offer reduced tuition loopholes in case your student is interested in an out-of-state or private school. Some colleges will waive residency requirements to students whose parents are policemen, firemen, teachers, or are in the military. At Texas A&M University, non-Texans who earn a competitive scholarship of at least $1,000 qualify for in-state tuition rates. It can also be beneficial for your child to attend your or your parenting partner’s alma mater. Northern Oklahoma College waives non-resident fees for children of alumni of several Oklahoma schools.

There are also tuition aid programs that reduce out-of-state tuition for qualifying students who attend school in one of the four geographic regions in the United States. The benefits vary by region, state, and school, so research the benefits in your area accordingly. Here are good places to start: 

Check out the below websites for further information about the entire college process.

Each year, the cost for a college education rises. Don’t give up or let your teen be discouraged. If you do your research thoroughly, it can save thousands of dollars and help your student attend the school of his or her dreams.

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