Supporting Your Student In Determining If College Is Right for Them

You want what is best for your student. You might also be feeling overwhelmed by what life after high school holds for them and what your influence in that time will (or should) be. We’re here to help break this down into steps so that you feel empowered and able to be an important influencer in these conversations. A good first step is to talk about if college is the right path for them after high school. Here are five questions that can help you participate in that conversation:

What is college?

Popular culture often showcases a monolith experience of college, but the reality is that there are so many choices. Overall, college is any degree-earning formal education after high school. Depending on the type of college, the experience might be different but the results are the same types of credentials.

What are the types of colleges?

There are more than 4,000 degree-granting post-secondary institutions in the United States. That can feel overwhelming, but there are some key-types of institutions that these can be sorted into. Typically, we would sort institutions by types of credential offered. A community and/or technical college will offer Certificates and Associates (or “a two-year degree”). There are also 4-year institutions that offer Bachelor’s degrees, often in addition to Associate’s degrees. Layered within this, there are also institutions tailored to serve certain demographics of students: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), or Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).  The ways we can segment schools can go on and on – based on size, location, funding sources, and more – but starting with type of degree and type of community served can help narrow the conversation in meaningful ways.

What college is needed for your student’s career goals?

If your student searches “degrees needed for [insert job or field of interest]”, the search will likely return a level of education or credential type. Knowing if and what level of education is important for a career field is important as your student embarks on their self-exploration for their future. A Certificate or Associates is typically more narrowly focused on a job or industry. A Bachelor’s allows one to gain specific field knowledge while also building your general education knowledge to help one be well-rounded. Certain professions will also call for an advanced degree like a Master’s or Doctorate, and most often cannot be earned until a Bachelor’s is completed.

What lifestyle does your student want to lead?

This is a big question, but also an important one to think about. Support your student as they envision their adult life. This will help them think about the lifestyle they hope to have and the degree needed to obtain that lifestyle. Your voice in this conversation is valuable because you have  lived experience to share. As a family member or mentor, speak of your own experience making big decisions. What do you value in your own lifestyle? How did you make decisions about it? Even if you wished you did things differently, that is still useful wisdom for your student. 

How does college fit into that lifestyle?

College – the time and money spent there – is a true investment in self and one’s future. College degree holders earn more over a lifetime than those that do not, but life is more than salary. A degree after high school can help advance career, impact lifestyle, and support goals.

There are many pathways to the same end goal, and if college can support your student in that journey, it should be strongly considered. As a family member or mentor to your student, you are poised to share your lived experience as it relates to your after high school journey. Don’t forget! Encourage is here to support you as you support their college and career planning! Encourage your student to download the app!