Plan For College

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How Military Families Can Prepare Their Kids for Higher Education

Preparing your kids to leave the nest is a special, yet stressful, time. It seems like just yesterday you were helping them pack a lunch for the first day of school, and yet, now they’re ready to be on their own. When you are a military family and your teenager is choosing between schools that may take him or her far away, the entire family is sure to feel some stress. Read on for tips for military families on how to prepare children for their transition to adult life. 


Not every family has the means to put their children through four years of increasingly expensive tertiary education. And not every family feels that it is the parents’ responsibility to do so. However, whatever your income or parenting style, moms and dads can help their kids find suitable financial aid programs to soften the financial impact on a young scholar. If you or your spouse served in the military, your children may be eligible for a host of military dependent scholarships. Seek advice from a financial planner or from an advisor at your child’s school to see what scholarships, grants and loans are available that you can apply for. Note that parents usually have to fill out some financial paperwork, like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to help schools determine your child’s eligibility, regardless of whether your family can or will pay for schooling.


While you may be experiencing mixed feelings about your oldest growing up, it’s more than likely your child needs some guidance in this area too. Deciding what path is best for him or her may take time and a lot of discussion. Experts suggest helping your children make a list of their own strengths and weaknesses, interests and disinterests. Talk frankly about where they would like to go to school — or even if they’d like to try online learning. Visiting the campuses of schools near you, or checking out the web pages of colleges and taking “virtual tours,” can help soothe nerves and make decisions easier.

It’s typically at this point that parents realize they have different aspirations for their child than their child has for him or herself. For example, many families are proud that they have a member from each generation who has served in the military. Other families are determined that their high-achieving teen should go to a university and focus on academics. Still other families may think that certain degrees aren’t worthy. Often, there’s no wrong or right argument in these family discussions, but there can be a lot of hurt feelings and stress. Experts recommend helping your child see the pros and cons of each situation and weighing those against the practicalities of following the path they choose. For example, a teenager who wants to study sciences may have a great chance at getting scholarships, while a drama student won’t — unless he or she goes to an in-state school. There are a lot of factors to consider, and you owe it to your child to help him or her navigate the decision-making process. If you’re lucky, it can bring you closer together in the months before your child leaves the nest.


No matter what your children want to do when they finish high school — whether it’s enlist in the military straight away, go to vocational school, start at a university in the fall, or take a road trip with friends and work in a pizza restaurant before making a choice — it’s your duty as a parent to make sure that they have a solid academic foundation. Though it might seem like a struggle with some kids, not pushing the importance of academics when they’re young is like clipping their wings before they learn how to fly. It doesn’t matter if your daughter goes to nursing school and never “needs” those advanced English courses she took in high school, or if your son goes to a vocational school that doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores for entrance — after you paid hundreds of dollars for ACT prep classes. The point is that, thanks to you, they’ll have the foundation under them to be able to do whatever they want. Job well done, Mom and Dad.


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