How to Think About the College Investment

For middle class families, one can expect to pay $50-200 thousand dollars for 4 plus years of college education. For many families, this investment will be second only to the cost of their home. Beyond monetary investment, your child’s future is on the line. Making incorrect choices can amount to years of wasted time for a student, a misuse of family money, the loss of self-esteem and damage to career prospects. With such high high stakes, prudent deliberation is a must.

College has always been a special time in the lives of young adults. In the early years of post secondary institutions of learning, college was a time for separation, intensive study, and great camaraderie. In the years since the baby boom, college has been a symbol of higher aspirations, good times, and social connections. Yet, even though college education has evolved over the years, the fundamental purpose remains the same: preparing young people for adult lives and careers.

Your thinking as a parent must be equally purposeful. You must answer the question: What will the investment in my child’s college education do for him or her? The variety of college experiences available in the United States is enough to overwhelm even the most informed families. How can one connect the dots between the unique opportunities offered at college X and the child’s future? These are the important questions to be answered:

Will my child receive attention from faculty?

Without mentoring and nurturing from professionals, it is difficult to be properly prepared, either personally or academically, for adult life and careers. Furthermore, relationships with faculty can open doors to graduate schools and jobs that might otherwise be unreachable.

Who will my child be attending school with? Are the students generally serious minded, with academic, personal, and career aspirations firmly in mind?

Fun is available at every school in America, and some percentage of students at every school will be interested primarily in good times. Some schools, however, have a much higher percentage of students interested in personal and academic development.

Does my child’s prospective major properly prepare him or her for a positive future?

Majors are as important as any other factor in the academic portfolio. Failure to choose a major that is well-regarded by employers and graduate schools will reduce opportunities. Further, families must determine if a child’s prospective education accomplishes the skill development shown in our post, “What Do I Need to Get Out of a College Education?

Will my child’s prospective college go the extra mile to ensure his or her future success?

Colleges vary dramatically on this intangible but crucial quality. At some prestigious colleges, faculty will treat your student impersonally and remain aloof unless he or she is at the top of the class. If your student is unlikely to achieve those lofty spots, will anyone be concerned about his/her future job or graduate school?

Many schools will provide your student with all available resources from the first day on campus to the day a first job offer is received. These colleges utilize faculty and alumni to sponsor students for internships, jobs, and graduate schools. Students are prepped for interviews, find purposeful study abroad, are placed in research projects, and receive needed academic support. Likelihood of success will always rise when knowledgeable adults pave the road for a student’s future.


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