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5 ways to get your elementary schooler thinking about college

We all have dreams for our children, and watching them graduate from college one day is often at or near the top of that list. But how can we encourage our young children to dream that dream with us? And what can we do to change a vague vision into a bona fide shared goal?

The answer begins in your child’s youngest days. In elementary school, your children are discovering full-time education and beginning to understand school’s structure and purpose. Springboard off of their natural curiosities! Here are five ways to use the elementary school years to help your children start thinking about college.

1) Talk about it. This is the most obvious tip, and the most important. Communication is key! The early years will present numerous ways to let your children know that you expect them to go to college. When your children ask how many years of school they have left, go ahead and talk through four years of high school and four years of college — even making mention of the possibility of more schooling after that. During these teachable moments, start your sentences with, “And when you go to college …” — not “if.”

Also, talk with your children about your time at college (or not), and have them speak with relatives, family friends, teachers and doctors about their college experiences. These chats help reinforce how widespread college attendance is and demonstrate the link between college degrees and certain careers.

2) Show them the money! Are you saving already in a Florida Prepaid Plan or a 529 Savings Plan? Great! Show them your statements. This lesson packs a multifaceted punch. Not only does it teach them a little about personal finance, the importance of saving, and how to work toward a goal — it also reinforces the message that their future includes college.

Did you know: Americans spend over 18 times as much money on home video games ($18.6 billion) as they do on school library materials for their children ($1 billion). — American Library Association Office of Research and Statistics

3) Visit a college. Ever heard that “seeing is believing”? Take your children on a visit to a college campus. This doesn’t have to be a costly campus preview fit for a junior in high school; rather, take advantage of simple opportunities to let your children picture themselves on campus. Do you live near a university? Go see a play, eat something new at an international cultural event, or check out the annual Math Day. If you live far from a campus, consider making a quick detour on your next road trip.

4) Strengthen your child’s “executive skills.” Executive skills are the mental processes that help us function efficiently and effectively, such as organization, task initiation, emotional control and staying focused. Helping your child strengthen these areas will improve their performance in school and make for a smoother overall path through college and life.

5) Read! Read! Read! You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, because it bears repeating. Kids that practice reading become confident readers, who can then become joyful readers — and that’s where the magic really begins. Studies show that reading builds vocabulary and critical thinking skills, both of which are essential parts of SAT/ACT testing and college essay writing. Reading develops a child’s interests, sparks their imagination, and provides wholesome relaxation. So read out loud to your children, let them see you reading, and make recreational visits to your local library.


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