Preparing your Student

This section provides helpful tips and articles about the parents' role in preparing students for college from kindergarten through high school.

Paying for College

Planning & paying for college can be a complicated process. This section covers how to begin saving for college, how to apply for financial aid, and offers an overview of basic savings options.

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Today students are faced with a job market in which skills and training beyond high school are a necessity rather than a luxury. The American Association of Community Colleges and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities describe education as the “new currency” - securing better futures for all. In our knowledge-based economy, higher levels of education boost lifetime earnings.

Studies have shown that benefits, beyond financial, to furthering education include an increased ability to think critically and analytically, express oneself more clearly orally and in writing, analyze and compute more effectively, and make knowledgeable and sound decisions. Also, greater job opportunities in a rapidly changing world are available to college graduates. It is projected that the jobs we know today will be non-existent ten years from now and that jobs of the future will be far more dependent on brain power than muscle power, making education beyond high school more crucial. According to the College Board, the investment for the typical student pays off very well over the course of a lifetime — even considering the expense of higher education. Perhaps even more importantly, increased earnings are by no means the only positive outcome of higher education. The knowledge, fulfillment, self-awareness, and broadening of horizons associated with education transform the lives of students and of those with whom they live and work.

The Benefits of Higher Education

  • Higher earnings are one of the important outcomes of higher education. Average earnings for an adult increase with years of education and particularly with degree completion.
  • Adults with college degrees are more likely than others to receive health and pension benefits with their jobs. They are less likely to be unemployed or to rely on public income support payments.
  • Healthy behaviors and higher life expectancy are highly correlated with education levels.
  • College-educated adults have higher rates of voting and volunteering than others. They also engage more frequently in educational activities with their children.
  • Individuals who grow up with parents who attended college are more likely than others to enroll in college thus improving the quality of life for future generations.

Interested in learning more about trends in higher education? Reliable and comprehensive data from the CollegeBoard is provided for educators, policymakers and interested individuals for the purpose of shedding light on the current state of college prices and student financial aid, and how it changes from year to year.

  • A Trend in College Pricing provides the latest information on changes in college tuition and other expenses over time.
  • Trends in Student Aid researches the amount and distribution of financial aid to students.
  • Education Pays explores how postsecondary education benefits students and society.
  • For the latest data from the College Board, visit the Trends in Higher Education Series online at

What is College?

College refers to the many different educational institutions students attend beyond high school. These institutions are also frequently referred to as postsecondary institutions. College can be in the form of vocational training, community or junior college, and four-year colleges and universities which lead to either certification or a degree (associate, bachelors, etc.)

Types of Colleges

In the United States alone, there are over 6,700 different postsecondary institutions offering a variety of programs and degrees. They are categorized in the following way:

Career Schools

  • Privately owned and operated
  • Programs of study ranging from five months to three years
  • Offer a wide variety of job training options
  • Feature concentrated curriculum focused on a specific field
  • Present in small class size format
  • Example: Michael's School of Hair Design & Esthetics

Community or Junior College

  • Offer fewer programs of study with a focus on job training
  • Programs of study usually two-years in length and are often designed to transfer to a four-year college
  • Present in small class size format
  • Generally are closer to home
  • Usually cost less than four-year colleges and universities
  • Offer certificates, licenses, associate of arts (A.A.) degrees, associate of science (A.S.) degrees and/or associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degrees
  • Example: Campuses of the Community College System of New Hampshire

Four-Year College

  • Public or Private - Self-supporting or supported by the state in which they are located
  • Offer a broad range of courses, usually emphasizing humanities, social science, and science
  • Mainly offer undergraduate programs
  • Present in small or large class format depending on the institution size and student to professor ratio
  • Confer bachelor's degrees - Bachelor of Art (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
    • Some also offer graduate and professional degrees
    • Example: Saint Anselm College, Keene State College


  • Public or Private - self-supporting or supported by the state in which they are located
  • Very large selection of majors and research facilities, with greater variety of classes
  • Usually offer four-year programs
  • Greater access to more faculty and expertise
  • Larger class size
  • Confer Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), graduate & professional degrees
  • Example: University of New Hampshire

Types of College Admission

  • Open - Accepts all students with a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Liberal - Accepts some students ranked in the lower half of the high school graduating class.
  • Selective/Competitive - Accepts mostly students ranked in the top 50 percent high school graduating class.
  • Highly/Most Competitive - Accepts mostly students ranked in the top 15-20 percent of the high school graduating class.

Types of Degrees Awarded by Postsecondary Institutions

Certificate or License - awarded upon completion of a specific short-term course of study

Associate Degree (Associate of Art, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science) - Degree awarded after the completion of defined coursework. These programs generally encompass two years of full-time study or about 60 credits.

Bachelor's Degree (Bachelor of Art, Bachelor of Science) - programs of study with a concentration in the arts or the sciences. This degree is awarded upon completion of four years of full-time study or the length of time needed to earn 120 credits.

Master's Degree - an advanced degree awarded beyond the bachelor's degree. The length of time necessary to complete the requirements of this degree depends upon the course of study and whether the student attends on a full-time or part-time basis. Credit requirements can vary from 36 to 60 depending on the field of study. Common abbreviations for this degree include: MA (Master of Arts), MS (Master of Science), MBA (Master of Business Administration), ME (Master of Engineering), MSW (Master of Social Work) and MED (Master of Education), to name a few.

Doctoral Degree - awarded for advanced and intensive study in a particular field. Common abbreviations include: MD (Medical Doctor), Pharm.D (Doctor of Pharmacy), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), and Ed.D (Doctor of Education), to name a few.

Best of the Web

There is no doubt that the use of the internet has revolutionized the college application process. But with so many options, how can parents and students find the most appropriate information? The college counselors at The NHHEAF Network Organizations Center for College Planning have created a “best of the web” list to help guide families. Here you'll find many helpful sites with FREE resources. However, recognize that many sites charge a fee for their services or guarantee results. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Classroom & Careers:

Students with Disabilities:

Additional Resources for Early College Planning: