How Can You Know if College Is Right for Your Child?

A prevailing school of thought is that most people need college in order to be successful. But this certainly may not always be the case. Quite simply, not everyone is college material. If your teen will soon be graduating from high school, you may need to contemplate whether college is right for your child.

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Academic Success

College enrollment has climbed steadily over the past 35 years or so, and President Obama has called for an increase in the number of college graduates by 2020. In part, this is because studies show that those with a college education make more money than those who don't acquire a postsecondary education.

Still, college is simply not for everyone, as reflected by the large numbers of students who wind up dropping out of college before completion (well over half of 4-year college students and about a third of those who attend community colleges). But how can you determine if it's right for your child? One thing to look at, of course, is their performance in high school.

If your child maintains good grades and has strong study habits, chances are he or she could be prepared - at least from an academic standpoint - to take on the challenges of college.

Other things you should consider: are they taking college preparatory courses? Have they taken a college entrance exam? Have they achieved acceptable scores on the SAT, ACT or PSAT? Affirmative answers to these and similar types of questions will tell you whether your child is adequately prepared to go on to college.

However, academic success does not necessarily or automatically translate into college enrollment. Other factors impact such a decision. Perhaps your child feels that he or she needs a break from school. They might not have a clear area of study and don't wish to waste time or money. Maybe they simply don't have an interest.

A Matter of Responsibility

But success in academia might be only part of the story.

Is your child personally responsible? For instance, do they complete household chores without too much hassle (many teenagers will need constant reminders, but are they simply not doing what they're supposed to be doing?)? Do they finish school projects and work well independently on them or do they need a lot of prodding and guidance?

These traits are important, especially for those who might attend college away from home. Are you confident they can take care of themselves? Can they handle finances, laundry, cooking and those types of daily responsibilities?

Future Goals

Does your child want to be a doctor? An engineer? A lawyer? A teacher? For these types of occupations, of course a college degree is a necessity. Even some entry-level positions, such as in some areas of business, typically require a 2- or 4-year degree.

But some careers might require only an apprenticeship or a vocational education. If those types of jobs are what interest your child, then chances are college will not be a destination after they complete high school.

The best thing to do is to sit down with your child and talk to them about their future goals and determine together if college is part of their plans. If not, make them realize that they can always decide to attend college later in life.

Possibly the worst thing you could do is push your child into college if his or her interest, expectations and chances of success are low. That could be the most expensive and time-consuming way to find out that college is not right for your child.

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