As a high school teacher, it always amazed me the number of juniors and seniors really had no plan for the future. Usually, they had a career goal in mind but no plan for achieving it. Other times the dream career was unrealistic. Other times I would see otherwise, good students enroll at the local community college only to leave after few semesters never really accomplishing anything. One common thread I observed was that the students had never really planned or thought of the future.

Begin planning early. I think sixth grade is a good time for many reason. Find out what types of careers interest your child. Spend time exploring careers. Help your child develop a plan to achieve their desired career goal.  Encourage your child to research high school and college or technical training needed to achieve these goals.  This helps your child take ownership of their education and future.

Select high school and middle school courses that give you a head start in college. It is good idea to know what high school courses required for college admission. Most colleges include a list of suggested and required courses students need to take in high school for admission. This is especially helpful if your child already has a college in mind. It is not uncommon for students to take pre-algebra in seventh grade and algebra in eighth grade. This makes it easier to meet the math requirements for college admission. This first year of Spanish or another foreign language are often taken in eighth grade. While taking algebra or foreign languages in eighth grade give you high school credit, they do not count in the high school GPA. Taking AP courses, dual enrollment and/or CLEP not only help get college credit they also reduce the cost of college. The Big Guy started college with 30 hours of college credit due to AP classes. He was able to start as  sophomore and complete his undergrad degree in three years.

Be a well-rounded student. The trend in college admissions is to de-emphasize test scores and consider other credentials like course selection, grades, community service and extra-curricular activities. As a note on community service, many colleges do not consider mission trips or other church activities as community service. One guideline I discovered is that church activities that involves teaching religion or evangelism will not count as community service. However, church sponsored service projects or even a mission trip spent building an orphanage or similar activities will count. It is better to describe what was done on the mission trip and not call it a mission trip. For example if your teen participated in a summer mission trip to build houses in Haiti. List this trip as a house building project not First Church Summer Mission trip 2010.

Have a plan for paying for college. Don’t count on getting scholarships especially athletic scholarships to pay for college. Be prepared to pay for at least part if not all of your child’s college. Consider state pre-pay tuition plans.

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