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Talking to Young Children About Higher Education

Is it worth the time to visit with children in preK or younger about the topic of college? What’s the value in encouraging learning beyond high school; and, should we encourage all children to pursue some sort of post-high school education? Let’s take a look.

Defining the “value” of post-secondary (beyond high school) is a challenge. Depending upon which data source you select, only 22-30 percent of U.S. jobs actually require a college degree--associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, professional (excludes certificate and advanced diploma programs). Of that 22-30 percent, only about two-thirds actually require a bachelor's degree or higher; the remainder require only “education beyond high-school.” Sure, the advent of the information age means that life and times are changing, but these percentages have actually been fairly stable for the last decade or so. So, a degree isn’t necessarily required in order to obtain a job. On the other hand, we also know—based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor—that for every 30 hours of educational credit (technical, vocational, college or an equivalent) earned above and beyond what is required for a high school diploma, the lifetime earning potential for the individual increases.

So what’s a parent to do? Parents should take a step back and help their student take an objective look at what he/she wants out of life before putting on the pressure to head for college. Can you do this as early as preK? Probably not. But, you can let your young child know that the world is literally filled with possibilities. The important thing for parents to remember is that here are many paths from school to employment and a college degree is only one of those paths. Alternatives to traditional four-year college enrollment include internships/apprenticeships, vocational/technical training, junior/community college certificates/degrees, and/or military service. All of these paths can result in your student gaining the skills and experiences required for sustainable employment.

Until next time!

Lynn Byrne

Preparing for college admissions? Trying to find direction? Need a little help with the planning? Check out my college planning series:

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