Many people don’t start talking about college with their children until they’re in high school. But by then, college is only four years away or less! This can be overwhelming to students as the questions start pouring in: Where do you want to go? What will you major in? How much does it cost? What do you need to do to get in?
Talking about college is just like saving for it — the earlier you start, the better! While younger children don’t need to be thinking about things like majors, when they find out you’re planning for them to go to college, they’ll start seeing college in their future, getting excited about it and becoming better prepared to answer those questions that come up in high school. Here are some things to do now to get your young child thinking about college:
The best start for getting young children excited about going to college is to instill a love of learning as they grow. Every child is passionate about something; you just have to find what that is. Reading books and playing with toys related to their interests is a great way to keep your child excited about learning new things. If your child likes space, you can look at the constellations together. If they like making things and taking them apart, Legos are a great way to encourage them to get creative and design new things. You might even learn something with them!
There are certain behaviors your children know make you proud—getting good grades, cleaning up after themselves and helping others, just to name a few. And on the other side of things, your children also know what will disappoint you, like getting in trouble at school or resorting to violence to solve problems. Just like those good expectations, make it clear to your children at an early age that getting a college education is something you expect of them. Making college feel like a normal progression of education instead of some distant idea will prepare your children for thinking about those big questions when they come.
Talk to them about what you are doing to prepare and save for their education. This will help them see college as something you are both working toward together. You can even involve them in the college savings process! Many young children can’t grasp what it means to have thousands of dollars saved away, but they can understand smaller amounts. One way is to give your child a small “allowance” with a portion of what you would have put in their college savings anyway. Then, encourage them to divide that money up, placing a dollar into a “save” jar and a dollar into a “fun” jar, for example. When the “save” jar has at least $25 in it, take them to the bank to deposit it to your bank account, have them watch you write a check to the NC 529 Plan you have for them, and let them mail it in. That reinforces that the money is going into an account for them to use on college when they get older.
Reading with your child is always a great idea. But there are some children’s books that are actually about going to college! It’s an easy way to start teaching young children about what it means to go to college and why they should want to as well. Here are just a few books that will get your child excited about college:
While we’d love to see our children with their noses in a book all day, some children simply don’t enjoy reading as much as others. Movies and TV shows are another great way to get your child looking forward to college at an early age. After watching a movie that features college in some way, have a family discussion about the movie. Ask what makes college exciting and what they thought about the college in the movie.
It’s never too early to take your child on a college visit! Whether it’s to visit your beloved alma mater or to explore a community college close to home, children at any age can benefit from the chance to visualize their future. While every school is different, most public universities allow walking through their libraries, classroom buildings, student unions and other places on campus. Take a fun day walking around campus and showing your child what college looks like—from dorms to classrooms! Some professors may even let you listen in on their class.
If you went to college, share your love for your school with your children! Tell them about the good memories you have (the PG ones, of course), get excited together about sporting events and talk to them about why you studied what you did. If you did not attend college, talk with them about why you want them to be able to go. You can even choose a school to learn about together!
Kids can get excited about college at any age. By making college a lifelong discussion with your children, you are better preparing them for the day they have to start making those big decisions.
©2016 College Foundation, Inc.