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It's never too early to think about college -- about the benefits of a college education and about ways to put college within reach academically and financially. Throughout their school years, students make academic and other decisions that affect whether they will be eligible to enter college. You -- working with others -- can help your child make these decisions wisely.


A college degree can provide your child with many opportunities in life. A college education can mean:


Greater Knowledge

A college education will increase your child's ability to understand developments in science and in society, to think abstractly and critically, to express thoughts clearly in speech and in writing, and to make wise decisions. These skills are useful both on and off the job.


Greater Potential


A college education can help increase your child's understanding of the community, the Nation, and the world--as he or she explores interests, discovers new areas of knowledge, considers lifelong goals, and becomes a responsible citizen.


More Job Opportunities


The world is changing rapidly. Many jobs rely on new technology and already require more brain power than muscle power. In your child's working life, more and more jobs will
require education beyond high school. With a college education,your child will have more jobs from which to choose.


More Money


A person who attends college generally earns more than a person who does not.

For example, in 1989, a person with a college degree from a four-year college earned approximately $10,000 more in that year than a person who did not go to college. With a college education, your child can earn higher pay.

Some of these benefits of college may not be obvious to your child. Even though he or she has to make the final decision to attend college, you can help in the decision-making process by learning about all aspects of college yourself and sharing what you learn with your child.


What types of colleges* exist?


There are two basic types of colleges that offer academic programs:


Two-Year Colleges


These schools offer two-year programs leading to a certificate, an associate of arts (A.A.) degree, an associate of science (A.S.) degree, or an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree.


Four-Year Colleges and Universities


These schools usually offer a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. Some also offer graduate and professional degrees.


Two-Year Colleges


For students who want a practical education aimed at a specific career in such areas as bookkeeping, dental hygiene, etc., a two-year program is probably the answer. In many cases, two-year degrees can be transferred to four-year schools and credited toward a B.A. or B.S. degree. Two-year programs vary from school to school, but, in general, are offered by:

Junior Colleges: These are generally private institutions,some of which are residential and attended by students who may come from other parts of the country; and

Community Colleges: These are public institutions, mostly serving people from nearby communities. Public institutions are supported by state and local revenues.

Many junior and community colleges offer
technical/vocational training, as well as academic courses.Many offer such programs in cooperation with local businesses,industry, public service agencies, or other organizations.

Two-year colleges often operate under an "open admissions" policy, which can vary from school to school. At some institutions, "open admissions" means that anyone who has a high school diploma or GED certificate can enroll. At other schools, anyone over 18 years of age can enroll or, in some cases, anyone deemed able to benefit from the programs at the schools can enroll.


Application requirements at some two-year colleges may include a high school transcript--a list of all the courses your child took and grades earned in four years of high school--and college entrance examination scores as well. Some schools have programs that allow "open admissions," while other programs in the same school--particularly in scientific or technical subjects--may have further admission requirements. Since requirements vary widely, it is important to check into schools and programs individually.


Four-Year Colleges and Universities


Students who wish to pursue a general academic program usually choose a four-year college or university. Such a program lays the foundation for more advanced studies and
professional work. Four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees (the B.A. and B.S.)in most areas in the arts and sciences, such as English literature, foreign languages, history, economics, political science, biology, zoology,chemistry, and in many other fields.


To prepare for college, there is no substitute for your child getting a solid academic education. This means your child should take challenging courses in academic subjects and maintain good grades in high school. Your child's transcript will be an important part of his or her college application.

A college education builds on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier years. It is best for your child to start planning a high school course schedule early, in the seventh or eighth grade. Students who don't think ahead may have difficulty completing all the required or recommended courses that will help them qualify for college.

Most selective colleges (those with the highest admissions requirements) prefer to admit students who have taken courses in certain subject areas. For example, many colleges prefer that high school students take algebra, geometry, or some other type of specialized math, rather than general math. Some colleges prefer three or four years of a foreign language. Your child's guidance counselor can help your child determine the high school courses required or preferred by different types of colleges. If your child is interested in specific colleges, he or she can contact those schools and ask about their admissions requirements.

Your child should take courses in at least these core areas:

-- English

-- mathematics

-- science

-- history and geography

A foreign language and computer science are also highly recommended.

If your child is interested in pursuing a vocational program in a two-year college, he or she may want to supplement or substitute some of the courses listed in the chart with some vocational or technical courses in his or her field of interest. Your child should take at least the suggested courses in the core areas of English, math, science, history, and geography.

Traditional English courses such as American and English literature will help students improve their writing skills, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. History and geography will help your child better understand our society as well as societies around the world.

Mathematical and scientific concepts and skills learned in math classes are used in many disciplines outside of these courses. A recent study showed that students who take algebra and geometry in high school are much more likely to go on to college than students who do not. Algebra and geometry are also essential preparation for the college entrance examinations--the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT Assessment.