by Dr. Humphries’ Doctorate, professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Attending college is a topic many students talk about, but most fail to understand the depth of knowledge required in the preparation to get there. As a first-generation college student I was oblivious to timelines, scholarships, school choices, majors, credits, and everything else within the higher-education realm. My school counselor failed me. She was too busy pampering the handful of high-scoring ACT overachievers to help a regular kid with a low ACT score wanting to go to college.
I would like to share a series of articles that may help parents and students understand the pre and post-high school journey. I encourage you to print the articles as they are published each month and share the information with your friends. The topics I will be discussing are those I wish someone would have shared with me before I began my 12–year collegiate career.
Where Do I Begin?
Is every student college bound? Certainly not! However, every student needs training beyond high school if earning a comfortable living is a priority. The minimum-wage controversy is raging in America. People are finding that living on today’s minimum wage is impossible, which is what most students will earn if they fail to continue their education beyond high school.
I encourage middle school and high school students to sit down with their parents and realistically talk about the cost of rent, car expenses, health and property insurances, utilities, groceries, and other adult responsibilities. Take a pencil to paper and add up what it will cost to live in today’s economy. Calculate the minimum wage in your area and multiply it by 40 just to give you a ballpark figure of how much per week you will earn before taxes. Then ask yourself, “Can I survive financially?” The answer will probably be negative.
So, where do students start? A good place to begin is taking a free career interest inventory online. Some students may know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives, but most don’t. An interest inventory can lead students in the right direction on a career that best suits their personality and interests. There are several to choose from, so why not take several?
Another important piece of information is to know what types of institutions are available. Most students only know or think about four-year colleges and universities; however, there are many other types of higher-education institutions such as vocational/technical schools, two-year colleges, specialty schools, as well as, the traditional four-year colleges and universities.
A vocational or technical school teaches skills that lead to a certification. Students may achieve certifications to become welders, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, barbers or beauticians. The length of the programs varies depending on the career path. These fields are great options for students who may have struggled academically in high school or do not want to pursue a four-year degree. Many times these programs can be completed within two years.
Two-year colleges offer certifications in many fields; however, they also offer a two-year Associate’s degree. An Associate degree is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting two years. It is considered to be academically greater than a high school diploma or GED but less than a Bachelor's degree. Many students save money by attending a two-year college to obtain “basic” classes that are required for a four-year degree. Two-year colleges are typically less expensive than four-year universities and students may attend a two-year college close to their home to save money on room and board fees.
Specialty schools are not located on college campuses but at specific locations, depending on the specialty. Specialty schools may include a diploma nursing program at a local hospital, police academies, fire academies, real estate schools, barber schools, or other schools for careers that require a license but not necessarily a college degree.
The most familiar higher-education institution graduating seniors attend is the four-year college or university. Most degree plans take four years to complete if students attend fall and spring semesters and take at least 15 hours each semester. When students complete approximately 124 college hours, they obtain a Bachelor’s degree. Once a student earns a Bachelor’s degree their earning power significantly increases for the rest of their life. It is then the student may find employment in their degree area or continue their education to pursue a Master’s or Doctorial degree.
Regardless of the institution a student chooses to attend after high school, the facts are unmistakable. Students need more than a GED or high school diploma if they want financial stability during their productive lifetime. A wise man once told me after I graduated from high school, “Spend the next four years working hard so that the next 40 years are easy.” I thought it was good advice from a man with an 8th-grade education.
Coming next: Are You Ready for College? When and How to Prepare!