College 101

This section features articles about the importance of college along with an overview of the many types of colleges. A great reference to get your college planning journey started.

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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According to the U.S. Department of Education, “To ensure our nation's students reach their full potential, parents must be fully engaged participants in their children's education.” The resources that follow are helpful tips on how you can help your child prepare at each educational level of development. Some of the early strategies, such as reading to your child, will transcend all stages and others will be specific to a particular age group. You will also notice that as your child gets older, the strategies are geared more toward helping your child get organized and give serious consideration to their education and future options. As your child's skills build, your role as an educational mentor takes on new challenges.


The Early Years - Birth Through the Primary Grades

A time when parents exercise a great deal of influence over what, and how, their children learn.

Your role in supporting your child's aspirations for postsecondary education can start very early in life - as early as birth. Set aside some time each day, perhaps bedtime, to read aloud to your child. This nightly ritual will greatly enhance your child's reading development while fostering a love of reading. The ability to read, and comprehend, is the underpinning of all other future learning.

  • Surround your child with reading materials. Create a home library of reading materials from which your child can choose. Expose your child to the public library and take regular family trips to the local library. Get your child their very own library card and allow them to choose the books they would like to read.
  • Praise attempts to read and, once they are able to read for themselves, encourage them to read for enjoyment as well as for information. Remember, no two children are alike and learning to read will be accomplished through stages and with a great deal of support and encouragement. If unable to create a home library, expose your child to the local library. Make learning to read a pleasurable experience.
  • Discuss what is being read. Talk about the stories you are sharing and ask questions about them. This will help your child develop the important skills of comprehension and retention. Relate the stories to things that are occurring in your child's or family's life, whenever possible.
  • Limit time spent watching television and monitor what your child watches. There are many educational programs for all ages. Participate in selecting the programs.
  • Give your child opportunities to express their creativity in writing, singing, cooking, dressing, and any other ways. Proudly display their work for all to see.
  • Visit a college campus and expose your child to campus life early. There are many great ways to visit college campuses such as visiting older relatives in college, attending a sporting event, or going to a production of the college theater. The idea is for your child to understand that college is part of the community, and a place they will attend when they get older.
  • It is important that your child develops problem-solving skills. These skills allow children to identify and set goals, develop attention and persistence, and begin to recognize and reflect on consequences of their actions. Children will gain confidence in themselves by finding solutions to problems on their own.
  • Developing your child's reading and problem-solving skills are a great way to prepare for standardized testing. As you may be aware, many colleges require some form of standardized testing as an admissions requirement. While it is important to understand the significance that standardized scores may have in the college process, they are not the most critical aspect of college admission criteria. Remember, colleges admit students, not test scores. Some colleges are even “test optional”, meaning that submitting standardized tests is not required for admission. For a complete list of these schools visit: www.fairtest.org.

The Middle School Years

A time when your child will need to become more independent and learn to work with others; a time when your child takes the important steps in preparation for postsecondary education.

  • Continue to encourage your child to read. Consider using books as gifts and rewards.
  • Make learning a priority in your household. You can do this by showing interest in your child's schoolwork, talking about school each day and asking your child to see the work they completed at school that day, making sure your child attends regularly and is equipped with everything they will need during the school day and supporting school functions like open-houses, parent-teacher conferences, athletic events, plays and concerts and other special events. You can also demonstrate the value of learning by showing your child that you too learn new things every day whether it's a new recipe or how to fix the plumbing.
  • Help your child develop good study skills. These tools are necessary to successfully learn, and retain, the information your child is taught each day at school. These will include the negotiation of study time and place. The right time to study will vary from child to child with some preferring to work right after school and others needing a break and preferring evening study time. The ideal place to study will also vary and might include your child's room or the kitchen or dining room table. Make sure the area is well lit. Eliminate, or minimize, distractions; this will improve your child's ability to concentrate on their work. This becomes more challenging as older students become accustomed to texting on cell phones and playing video games while studying. Beware; though they may claim they are “multi-tasking”, they are often not devoting the necessary attention to their work.
  • Help them organize study and homework projects. Make use of a large calendar - one that allows space for documenting what is to be accomplished on a daily basis. Then refer to the calendar with your child to make note of what has been done in a timely fashion and what remains to be done. This practice can be used for large projects as well; break the large project down into manageable tasks done on a scheduled basis until completion. All students can benefit from this activity but it will be of particular significance to those with identified attentional issues.
  • Emphasize the importance of note-taking. Assist in the proper development of this skill, if necessary. Encourage your child to: take notes as they are reading a chapter, learn to skim material and pick out the important facts to remember, learn to summarize what they read in their own words and learn to use flashcards for quick review of dates, formulas, spelling words, etc. Work with your child's teacher(s) to see what other strategies they might recommend.
  • Help with homework. Depending on the content area and grade level, this may not always be possible for the parent to do alone. If help is needed, seek the advice of the classroom teacher. Most schools have after-school programs for homework help or can recommend tutors for the additional support needed.
  • Encourage involvement and commitment. Help your child see the value of getting involved in a variety of school and community activities. Exploration will help them determine which activities they are good at and most interested in as well as providing an opportunity for them to discover hidden talents and abilities. It will also enhance their social skills and ability to relate to peers. Involvement could also raise awareness of what your child might like to do later in life. Never force your child to participate in activities they do not enjoy. As they get older, children are better able to communicate their dislike or boredom with certain activities. This is a good thing, as your child is further developing their knowledge of self. Encourage your child to stay involved in the activities they enjoy and to put forth their best effort.
  • College admissions for homeschooled students. Whether your student is enrolled in an online accredited high school, falls under an umbrella homeschooling organization or receives academic instruction from you, there are some things to consider when you, and they, start thinking about applying to colleges. Visit The Homeschooler’s Guide to Getting Into College.

Prepare for the Differences Between Middle School and High School

The transition into high school for most, if not all, students is accompanied by some major intellectual, emotional, social, and physical changes. Knowledge of this fact alone can help ease the transition but parental support and encouragement is critical to helping your child prepare to deal with the many changes high school life will bring. Some of those changes will include:

  • The discomfort that accompanies moving into a totally new and unfamiliar environment. Some examples would include: not knowing your schedule or where the next class is taking place; how to find your locker, the bathrooms or the cafeteria; where and when to get your bus for the ride home; dealing with older students; keeping track of all the requirements of your courses; new kinds of peer pressure; and how to remain safe.
  • The need to earn credit in order to receive a diploma at the end of their high school career; there is no such requirement in middle school.
  • New attendance policies and their relationship to earning credit
  • Goal-setting and the decision-making related to attaining their stated goals. An example would be the sequencing of courses in each discipline needed to pursue postsecondary education
  • Physical changes and the accompanying feelings of attractiveness and status among their peers
  • The many new and different ways students can participate in their school community whether it's through organized sports or other school-related clubs or organizations
  • The need, unlike middle school, to maintain certain grades in order to participate in those sports and activities
  • Major differences in the way school is carried out on a daily basis which might mean block scheduling or seven or eight period days
  • Increased parental expectations - whether real or perceived
  • The challenge of finding the right balance between their educational and personal lives
  • The demands of added responsibilities like a job, job shadows and internships, dating and the complexities of new and different relationships with significant others, a driver's license and much more
  • Learning to advocate for themselves with teachers, coaches and employers.

The High School Years

The high school years can be exciting and overwhelming as your child prepares for a future beyond high school. Discuss your child's future and help them set goals as well as devise a plan for attaining those goals. Talk about postsecondary expectations and options from early adolescence on. Discuss your education with your child and let them know how your choices have impacted your life. Talk about the different career paths other family members and friends have taken and the impact of their choices on lifestyle. Help your child set realistic goals for themselves based on their individual skills and interests. Remember that the two won't necessarily intersect; your child may be very skilled in math and not the least bit interested in careers that involve high levels of math ability. Make sure you and your child know what courses and grades are necessary to prepare for college. The secret to finding a great fit is to start the college search early and then taking it one step at a time.

  • Monitor your child's academic progress and make sure they are being challenged. Most schools make it easy for parents to monitor their child's academic progress by providing a calendar that lists the end of each marking period as well as the distribution dates of progress reports and report cards. The school's purpose in providing progress reports is to inform parents about their child's academic progress in each subject area and provide an opportunity for parents to discuss the content of the report with their child and their child's teacher(s). Reports are usually mailed home or distributed to students. Parents are encouraged to contact teachers and school counselors with questions and concerns regarding their child's academic performance. Your child's grades at the elementary and middle school level will impact the courses they are allowed to take in high school.
  • Encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities. These activities range from playing sports, joining the drama club, volunteering, to joining student government. Most studies find that children who participate in these activities are more successful academically than those who don't. Be careful students don't wear themselves out with too many activities. Remember quality over quantity. Colleges are looking for well-balanced students who do well both in and out of the classroom.
  • Explore college options and resources. This will mean familiarizing yourself with the many and varied postsecondary options. Some parents, particularly those who did not attend or finish college themselves, may worry that they cannot provide their child with the guidance and support necessary to prepare for the demands of postsecondary education. Remember, preparing for college is something you will not have to do on your own and you don't need a college degree to help someone else prepare for the challenge of postsecondary education. You can take an active role in broadening your child's future options by communicating with teachers and counselors and helping your child develop a course of study that will ensure their ability to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
  • Schedule regular meetings with school staff and attend as many school events as possible to ensure that your child is on the track to success! Many schools help in this endeavor by offering before and after-school programs where students can explore the different options available to them. They may also offer mentoring programs which pair students with adult mentors who have studied or worked in the same field in which the student has expressed an interest. Mentors can provide exceptional insight into specific career fields and advise the student in preparing for that career. By being proactive early in your child's education, you are sending the message that you value their education and support the importance of furthering it.
  • College admissions for homeschooled students. Whether your student is enrolled in an online accredited high school, falls under an umbrella homeschooling organization or receives academic instruction from you, there are some things to consider when you, and they, start thinking about applying to colleges. Visit College Admissions for Homeschooled Students.

Planning High School Courses

Help your child transition smoothly into high school by assisting in the selection of core courses to be taken in grades nine through twelve.

Whether students are signing up for electives or advanced courses, the classes they take in high school reveal a lot about their motivation and interest in learning. Smart choices now will open more opportunities for college later. Remember that meeting high school graduation requirements may not mean meeting college entrance requirements. Plus, there are many benefits to taking more rigorous courses including:

  • Higher standardized test scores
  • Less of a need for remedial classes
  • Increased college graduation rates
  • Increased opportunities for financial aid and scholarships
  • Attainment of high level skills that colleges and employers require

Students often feel high school is too easy, which leaves them feeling unmotivated and wishing schools and parents were expecting more from them. Most students say they would work harder if their high school demanded more, set higher standards and raised expectations. So, whether students plan to go to a four-year, two-year or technical school, there are certain subjects that are critical to their success. The State of New Hampshire supports the New Hampshire State Scholars Initiative which is a program that encourages students to take a more rigorous course of study. Patterned after the recommendations of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, the State Scholars Core Course of Study includes no less than the following:

  • 4 years of English
  • 3 years of Math (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II)
  • 3 years of basic Lab Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
  • 3.5 years of Social Studies (chosen from U.S. and World History, Geography, Economics, Government)
  • 2 years of a language other than English (Spanish, French, Latin)

Participate in Special Academic Programs

Students who undertake this rigorous Core Course of Study will challenge themselves to do their best work during their high school career and may enjoy a wider range of postsecondary options upon graduation. To learn more about the New Hampshire Scholars program, visit www.nhscholars.org or call 603-225-4199 x300.

Specific high school course requirements vary from school to school. Be sure to check with specific colleges to see what they require for admission. Also, keep in mind that electives help students to explore special interests. Encourage your child to take electives which will help him to enhance his profile and develop his talents.

Through the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) college-level courses and exams, students can earn college credit and advanced placement, take more challenging courses and stand out in the admission process. The College Board offers 34 AP courses to choose from. AP courses can help them acquire the skills and habits they'll need to be successful in college. According to the College Board, more than 90 percent of four year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of AP exam scores. Students and parents should talk to an AP teacher or the AP coordinator at the high school.

In addition, the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) offers the Running Start program, where high school students are given the opportunity to take college courses for college credit while also completing the requirements for high school graduation. Students earn college credits for a fee of $150.00 per course and many of these college credits will then transfer to postsecondary schools all around the country. For more information, visit www.ccsnh.edu.


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