It seems that recently we have heard from more and more parents who are worried that their children will not be prepared for college or will not get into the college of their choice. So we would like to share with you our thoughts and beliefs on this subject.
1. Is college right for everyone?
It is quite natural to want our children to have opportunities that weren’t available to us, however, we want to caution you about thinking that college is the only route for providing life-enriching, career enhancing opportunities.
In the United States we have a completely unexamined, knee-jerk belief that college is the most desirable path for all young people after high school graduation. In actual fact, this is not true. A recent article in the Los Angles Times points out although six out of ten high school students get into a college and attend college, more than 50% of them drop out. Only two out of every ten high school students completes college!
Of the students who don’t go to college or drop out, there are some who don’t have the skills to maintain the necessary grades to successfully complete their course work. However, we have seen that many students go to college because they think they are “supposed to”, and when they don’t have their own reasons for going, they don’t have an anchor to hold them in place when the inevitable storms of daily student life hit.
It seems to us that your job as a parent is to help your children know what their strengths, talents, interests, and goals are—to help them find out what contribution is uniquely theirs to make. If, in the pursuit of their own interests, goals, and the development of their gifts they decide to go to college, they will have their own reasons for being there and will be among the two out of ten high school students who weather the academic storms and graduate from college.
Maybe your children, as many we have known, will want to take another route, such as developing their mechanical reasoning skills and pursuing auto mechanics. Or, perhaps you have a child who loves to invent and wants to become a chef. Some of our students have gone on to successful, fulfilling careers in cosmetology, body work, photography, and dance. Still others have started businesses of their own training horses, grooming dogs, teaching yoga, selling real estate, creating websites.
By believing in your children’s unique gifts and encouraging them to pursue them, you make sure that whatever your children do after high school will have meaning to them, that they will be passionate about it and will stick with it when it gets difficult, and they will have a 99.9% chance of success. Isn’t that a great deal better than having less than a 50% chance of succeeding in college?
2. If they decide to go, will they be prepared?
We have found that children who are encouraged to pursue their talents and interests and to make their own decisions about careers and goals, will do what they need to do when they need to do it. But will they get into the college of their choice, you ask?
Well, that depends. For example, those who are homeschooling will find that there are some colleges that will not accept homeschooled students. Our answer to that is, so what? There are thousands of colleges across the country! Chances are, if a college doesn’t want you, for whatever reason, then you don’t want to go there—it wouldn’t be a good fit anyway! The best thing is to seek out the college that best fits the particular student. We need to teach our children to find what works best for them, instead of agonizing over what they “should” be doing, and trying to fit the mold of what “everyone” else is doing.
3. What about entrance exams?
What about them? Some people are good at taking tests, some aren’t. If your child isn’t there are options. One is to take classes to learn test taking skills. Another is to attend community college first. This option has a lot going for it: no entrance exam, ease into college, try things out while deciding on a major, etc., etc.
This is not “taking the easy way out” because you’re “too lazy to go to a real college.” Whatever helps a particular student be successful is right for that student.
Most community colleges are excellent and provide a wonderful education. But what about getting the best jobs, and will opportunities be missed by taking this route? Read on…
4. Success in the real world is determined by belief, confidence, relating skills, and goal setting skills
Financial success in the work world is not correlated to good grades and/or graduating from particular colleges. Countless students graduate from college not having a clue what they will do next, or ending up with a job that is not even remotely related to their interests and/or talents and, often, one that they greatly dislike. On the other hand, the wealthiest in our country did not graduate from college and many didn’t even finish high school.
We are not saying, forget college. What we are saying is the people who are the most successful are those who know what they are good at, believe in themselves, are motivated by their talents and what they are passionate about—and go from there. If college is for them, they’ll go, and if it’s not, it’s not. Going to college is not in itself the key to success.
5. One last thing—what about learning disabilities?
Those of you who are familiar with our learning styles work know that we believe learning disabilities are basically non-existent. Everyone has different learning styles but schools are set up for just one! That’s a set-up for failure, or at least mediocrity (“you’re just average”) for the majority of students.
Most often the students who are labeled with a learning disability have the same styles as people like Einstein and other well-known inventors, scientists, musicians, artists, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs.
In many cases, college can get in the way of success for these students. In other cases, they find that college can be very different from high school and they take off. Again, the most important thing is to show these students evidence of their intelligence, their talents, and their skills, so that they will be confident about their abilities and make choices that are right for them.
We hope that these thoughts give you a different perspective about college and encourage you to leave the decision about whether to go or not to go up to your children, while providing a “safe” and open forum for discussion, answering their questions, and guiding them to research their options.