I was fortunate enough to have been born into a family where going to college was a given, and this is something that I internalized from a young age. The question was not whether or not I would go to college, but where and what I would study.
As college costs have risen and our public finances have become strained, even those families who are predisposed to send their children to college may feel ambivalent about taking on the financial obligations that a college education entails. The prospects of sending their children to college may feel even more daunting for those parents who have not had the opportunity to go to college themselves, or who are struggling financially.
Going to college is no guarantee of success in fulfilling one’s life goals, but study after study shows that college graduates earn significantly more than the people who only graduate with a high-school degree. Also, the increased specialization of our service economy, combined with the challenges facing the next generation (aging population, climate change, global competition, etc…) requires them to be properly prepared to face these challenges.
I often get asked: “When is a good time to start planning for college?” The accepted wisdom is that one should start sometime between the junior and senior years of high school. While this may be true from the point of view of college application deadlines and the mechanics of applying to school (standardized tests, applications, etc…), the truth is that we should start preparing our kids for college as soon as they are old enough to understand the importance of a college education.
Even if you are a parent who has great doubts as to whether you will ever be able to send your kids to college, it is more important than ever to visualize your children in college, and to impart this dream and goal to your children. The saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way”, rings true and you would be surprised by the power of the human subconscious to accomplish a goal once it’s visualized in our imagination.
When I tell parents, particularly parents of athletes, musicians, or artists, that they should really start the college application process around age 13 or 14, I often get quizzical looks and surprise. Yes, it is difficult to take time off from our busy schedules and use our vacation time to take our often surly teenagers on college tours. The truth is, that’s where we need to start, starting early to water that seed in our teenager’s imagination. And while you are at it, take their younger siblings along too. You will be amazed at how a ten year old’s imagination gets fired up when visiting a college campus filled with those exotic and ubercool eighteen year olds and twenty somethings.
So start early and plant the seeds of success in the imaginations of your children.