Parenting Doesn’t Stop When They Go to College

Curt & Gabby SchillingBy now, you may have heard about Curt Schilling and the vulgar tweets that blew up his Twitter after he simply congratulated his daughter for earning a softball scholarship to college. Kudos to Mr. Schilling for bringing a much needed spotlight on how our youth seem to be under the illusion that there are no consequences for the horrible things they post on social media.

From Poor Judgment to Bad Behavior to Criminal Actions

“Youth” in this instance is referring to college-age boys ¬¬- boys that Mr. Schilling refers to as “white, affluent, college attending children.” With one kid in college and another about to be, I’m sensitive to the despicable things I inadvertently hear about college boys and their behavior on social media, at frat parties, or wherever they hang out with their peers. Many of these kids are good kids from normal homes who you assume have been brought up by loving, well-intentioned parents.

When the bad behavior goes unchecked, they feel enabled, entitled, and above reproach. These are the type of boys who might take the jokes, language and threats to the next level and end up raping coeds then making excuses or justifying why it was no big deal. That’s been in the news a lot, too, and always sparks debate. “The girl was drunk.” “She was all over him.” “Did you see how she was dressed? She asked for it.” Rape is rape and no means no yet many will say the girls bear some responsibility for putting themselves in risky positions.

Don’t Cut the Strings Entirely

What about the parents? What role do we play? Just because our kid is away at college doesn’t mean we should completely cut the strings and turn our head so they can do whatever they want. College kids still need parenting — arguably even more than middle and high school kids! Of course, ideally, morals are instilled in these kids as children and teens and they know better than to post vulgar threats, or slip a date rape drug in a girls drink, or get so smashed that they end up in a situation they’ll later regret, but kids who have been raised right are making bad choices regardless of their upbringing. Drink

Why? Because so many parents conclude that when they reach 18 or go to college we are suppose to let them sew their wild oats and come of age. We can’t be with them 24/7 and they have to learn from their mistakes. Yeah, I get it. But, geez, we don’t have to stop talking to them, teaching them, and setting a good example.

Communicate Honestly

Maybe what needs to change is our tone. Instead of preaching and threatening like when they were 15, try having adult, honest conversations about the dangers of social media, about avoiding risky situations, about using good judgment, and most importantly, about consequences and accountability. Our kids will make mistakes. They will make stupid, impulsive decisions. They will say and post inappropriate things. They will get wasted and end up in compromising positions. When parents stay involved and have that honest rapport with their kids, we can guide them before they get carried away and really cross the line. The important thing is that they accept responsibility when they’ve screwed up and don’t make excuses or blame someone else. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good kids or that they have bad parents. What will define their character, and ours, is how they respond and learn from those mistakes.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — William Morrow

Why CEO’s Should Require HR to Reply to Follow-up Emails

Many know the feeling. You interview for your dream job and think it couldn’t have gone any better. You get a tour of the department, meet the team and talk specifics about salary & benefits. You ask how soon they expect to make a decision and they reply immediately. Excited about the inevitable offer, you send a handwritten thank-you note later that day, and then wait for the good news.

A week passes, and you hear nothing. Though you are a little less confident, you convince yourself not to read anything in to the lack of response. You send an email to the HR department to check the status of filling the position and anxiously await some sort of reply. And again, nothing. With each passing day, your excitement diminishes and is replaced with frustration.

Frustration

Don’t Take It Personally

You shouldn’t. This is standard operating procedure for many company’s HR departments, large and small. They are inundated with email. They are overworked, often times stressed out performing multiple roles within the company from dealing with disgruntled employees, to handling complicated insurance reforms, to training new hires, to enforcing policies and procedures. That’s just to name a few. They can’t possibly reply to every single job candidate who is following up.

Or can they? Should they?

Why It’s Important to Respond

In a time when advertising budgets are decreasing, more and more companies are opting for a good public relations strategy. PR is a cost-effective way to gain credibility, to gain and maintain a favorable public image for a company and to build a great brand. The Public Relations Society of America defines PR this way… “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Organizations spend countless hours crafting their PR plans. They identify their target audience, write press releases, host events, sponsor little league teams, support non-profits, update websites, and/or utilize social media all in an effort to engage with the public and generate a favorable public image.

But, are they overlooking something? They may have identified key influencers – writers and bloggers, for instance, but they often forget about those individuals who have had direct interaction with their HR departments and been left with a bad taste in their mouth. Just one annoyed job candidate with a large social media network can taint a company’s image.

How Replying Can Be an Effective PR Strategy

With a little bit of effort, and minimal expense, a company can actually encourage a more favorable image just by having a policy in place of replying to job candidates’ follow-up emails. Even if the news isn’t good, candidates appreciate someone taking the time to get back with them. It doesn’t have to come from the overworked HR manager. It can be a role for an administrative staffer, for example, that simply acknowledges receipt of the email and gives a polite, personal response.

It’s not complicated. It’s simply an easy opportunity to give an individual a positive impression of a company, and potentially diffuse any negative word-of-mouth, which in this day and time, can be a highly effective PR strategy.

Public or Private? What Really Matters When Choosing a Great School

Whether to enroll your student in public or private school is a tough decision and one that’s debated often in households all across the county. Some parents start saving and budgeting for the best private education money can buy while their child is in the womb. Others take advantage of free public education through elementary school then go private once their kids become teenagers and many will support public education all the way through graduation.

Public v Private

Public or Private?

The prevailing perception is that your child will receive a superior education in private school. The logic is if you pay for it, it must be better. Yet, evidence from multiple studies show that public school students have comparable or better mathematic scores than independent schools. Many argue private schools prepare students better for college, whereas advocates of public education assert their graduates are better prepared for the realities of everyday life.

Kids are different

As a parent who chose to send one child to public high school and the other to private, I’ve given much thought to “which was better”? First, my kids are opposites. What was best for one wasn’t necessarily what was best for the other. Our oldest is outgoing, a hard worker, and very goal-oriented. She thrived in public schools never having to be pushed to reach her potential. She got into a very good university, albeit she’s struggled to maintain her grades, but she continues to work hard.

On the contrary, our second child is naturally extremely bright, yet tends to be lazy. We felt he would get bored and feared he may disappear in public school where the classes are larger and the troublemakers often get most of the teacher’s attention. He’s a rising senior, and we’ve spent a fortune on his education and although he had a high ACT score, I honestly can’t say emphatically that he’s that much better off than our daughter. This bothers me. At this point I assumed it would be obvious, but I think I’ve finally realized that I’ve been dwelling on the wrong thing all along.

The key to success

What makes a school successful isn’t the designation “private”. What I believe makes a school great is how the school influences the student’s character, and similarly, how the school regards its students who show good character.

It’s starts at the very top. Principals set the tone for the school and that tone trickles down to everyone in the school. Sometimes principals do the job to feed their egos and are oblivious to what is really going on with their students. Teachers favor the kids in the popular crowd even if those kids are partiers or bullies. Coaches obsessed with “winning” spend all their time working with the superstars while deeming the less talented players completely irrelevant. These aren’t the ingredients for a great school no matter how much you pay for it.

Putting a girl on homecoming court just because she’s pretty, or electing the star quarterback to class president just because he wins games isn’t the right criteria. Good grades combined with good character should be the standard in awarding and recognizing students.

character

Pay attention and listen

When researching schools for your child, be open-minded. Don’t limit your search to just private or public based on preconceived notions. Spend time with the principal and try to get a feel for his or her values. Don’t just focus on scores or scholarships awarded. Seek to learn what the people in the school hold in high regard. When everyone from the principal to the teachers, staff, coaches and students embrace a balance of academic success and good character, then, and only then does the school become great.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Get an Education That Leads to a Real, Money-Making Career

businessman with horseshoe magnet collecting money , eps10 vecto

Deciding where to go to college and what to major in is an exciting time. After years of taking classes that were selected by school administrators and not by you, now you get to choose where to go and, for the most part, which classes to take. We all know the advice to “follow your passion” while pursuing a college diploma or trade certification, and yes, it’s a noble idea. But it’s also a pretty good idea to think about the financial benefits of your future job—the world doesn’t need another barista with multiple degrees. Take the time to select a program that will not only make you happy, but will also help you earn a decent salary. The following programs can help you find a lucrative position:

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy techs help pharmacists fill prescriptions, update and manage customer records and deal with insurance companies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the job outlook for this field is growing at a “faster than average” rate, and the average pharmacy tech earned $29,320 per year in 2012. According to the online career school Penn Foster, which offers a pharmacy technician career diploma, most graduates go on to work at companies like Rite Aid, Wal-Mart and CVS pharmacies.

Photo by bartsz via Flickr

Aircraft Mechanics

If you’re mechanically inclined and like the idea of working on airplanes, this job might be for you. The Federal Aviation Administration lists the basic requirements on its website, but prepare to to take a series of exams and have a year and a half of practical experience first. The average salary for this job paid $55,230 a year in 2012, according to the BLS.

Auto Insurance Appraisers

Insurance appraisers determine the extent of damage done to a vehicle and whether the company should pay the claim. Appraisers must complete a certificate program in auto damage appraisal to learn how to correctly assess vehicle damage. Appraisers’ annual salaries averaged $59,850 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Commercial Pilot

This well-paying profession is perfect for people who want to fly a helicopter or plane on a more flexible schedule. This includes traffic helicopter pilots, pilots who transport people to the hospital, those who spray crops or other fields with herbicides, and more. Salaries for commercial pilots vary widely, but according to the BLS, the median salary is in the ballpark of $70,000 a year. This career requires a pilot’s license, which may be acquired by working with a private teacher or a civilian or military flight school.

Photo by elias_daniel via Flickr

Petroleum Engineer

Smithsonian Magazine notes that eight of the 10 college majors that lead to high-paying careers have the word “engineering” in them. Petroleum engineers earned an average annual salary of $130,280 in 2012, the BLS reports, making it the most lucrative bachelor’s degree a college student can earn. Other engineering-related college degrees that can lead to high paying jobs include aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and mining and mineral engineering.

Teens Seeking a Fit Look or a Competitive Edge Turn to Steroids

A recent study by the University of Missouri and Columbia University about teenager’s use of steroids brings much needed public awareness to the health issue and reveals some interesting role reversals among boys and girls.

Out of 2,793 middle and high school students questioned, the study showed more and more girls are using steroids, protein shakes and over the counter products trying to bulk up. About 4% of the girls in the study said they use steroids, compared to almost 6% of the boys. Contrast that to the traditional aspirations of teenage girls to be ultra-thin and there seems to be a shift in what adolescent girls perceive as attractive. Although attaining a “fit” look rather than an emaciated one seems healthier as fewer girls are starving themselves or binge eating, it’s really no better because now they are turning to other unhealthy methods of achieving their desired look.

Likewise, an alarming percentage of boys revealed they wrestle with body-image insecurities, which has typically been associated with girls. Seeing muscle bound males in movies, TV shows, and commercials are fueling the dissatisfaction with boys, many who are not athletes participating in weight training and rigorous exercise but who are seeking the same athletic look.

As the study suggests, there is a substantial population of teenagers who from early adolescence are at risk of using unhealthy muscle-enhancing behaviors to achieve the appearance of being “fit”.  And, it’s not only about appearing fit for many. It’s about enhancing “performance” in sports by using anabolic steroids to gain a competitive edge to teammates and help their teams win at any cost.

Anabolic steriods are artificially produced hormones that are similar to androgens, the male-type sex hormones in the body. The risks associated with the use of anabolic steroids include anger, aggression, depression, paranoia, delusion, sleep problems, nausea, skin problems, high blood pressure, greater risk of muscle and tendon injury, liver damage, urinary problems, shortening of final adult height, and increased risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.  Also, specifically for boys, they risk testicular shrinkage, breast development, impotence and sterility.  And, for girls, increase facial hair, menstrual cycle changes, and development of masculine traits like a deeper voice and smaller breasts, are common.  Some might argue steroids are more dangerous to teens than alcohol or marijuana.

With two kids in high school, I suspect certain kids of using steroids, although I haven’t considered any that were girls.   Most of my son’s friends, including my own son, are downing protein shakes daily but the muscle they gain going the “healthy” route can’t compete with the ones building muscle at an accelerated rate using anabolic steroids.  While becoming stronger and faster, these boys are experiencing acne breakouts and mood changes, and unknowingly could be stunting their own growth among other things.   If it’s this obvious to me that steroids are being used, why aren’t coaches noticing, or are they turning a blind eye?

It’s one of the serious health issues facing adolescents.  With the release of this study, many mainstream media outlets have picked up the story, bringing much needed awareness to the dangers and number of teens using.  Under-reported, much like sexual-harassment in the workplace, this threat begs parents, coaches, and the media’s attention, as well as the kids who may not know the risks.

If you’ve gotten this far in my post, maybe you’d be willing to take part in bringing awareness.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Add comments below with your viewpoints and insights. Then, talk openly with your kids about the importance of being healthy and of not going to extremes or using unhealthy fads to look a certain way or to gain a competitive edge.

 

What Your Teen Won’t Tell You About Spring Break in Panama City Beach…

Most families look forward to Spring Break, but if you have teenagers, and they happen to be among the hundreds of thousands that make their way to Panama City Beach this Spring, then your break might be filled with worry and anxiety.

Middle and high school kids, along with college kids,  from all over the country converge on Panama City Beach for what promises to be a huge party. Some go with friends, some chaperoned, some not; others go with their families and beg to get away to the strip as much as they can.

Social media is traditionally filled with posts and pictures about partying in PCB for Spring Break. As my daughter, Haley, stated, “Everyone goes, Mom!”  When three of us moms caved in and took our daughters and a couple of their 16-17 year old friends to PCB, it felt like she hadn’t embellished much. It was the first year I was letting her go during Spring Break, and only because I was going, too.  Here’s what I learned…

Be Prepared for Debauchery

Not to instill panic on parent’s or teenagers planning their PCB Spring Break 2014 vacation, I just want to make sure you’re prepared for the impending insanity, debauchery, and nastiness of it all. Seventeen magazine dubbed PCB the “sketchiest Spring Break in America”. Yes, I know that’s what the teenagers want, and I get it.  Maybe it’s a “right of passage”.  Arguably kids should experience it once in their lives, but I personally believe they should wait until they are of legal drinking age, or at the very least, in college.

party The strip is a melting pot of drugs, drinking, sex, and nudity. On our trip, watching preteen girls play beer bong with college aged boys was common. Clearly underage kids were partaking in drinking games all over the beach. Kids were smoking weed out in the open and girls were flashing body parts. All this was happening during the day, as early as 11am. You can only imagine what the evenings were like once these kids had over-indulged and become completely belligerent and promiscuous.party 2

The Danger of Letting Your Teen Go Unchaperoned

After we came across a group of senior cheerleaders from Haley’s high school who had come unchaperoned, our girls started planning their trip for their senior year.  After what I saw, I knew for sure my daughter wouldn’t be returning unchaperoned while still in high school.  Now she’s a freshman in college and her sorority is headed to where else but PCB in March. I’m still nervous!

It’s not that I don’t trust her, or her friends but there are so many risks and dangers. Teens falling off balconies, picking up STDs from foam parties at Club La Vela,  hanging out of cars driven by intoxicated drivers, and drunk, hormonal college boys who don’t take no for an answer are all things she might easily encounter.  Now, at 19, and having lived on her own for a few months she, at least, has acclimated to the college lifestyle and is better prepared to make good decisions.

High school, and certainly middle-school age teens don’t have the maturity to handle themselves in these circumstances. Too many really bad things can happen in a split second. Maybe some of my readers will re-think their Spring Break plans or at the very least,  try staying a little further out where it’s not as crazy.  I’ll certainly have some kids mad at me, but parents need to know that just because every other kid at their school is going, doesn’t make it safe.

haley and baileys

Why US Kids are Mediocre Academically

The Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, has released 2012 scores and US teens remain middle of the pack among their peers worldwide with reading, math, and science scores remaining stagnant for the last 10 years. stressed-student

Middle of the pack. Hmmm. Not something us American’s are used to. We rank 1st as the country with the highest net worth, 6th in economic freedom, and 12th in prosperity. We rank 9th in retirement security and 6th in living the good life.

We dominate in the Olympics.

We’re a global power. We win wars. We rescue other countries. We are known as the most charitable country on earth.

We are exceptional in many things, except academics. Why is that?

Inadequate public schools?

Is it the fault of our schools, specifically the public school system as many assert? I have the unique perspective of having 1 teen who recently graduated with a public school education, and 1 who will graduate next year with a private school education. Now in his junior year, we’ve spent in excess of $10,000 a year educating our youngest child and recently, my husband and I questioned whether we think it’s been worth it. You’d hope having invested that much money that there would be a resounding “Yes”, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. The jury is still out.

We’ve always been strong advocates for public education and it served our daughter well. Outgoing, self-motivated with an above average work ethic, she thrived in public schools. Our son, on the other hand, is more shy, and not self-driven. He is naturally very bright, but lazy. For that reason, we felt like he might too easily disappear in overcrowded public school classes where teachers wouldn’t see that he wasn’t reaching his potential and help him along. That was the reasoning that drove our decision to put him in private school.

Although private school seems to be preparing him better for college, ie, knowing how to test and how to find the right major and right college, we’re not convinced he’s that much further ahead academically than our daughter was.

Distractions.

Doesn’t matter if it’s public school or super conservative private school, kids are distracted with so many outside influences that take precedence over studying. From snap chatting, tweeting & obsessing over reality TV, to wild parties with drinking and drugs to doing things sexually parents never heard of, grades rank very low over other unhealthy distractions.

Priorities.

Speaking of distractions, the amount of time extra-curricular activities consume competes with study time. From little kids playing little league 3-4 nights a week, to high school students having two-a-day practices before and after school, how can kids maintain enough energy to hold their heads up, let alone focus on school work? It’s as if the activity or sport becomes the priority and studying the extra-curricular activity. The more successful the student is, the more teachers, administrators, and especially parents enable them to put their studies on the back burner.

Enabling parents.

Here lies what I believe is the main contributor to the mediocre scores: enabling, helicopter parents. We push our kids to be on the best team, to be the star performer, to win the most ribbons, or to hang out with the coolest kids yet we make fun of the ones whose heads are stuck in a book. Those kids are “nerds”.

About the only time we put emphasis on academics is if there’s competition involved. We love telling everyone how smart our kid is and take pride in our kids winning end of the year awards but, honestly, how often did they actually earn to recognition? Or was mom or dad the one doing their homework when they came home exhausted? I know I’ve made A’s on many complex projects my kids never touched.

phsp-1All of these things are part of our way of life as American’s and the problems that result from all these other priorities reveal themselves once kids are out of the house and trying to become independent adults. Many don’t have work ethics. They aren’t accountable for their mistakes. They blame everyone else and look for their parent’s to rescue them if they get in trouble instead of accepting responsibility and changing the behavior. How can we expect our kids to compete and thrive in a global world where most other counties are improving when all we do is make excuses, point fingers, take shortcuts, and remain stagnant. As parent’s, we must first accept responsibility for our role. Then, we encourage our children to embrace education and take pride in working hard.

Racist or Not, How Paula Deen Can Promote Change

If using the n-word makes someone a racist, then, by Paula Deen’s own admission, she is.

By definition, a racist is a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others.

Having read excerpts from the deposition where Paula Deen testified to using the n-word, I don’t believe she is racist because she used the n-word but some argue she’s racist because of the context of the incidents she described, and by the sheer fact that she’s Southern.

Is Racism an Ugly Southern Truth or an Ugly American Truth?

Let’s face it. If we all are honest, most white Americans will admit to using the n-word. We’ll admit to feeling like we are superior in some way because of our race. We’ll perpetuate racial stereotypes. I wrote a post shortly after the presidential election about the racial tweets originating in the South revealing an ugly truth about our culture. At first, as a lifelong Southerner, I was offended that people stereotype Southerners as being racist but upon deep inner reflection, how could I argue that? The truth is that even though I try very hard to be a tolerant, accepting, compassionate person, racism is a part of me and I’m ashamed.

By admitting it, however, I want to be better than that. I want to do the right thing but it just doesn’t change overnight. Although there has been great progress in the last few decades promoting race equality in the US, we still have a long way to go before we all embrace it, and practice it. Yes, those tweets revealed it’s more prevalent in the South, but, it’s far from being exclusively an ugly Southern truth.

How Paula Deen Can Promote Change

Paula Deen is Paula Deen, a 66-year old white Southern lady. Although I think much of the bad press and dropped endorsements were hypocritical and maybe weren’t entirely fair, she has the opportunity to take ownership of this and become a proponent for change.  Instead of trying to defend herself or justify her comments, maybe she should use this as a lesson to the millions of people who love her to face their own prejudices and try to do better. Crying and apologizing isn’t helping. Her family defending her character by pointing out all her charitable works isn’t helping. Supporters posting Facebook messages isn’t helping her but by using all of the above –heartfelt apology, upstanding character, and a huge fan base – Paula Deen can help others reflect on themselves and set better examples for our children.

Unite against racism

And What About the Rest of Us?

Taking ownership and responsibility is what I consistently preach to my kids. It’s time for me to do what I think Paula Deen should do. Admit to using the n-word. Stop using it, but more importantly let my actions reveal that as a Christian, I don’t think I’m superior to anyone. Encourage others, especially teenagers and children, to embrace racial equality. Only then can I believe that with each passing generation, we will get a little closer to eradicating racism.

Regrets from the Mom of a Graduating Senior

This last year has been a whirlwind. Between dealing with filling out college applications, reviewing scholarship opportunities, discerning endless emails as junk or legit, completing FAFSA forms, getting inundated with a billion to do’s from the college she choose, thinking about majors, purchasing stuff for her dorm, and figuring out options on how to pay for everything has been quite a struggle. This is my first child. I had no idea what was involved and boy do I wish I could go back a few years and prepare better. What would I do differently, and if you are a parent with a child who will one day go to college, what should you do?

Haley's best friends at Ooltewah High School graduation.

Haley’s best friends at Ooltewah High School graduation.

Save for College

Doesn’t matter how old your child is. Start saving, even if it’s a little and very sporadic. Whenever you can spare $10 or $20, deposit it to the account. Take a portion of a tax refund, add it to the account. Sell some stuff on EBay, add some of it to the account. I was all gung ho when my kids were babies and opened up college accounts for them then with the intention of adding to them every year, then life happened and it seemed like we always had an excuse not to add money. Year after year, our expenses grew, until eventually I said, “What’s the point now? I’ll just figure out a way to pay for it when the time comes.” Well, the time is now here and I wish I’d put back even $100 a year. At least I could pay for textbooks with that.

Make Appointment with Guidance Counselor When Freshman in High School

When you child is 14, you’re in the middle of dealing with major attitude changes, watching your child struggle with peer pressures and choosing their path. The last thing many of you are worried about is college, but no matter how premature it may seem, if for no other reason than to get a high level idea of what you’ll need to do their junior and senior years, it’s worth it to take a half hour and meet with your child’s high school college guidance counselor. If you are like me, just having some basic info deposited into my brain helps me prepare later. I like to chew on things versus getting hit with too many things at once and get overwhelmed not being able to digest it all.

Find out what your child’s school does to help prepare them for college. My daughter graduated from a wonderful public school but either they didn’t put much emphasis on helping their students know what is involved, or my daughter didn’t pay attention, and I sure didn’t ask. Contrast that to my son who is a rising junior in a private school and he’s been researching schools, looking at scholarships opportunities, and making notes of required test scores and GPA’s since he enrolled his freshman year. He’s ahead of the game. Heck, he’s knows more than I do even after going through it with Haley for a year. I’m sure every school is different regardless of whether they are public or private. Don’t count on the school to do it all. Parents must be actively engaged in the conversations from early on.

Make Sure Your Student Knows How Important It Is

Not only do I wish I had asked Haley about what scholarships are available or what the requirements are for the universities she was interested in, SHE now wishes she’d known in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade just how important each class’ final grade was to her GPA and getting into college. Funny, she settled for A’s, B’s, and an occasional C and D her first 3 years of high school, then after she sweated it out not knowing if she’d get into the college she wanted, she made all A’s her senior year. The first time she took her ACT, she blew it off, then began to take it a little more seriously the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time especially when she still hadn’t gotten an acceptance letter from UTK which has pretty high academic requirements. She made it in…barely. Now, she’s thinking about sororities and low and behold, the questions keep coming up about her GPA, her class rank, and her test scores. It’s important and the kids need to understand how important early to help prepare.

Understand the differences between Honors, AP, and Dual Enrollment classes

My son took an AP History class this year. Up until today when I met with his counselor, I didn’t know how the whole AP thing works. Turns out he can get valuable college credit by passing a test at the end of the year. Colleges place high emphasis on AP classes. Honors classes help, too, but they work an entirely different way. Then there are Dual Enrollment options. If you don’t know what Dual Enrollment, AP and Honors , are, find out now so you can optimize for your child’s specific goals. Remember, taking Dual Enrollment classes in high school is much less expensive than taking the same course in college.

Beware of Junk and Scams

There are so many organizations out there looking to profit off us soon-to-be parents of college students. You type “scholarships” into Google and pages and pages of options populate. I only visited a few, but soon realized most were just looking to get an email address to spam me with offers of stuff that doesn’t interest me. Then, I found one that was tremendously helpful in sorting out all the potential scholarships. The one I prefer using is Fastweb. The student registers, preferably as a junior or senior. There is a tab with featured scholarships where you and your student can review the due dates and criteria, mark whether or not you will apply, might apply, not apply, not eligible, or applied already. It sends weekly emails to remind you when new scholarships are posted or if a deadline is coming up. Some scholarships simply require submitting a form, others require an essay or video, and some require the student to send out texts or post announcements on social media. You still may get spam, but if you are like me, you’ll get so much value out of it that it will be worth it. There may be other very legitimate websites that offer the same service. Choose what works for you.

Haley's UTK acceptance letter.

Haley’s UTK acceptance letter.

Start Cutting the Strings

Having just returned from orientation at UTK, I was with about 2,500 other parents from all over the country and we all had one other thing in common besides sending a child to UTK in the fall. It seems we were all trying to be in control of all their choices, be it schedules, what organizations to join, where to live, etc. I wasn’t expecting the multiple sessions directed to parents only that stressed our kids need to be in control of it ALL, not us. They are 18, and they are in control whether ready or not. We were strongly encouraged to cut the strings and enable them to take on more responsibility. Just because parents may be paying the bill for the education doesn’t give us the right to see their grades, or know what their schedules are or be kept informed when they’ve lost a book.The kids have a right to privacy much like the healthcare world has HIPPA. It’s called FERPA, and it is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Who knew? Not me.

I’ll be writing more in the coming months about this whole experience as my brain is still reeling from it all. It’s difficult to put together cohesive thoughts but I’m going to try so that I can help parents of younger students get ready for what was surely one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and it’s only just begun. An older friend of mine who has been through it said I need to manage the actual college experience like a Project Manager. He suggested I purchase a thick binder with lots of tabs. And here I thought phasing her into kindergarten was tough.

Traditional College or Air Force? The Pros and Cons of Each

If you prefer dining on filet mignon, but your budget calls for fish sticks, you probably think your college choices are limited. Not so. Many of the most prestigious colleges have cost-free tuition programs for students from families with annual earnings under $60,000. In addition, joining the Air Force is viable option to gain valuable skills, an education and on-the-job training.

Although a traditional college career and a military service/educational package both put you on the right track for a successful future, there are some differences you should consider before enrolling.

Living and Lifestyle

Living on campus in a dormitory usually includes a meal card, which can be costly. Some students choose to live at home or share an off-campus apartment with friends to save money. Remember, if you live off-campus, you’ll have to pay your own utilities, grocery bills and transportation expenses.

Airmen that join the Air Force are provided up to four meals per day, if they choose to live in on-base housing units. All housing costs are covered. Shopping at grocery stores and department stores on base is less expensive and tax free.

According to the Air Force website, airmen living off-base receive monthly allotments to defray the costs of housing expenses based on rank, family size and where they live.

Many local, regional and national businesses offer discounts to military personnel. For example, some Toyota dealerships offer a rebate on the 2013 Toyota Avalon to active duty and reserve military men and women. Discounts on car rental, hotels, entertainment and books are also available, with the potential to save you hundreds of dollars each year. Consider it a perk, not a deciding factor.

Traditional Educational Options

Community colleges and technical schools typically offer the lowest tuition rates. Four-year college tuition fees vary drastically, depending on the geographical location and field of study you choose. If you qualify for financial aid, you can significantly reduce the cost of college. Some points to consider:

  • The maximum annual Pell Grant is approximately $6,000 and is limited to students with lower family incomes.
  • Most states offer need-based scholarships for resident students that either graduated from a state high school or relocated to the state and meet residency requirements.
  • Scholarships are available based on academic performance, field of study and exceptional abilities in non-academic areas.

According to CNNMoney.com, most schools that cover your tuition costs based on financial need do not cover living expenses; however, some offer laptops and additional funds for research.

You can try a cost-of-college calculator for your preferential schools.

Air Force Career/Educational Options

Unlike traditional students, airmen face rigorous physical training and potential deployment. Students receive a full-time wage, health insurance and paid leave that other college programs don’t offer.

The Air Force has numerous funding options for college students, including a benefit that pays up to $10,000 for student loan debt already accrued.

Airmen are automatically enrolled in an associate degree program at The Community College of the Air Force. Your job provides college credit and real-world experience to jump-start your career.

The Air Force Tuition Assistance program is voluntary. The program pays up to $4,500 each year and applies to off-base and on-base training. Some educational funding is transferrable to immediate family members.

There are pros and cons for both military and tradition educational opportunities. Deciding which path is best for you depends on your career objectives and lifestyle preferences