College awareness is the third roadblock in getting your student to college. Parental involvement is a major reason why your child will attend college — or not. In past articles, I have talked about this topic from an educator and adult point of view.
For this article, I wanted to get the viewpoint from a first-generation college student. I visited with Felicia Burkley, a University of Oklahoma journalism and mass communication senior, who had very little parental assistance on her path to college. Listed below are the activities that she wished her parents had participated in while she was preparing for college so they could have gone through this important process together:
The first step is to become “educated” about the college process.
Being aware is the best way to get your child on the path to college. Be fearless and seek out information. Visit websites to get an idea about the process. Better yet, visit colleges of interest with your student. There are people on site whose job is to assist prospective students and their parents. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
Paying for college is always a concern, so contact the desired school and speak with the highest financial official available.
They have the resources to help you wade through the financial aid process. Be prepared to give personal financial information and paperwork to the financial aid officer and be open to providing additional information.
This step will help you take some stress off your pocketbook.
Look into the Oklahoma's Promise program. It is a unique scholarship program for students that will pay their college tuition if their family income is $50,000 or less at the time of application. Students must sign up in the eighth, ninth or 10th grade and meet certain academic requirements. They also must stay in control outside of the classroom by avoiding trouble, like drugs, alcohol and gangs. There are additional requirements to get and keep the scholarship while in college. For more information on Oklahoma's Promise or to apply, visit okpromise.org.
The next step requires you to plan for college entrance.
All colleges require some type of college entrance exam. The exams either place your student in the school with a certain score, like the ACT/ SAT, or place them in appropriate level courses.
It may be up to you to motivate your child to take the steps needed to prepare for these exams. This includes college preparatory courses offered in high school, studying with a tutor, practicing online with free ACT/SAT quizzes or going to the library for ACT/SAT study guides.
Once your student is accepted and in school, the next step is to step out of their box.
Encourage them to continue seeking more scholarships. There are many places that offer scholarships only to students enrolled in college.
Urge your student to become active in school and find his or her appropriate niche. Fitting in will make him or her feel more comfortable, keep up grades and stay in school. Finding an academic support system will be important.
Be supportive and encouraging. After the initial shock of the first year, college will seem easier. The classes may be challenging, but your child will better understand professors' expectations and learn new study habits. Statistically, if your child completes the first year of college, he or she is much more likely to complete a degree.
College is a big step and takes time to prepare. Help your child with this next level in life so he or she won't have to walk this path alone. This can be a great learning experience for you and your child. The earlier your family plans and prepares for college, the more choices you create.
Gregg Garn is director of the K20 Center at the University of Oklahoma. This column is offered by the K20 Center GEAR UP for SUCCESS program. For more information about the program, go to k20center.ou.edu. For more about college awareness, go to www.OKcollegestart.org or call 225-9239.
This is the final installment in a three-part series that looks at the major roadblocks on the road to college: grades, college awareness and finances. To read earlier columns, visit the Business page at NewsOK.com.