Do You Know How to Buy College?

Management wastes resources if we are not continually training our workforce. Training keeps people interested, informed and vital to our operation. If we are not life-long learners, we are also wasting resources and the habit of continual learning begins at home. Keeping education as a focus in your family isn’t always easy, but the payoffs are long-lasting and well worth the effort. So let’s talk about investing in education…higher education, that is.

DevDanVandyLaw2014I remember hearing our older daughter tell people during her college years (when they asked) that she was majoring in Sociology with a minor in Peace Studies. Even though the work fascinated her, she was making great grades and achieving at the highest levels, the looks of subtle disapproval on their faces would cause her to quickly add, “But I am considering grad school or law school.”

That seemed to set their minds at ease that she was not wasting her time on a degree that would not pay her back in big bucks, but it made her uncomfortable that she felt obligated to say it.

Our younger daughter was quite convinced she wanted to be a third-grade teacher…until her freshman year of college when she realized that her introvert energy sources were going to be taxed to their maximum constantly by managing a large class of students. We listened, were supportive, and she changed her major. She ultimately enrolled in a graduate, accelerated program in nursing where she found her true calling.

Get ready for your kids to make their own decisions on what they will want to study and do with their lives.

You will want to guide them, but the best way to do that is to encourage them to get a good foundation. The goal is to prepare them for the three to five careers that most people now have during the course of their lives. In other words, their goal is to “learn how to learn.”

When it comes to majors and future careers, listen closely or you may be forcing your child down a path that may be a hideous bore after thousands of hours and dollars spent, but they will feel trapped in it due to that investment. It is tough; particularly if they seem to find something terribly fascinating while you see little income potential there, but listen and ask questions that allow them to figure that out. It may work out that they will either switch tracks on their own or it will be a genuine calling and you will need to accept it and allow them to experience the consequences and rewards of that career.

No one said this was easy, but here are a few things that helped us.

Be prepared to think outside the box. Loren Pope’s seminal book,”Colleges That Change Lives,” states that the general American public does not know how to buy higher education. Americans seem to have accepted a myth that the harder it is to get into an institution, the better prepared for success the graduate will be. It is not true in a great many cases and in Pope’s book he highlights a number of smaller, less known and less expensive colleges across America that focus on the whole student. They succeed in graduating a truly prepared future worker in four years, often with a large emphasis on ethics and principles. He makes a parallel between hospitals and colleges that is chilling, saying in effect that,“If we chose our hospitals like we select our colleges, we would pay more attention to how difficult they were to get into, than to how many of us actually got out alive.”

Things to think about when you are shopping a college or university:

  1.  How many of their graduates actually graduate in four years?  What percentage went on to graduate or higher education institutions? What percentage found employment in their field of study within 6 mos., 9 mos., 1 year?? These are fair questions for your student to ask when they will be investing a good deal of money in their undergraduate degree. And while we are on that topic…
  2. How important is the “status” of an undergrad degree school? In most cases, not so much. It is much more important that it be a good fit for your student’s learning style, reasonably priced for your budget, and able to offer the classes that will prepare him or her for the advanced degree they will want to pursue. It is more important that it be a place in which your student can excel. In other words, save the big bucks for grad school! There are a few exceptions to this rule in the sciences and music, but you will know about them if your child shows those inclinations and talents.

Check out Loren Pope’s book and It may change some of your perceptions about your child’s college choices, even if you do not choose one of these particular colleges.

Our older daughter chose a school (Whitworth University) that should probably be on that list, given the criteria, and I am sure you will find others as well that turn out exceptional students who are also exceptional human beings.

For you see, we probably shouldn’t be asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Rather, we should be asking, “What kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?”

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