Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Education Tips: Getting Your Child Ready for College During Their Senior Year

"Education Tips: Getting Your Child Ready for College During Their Senior Year”

As we speak, high school graduations across the United States are being planned or are waiting to happen. Now, the juniors are poised to take their place as the mighty seniors. While being a senior is a cool thing, the question emerges as to whether they are ready to take their rightful place in the college of their choice in one year’s time.

For parents, they begin to panic early. For some reason around this time of year, many parents look at their child across the table and think: “Oh my, he is going to be a senior this coming year. We aren’t ready for this!”

Parents, don't panic! Here are some education tips you may want to discuss with your soon-to-be seniors before you totally panic. Plus, you parents who have students transitioning from 8th grade to 9th ought to listen up because it would be wise for you to begin thinking about these things now and begin working on them right away.

Scholarships/Financial Aid—Most, if not all, parents worry about financial aid because the cost of a college education increases every single year. Every college and university has financial aid available to their students. The key to success is starting out early to make sure you understand what this all entails. Begin by checking with your child’s high school counselor. Almost weekly, they receive scholarship updates from a plethora of sources, including colleges and universities. You may even want your child to check with the counselor on a weekly basis. Additionally, contact the various colleges your child is interested in. All colleges now have websites that focus on scholarships. Be acutely aware of the financial deadlines and meet them. There is nothing more depressing than missing a deadline for a scholarship that had your child’s name written all over it. Also, check around your community for scholarships your child might be eligible for. You might be surprised what your local credit union, bank, farmer’s organization, community foundations and clubs, employer, etc. have available for their local students. Check out websites like and sign up. Be proactive. If your child wants to go to college, then having the money to go is imperative.

Classes—Visit with the high school counselor to make sure your child has earned the appropriate credits for the classes he or she may have taken. Every state and almost every school have varying graduation requirements. If you have moved from one state to the next, checking with your local school is imperative. Additionally, if your child is taking dual-credit or dual-enrollment courses that earn him or her college credit, be sure they finish these courses and are transcripted. You will be amazed how much money you will save if your child does not have to take them in college. Encourage your child to do the best he or she can during the senior year because it really does count in the long run.

ACT/SAT—By the beginning of a senior year, most high school juniors have already taken the ACT or SAT. If not, you will need to schedule one as soon as you can. Most high schools can do the scheduling for you. If a student feels he or she has not done the best, he or she can take it over again. Be sure, though, to review the scores of the last ACT/SAT test and study those areas in order to enhance the score. But if you miss the deadlines, many colleges have alternative assessments that your child can take to determine whether he or she is eligible to attend. Check with your college to determine what that assessment might be.

Four-year college or two-year college—For some, choosing between a four-and a two-year college may not be an issue. For parents on a budget, the choice may be more acute. Four-year colleges and universities tend to cost more in the short and in the long run. Two-year colleges or community colleges are historically less expensive. Your financial aid package may determine which school to go to. Some parents may believe that community colleges are inferior to a four-year college. The good news is community college students do as well as or even better than their four-year counterparts at the four-year institution once they graduate. Do not rule out community colleges. But do make sure that you check out the financial aid packages and the transferability of the credits of both institutions. Bottom line, though, hinges on choosing the best college for your son or daughter.

Community service—This is a big one. Many scholarships—maybe even most of them—require students to participate in community service throughout their high school careers. Thankfully, community service is easy to achieve because there are numerous community and church organizations that need help from young people. The best thing to do is start in the 8th or 9th grade and develop a community service model for your child. Showing a long-term commitment to one or two organizations is a good thing. Obtaining two or three hours here and there demonstrates that the child is not too committed to doing consistent community services. Plus, when young people perform community services, they usually impress their supervisors of the directors of the project. In the long run, they will be able to solicit a letter of recommendation from these people when applying for scholarships or college admissions to the college of their choice. Maybe even more important, some of these volunteer opportunities may translate into future jobs, either during the summer months or even when the student graduates from college. The most important thing is that students choose community service opportunities for which they have interest.

Grades—The fact of the matter is this: grades are important, no matter what anyone says. If students do not do well in their classes, they may end up having to enroll in remedial course in college. These remedial courses still cost money; they do not apply toward graduation; and they may impede graduating on time. Students must always attempt to do well in their coursework. If they are struggling, parents, be sure to obtain a tutor or meet with the teacher to make sure your student is doing everything possible to earn good grades.

Internships—Even in high school, students can opt for internships, either paid or unpaid. In fact, more and more high schools are helping their students capture prime internships. Internships help students experience a potential career, develop real-life skills, learn how to work with others, and demonstrate to the organization what skills they do have. Overall, internships in high school and college can only help students gain greater insight into themselves and what they might be good at doing.

College visits—It is always a good idea to know something about the college or university you are going to attend. Often, though, a college visit may not be feasible because of the distance from your home. Colleges know that. Thus, they have developed incredible virtual tours and information videos for students. Take advantage of them. Additionally, colleges and universities can schedule live chat sessions with counselors, students, and administrators. They will accommodate your schedules. Ultimately, students need to determine if they are going to be a good fit.

Overall, parents, it is not too late to begin the process. Try not to feel stressed or anxious. There are way too many avenues to obtain the information you need. You may want to start with your child’s high school counselor or a counselor or admissions representative at the local college or university. Do not be afraid to ask lots and lots of questions. If you do, you and your child will be prepared for the senior year and beyond.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Learning: It's what's for life!

"Learning: It's what's for life!"
Darrel L. Hammon

“Yes, I’m done with school,” said a young bridegroom to me when I asked him about his educational status and future.

My response was spontaneous and swift: “Well, now the education really begins because learning is a lifelong process.”

I’m sure he wasn’t ready for me to say that. He was marrying a beautiful young woman who was finishing her baccalaureate degree, had a pretty good job as a chef, and figured his life couldn’t get any better. But I had to plant the seed because metaphorically I am an educational farmer and entrepreneur, one who sees the wide open stretches of fertile minds of people, young and old, employed and unemployed and figures everyone should be doing something to enhance his or her capacity to learn.

As I was driving home after the wedding, I couldn’t help but think about the 81- year-old GED graduate who haltingly crawled out of her wheelchair, grabbed her walker, and shuffled cautiously across the stage at a Lewis-Clark State College General Educational Development (GED) graduation to receive her GED certificate. Tears swelled up in my eyes as I watched her walk back to her wheelchair and sit back down. The crowd gave her a standing ovation.

I also thought about the 78-year-old GED graduate at Eastern Idaho Technical College (EITC) some years ago who said, “I am getting my GED because I know I will be a good example to my grandchildren.” Donned in traditional cap and gown, she, too, received a standing ovation as she walked across the stage and waved to her family.

Often, I also think of the 30 or so “more mature adults” who all trundled to Lewiston once during the month of June to participate in an Elderhostel activity. These adults came from across the country and are all over 50, many of them in their 60's, and will participate in a week-long course that will introduced them to Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Many of the these Elderhostelers have been to one or more Elderhostel activities around the United States during the past year. Their education might have ended several decades ago, but their learning has never stopped. Instead, they sought opportunities to learn because, as one of them commented, “I love to learn.”

At the opening session when I heard this phrase at their opening dinner, I marveled at it, yet simultaneously wondered how we could instill this progressive, albeit simple, philosophy in young people in grade school or junior or senior high school. These young people’s repetitious phrase is diametrically opposed to the senior citizens’: “I can’t wait to get out of school. I’m so burned out. I hate school. I don't like homework."

When I hear these phrases, I want to literally scream: “Hey, don’t say that! Don’t quit the process now! Your foundation has already been laid. Courage, and on to the victory.” After I calm down, I find solace in the fact that they will go on. Many of them just need to experience the jolt of menial labor or no job at all to open their eyes to learning and the prospects of an enhanced life.

In speeches, I often used the Jaime Escalante’s phrase, “Free, free, free, knowledge; bring you own containers.” Life is all about that phrase. Knowledge oozes out of every corner and crack. Often it just seeps by us or hangs from luscious baskets within our reach, but often we do not take advantage of the proliferation of knowledge. Or we fail to pack around our own containers, our buckets. Or worse, just the bottoms of our buckets are covered, and we say “I’ve got all the knowledge I want.”

Sometimes our buckets are like the old wire baskets I used to pick potatoes (a.k.a. “spuds”) in Eastern Idaho. They did not fill up by themselves. In order to pick a sack full of hardy Russets, my partner—most of the time my brother—and I had to bend over our baskets and reach for the potatoes. After dumping our full baskets in the gunny sack, we set the sack in the furrow between us and began again. Then, the truck would come by and take the sack to the spud cellar where they stored them until they were ready to sell.

Our gathering of knowledge parallels spud picking. It takes a bit of effort to fill our buckets. We may have to bend our backs, stretch our minds, work midst wind and snow storms and tauntings of others, and maybe even make a few sacrifices. But in the end, it’s all worth it. Like spuds in the cellar, knowledge stores easily in our minds until we need to use it. But we also need to couple it with everyday experiences so we can make the appropriate connections.

Learning is an investment, one that yields high benefits and interest. Because of the many changes in the world and the workplace, you may need to withdraw these resources at any given time. Invest now and often and keep your bank account growing.