Written by Rozalia Williams, Ed.D., President of the College Student Development Center, Inc. in Hollywood, FL.
Students have many options they can pursue immediately after high school graduation. This includes preparing to go directly into the workplace, working in the home, going into the military, pursuing a college education or any combination of these. Surprisingly, 80% of high school graduates in the U.S. immediately enroll in 2 or 4-year colleges after graduation.
Parental influence is a major factor in a child’s decision-making process. Since most students choose to go to college after high school, here are some recommendations for parents and caregivers on how to prepare as early as elementary school:
- Begin by reflecting on your own experiences in school and how your experiences might influence your child’s decision. Growing up, did you love school? Did you enjoy learning and studying? Or, did you hate school and struggle academically? Were you sure about what you wanted to do with your life after high school? What help or advice did you receive, or would you liked to have received from school counselors, teachers, mentors or others about preparing for your future?
- Next, examine your beliefs about the costs and benefits of a college education and how your personal beliefs might influence your child’s decision. Do you believe college is a good investment? If you attended college, was your experience the opportunity of a lifetime? Do you believe a college degree is the new diploma? Or, do you think college is a bad investment? Did you earn a degree in an area unrelated to your current career or profession? Do you believe it’s difficult to get a decent paying job without a college degree? Do you think it is unwise to take out enormous loans to earn a degree with no guarantee it will pay off?
- Pay close attention to your child’s interests and talents. How does he or she spend their free time? What are their hobbies? What are their natural talents? Monitoring their skills and abilities will give you insight into potential career fields and academic majors to consider. Get feedback and buy-in from your child and honor their preferences. Then show support for their career choice by seeking out or providing opportunities to join clubs and organizations, volunteer, obtain private lessons or tutoring to further develop their skills. Be aware of any strong desires you have to influence your child to “follow in your footsteps,” or dissuade them based on your predictions about how much money you think they will make, or their chances of finding a job. Not every career path leads to a college degree and for some professions a degree is mandatory. Students who are pressured or forced to pursue a career or academic major that does not interest them generally do not perform well; change their academic major often; incur additional costs and take longer to graduate.
- Make sure your child’s school is committed to preparing students for college and careers, more commonly known as graduating “college and career ready.” Employers and college educators both look for similar knowledge, skills, work habits and aptitudes in students. Therefore, students should be taught the same skills and knowledge regardless of their future aspirations or post-graduation plans. In offering a balanced course of study, students gain both the practical skills needed to get a job after graduation and the preparation needed to make satisfactory academic progress in college.
- Don’t be disappointed if your child chooses not to attend college. (Alternatively, don’t be disappointed if your child chooses any other option.) Refrain from comparing your child to their siblings or other children their age. Never tell them they are “not college material” or predict they will “never amount to anything.” To an employer, a degree isn’t simply a piece of paper to be taken at face value. All employees are expected to work hard and be good at what they do. In some cases, employees without a degree are more self-sufficient and live happier lives than their peers or subordinates who have college degrees. However, it is important to know that recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that by 2020 employers will need 22 million workers with college degrees. 
All parents want the best for their children. The U.S. Department of Education has an abundance of free resources available online. For a complete downloadable checklist, visit the https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college.
The Children’s Services Council of Broward County is an independent taxing authority which was established by a public referendum on September 5, 2000, and reauthorized via referendum on November 4, 2014, which, through Public Act, Chapter 2000-461 of the laws of Florida, authorized the Council to levy up to 0.5 mills of property taxes. The role of the Council is to provide the leadership, advocacy and resources necessary to enhance children’s lives and empower them to become responsible, productive adults through collaborative planning and funding of a continuum of quality care. To learn more about programs and services the Children’s Services Council funds, please call (954) 377-1000.
Above content provided by Children’s Services Council of Broward County.
 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), October Supplement, 1990–2013. See Digest of Education Statistics 2014, table 302.30
 Sources: U.S. Census Bureau: American Community Survey (ACS), Education Attainment Ages 25-34, Three-Year Averaged Estimates for 2007-2009; and U.S. Census Bureau: 2020 Population Projections