Know all the college options available to your child

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By Erin Eagan


As a parent, you have tremendous influence on the decisions your child makes regarding their future. After high school graduation, they are faced with choices such as attending a two-year or four-year college, going directly into the workforce, joining the military or even taking a gap year. With the right approach, you can help facilitate the decision-making process and guide your child through this transition.

Ask your child to take stock of their interests, skills and strengths. Will his or her hobbies and interests transfer over into a career? What type of career do they envision having? What does their ideal workplace look like? Maybe it’s a clinical setting or maybe it’s the great outdoors. There are several education options available to help them reach their goals: a two-year college or four-year university among them. For skilled trades, it may be a matter of obtaining technical certificate in a year or less.

Discuss finances. Crippling student debt is far too common in today’s world, and you don’t want to see your child faced with that burden before they have a chance to start a career. Keep in mind that financial aid is available for students who qualify. Fill out the FAFSA form with your child and research everything that is available. Finances could play a major part in their overall decision.

Because of the impact finances have on education, colleges have put a bigger emphasis on offering flexible options. One path may make more sense for your child than others. If a bachelor’s degree or higher is the goal, one possibility is to get a jumpstart at a technical college and make the transfer to a four-year college down the road. Transfer agreements between Wisconsin’s technical colleges and other colleges in the state allow students to earn credits and degrees on their way to continuing their education, or they can transfer back to a technical college for another degree. Choosing a shorter, technically focused education is another way to land a high-paying, fulfilling job without assuming a massive amount of debt.

Listen first, advise later. It will be tempting to offer advice right away, but allow your child to think things through on their own first. You’ll have time for input later. When it is time to offer advice, find the right balance of providing leadership without taking too much control. Consider asking probing questions that will help them think about all their options.

Above all, offer support. Children have more confidence going forward when they know they have their family backing them in the choices they make. Your support and love is important as they face their futures.

It’s difficult to see our children growing up and discovering their independence. But the bottom line is, this is their decision to make. Now is the perfect time for them to develop decision-making and problem-solving skills they’ll need throughout their lives with you right by their side. Find even more advice in this must-read guide for parents.