How soon is too soon to start discussing college with your distance learner? There's really no hard and fast rule, but the earlier you start, the better prepared she'll be to weigh the pros and cons of postsecondary options in her high school years. Here are a few tips for mixing the topic into conversation throughout your student's academic career.
Pay attention to your distance learner's ambitions. Beginning in elementary school, and even before, ask her what she would like to be when she grows up. Revisit the topic frequently through the years, and if the answer changes, as it often does, chat about the different ways college or other postsecondary options may help transform that dream into a reality.
Broaden horizons – both hers and yours. Avoid conditioning your student to think that college is the only post-high school option, but don't discount the benefits it provides, either. How can you achieve this balance? Start by helping her explore her strengths, weaknesses, and interests as she grows up.
Encourage your distance learner to enroll in courses like Career Explorations I during middle school to learn about professions she may not otherwise consider. Help her get involved in extracurricular activities where she can discover new passions and perhaps a new career opportunity. If she talks about serving in the armed forces, hear her out. Maybe an ROTC program is the answer. Above all, strive to keep an open mind about her future as she grows, and encourage her to do the same.
As high school approaches, make a game plan! If your student has an idea of what she'd like to do by the time registration day rolls around, help her choose courses that will prepare her to achieve her goals. Consider resources like Alpha Omega Academy's ACT Test Prep when preparing for college entrance exams, as well as the possibility of enrolling in Alpha Omega Academy's dual credit program, which helps juniors and seniors get a head start on college courses while completing high school.
The high school years are also a good time to consider the financial component of higher education with your distance learner. Whether or not you plan to contribute financially as a parent, it's important for your student to understand the cost involved in obtaining a degree. Part-time jobs, scholarships, and loans are all important options to discuss as a family.
As your student zeroes in on a major, discuss which colleges will be a good fit and start visiting them.
Be her support system. Choosing a college can be huge relief, and also a bit intimidating. If your distance learner needs the reminder, let her know that the fate of her future isn't set in stone. Many students change their mind, major, or even school after starting college. Let her know that's perfectly fine, and probably more common than she thinks.
What techniques do you use to talk to your online learner about higher education?