When should families begin talking to their student about college?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,086
    College counseling director Jerome Cole discusses the appropriate time when families should begin talking to their student about college.

    Jerome A. Cole, MA

    Jerome A. Cole, M.A., is the Director of College Counseling for the Edmund Burke school in Washington, D.C. and the founder of Cole Educational Consulting Services (Cole ECS.) He has worked with students and families for over seven years to help them plan and strategize for college. As a college counselor at Burke, an independent college preparatory high school founded in 1968, Mr. Cole oversees a program that is designed to support students and families as they go through the selection and admission process for college. Mr. Cole advises over 100 students each year in a small academically challenging environment where every senior is expected to apply to and enroll in college. Prior to Burke, he was a school counselor at Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. He has successfully counseled hundreds of students and helped them prepare for admission to a variety of schools such as: American University, Clark-Atlanta University, Davidson College, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pitzer College, Stanford University, Temple University, and the University of Maryland at College Park, to highlight just a few. He established the consulting firm Cole ECS to provide students and families with the necessary information and support to make the best choice for college. Cole ECS defines the best choice as the optimal learning and social environment to ensure a student’s holistic success, culminating in on-time or early graduation and desirable post-graduate options. Mr. Cole earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Catholic University, and then went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from George Washington University. He is certified as a school counselor and is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC).

    Host: When should families begin talking to their student about college?

    Jerome Cole: For me I think it should start at the high school level. So, I am talking about at your freshmen year, your ninth grade year. Now, I ve got a caution you parents out there and knew about approaching a 14 year old to start a conversation about college. The average 14 year old is going to look at you and say, mom-dad are you kidding, no, not now, that s senior year and that s fine that s to be expected. They are going to be very few kids that they are going to want to have that conversation, so I am telling you that upfront, you ve been warned. Nonetheless, I still think its appropriate to start the dialogue, but it can t be too heavy, it can t be too specific, it can t be too detailed. It should focus on things like, when you finish high school, the next step in the education process is college or post-secondary education, that could be a four year school, that could be a two year school, it could be a technical college or technical school. But there is school after at the 12 grade. So, let s establish that first. What we are going to do right now in the ninth grade, is we are going to try to identify some interest, some passion, something that you would like to do and what we want to you to do for the next couple of years is we want to pursue those things.

    So, if you said to me, he like the water and you like boating, then what about crew, would that make sense, would that be something that what interest you? Well, I don t know I have never done it. Fine, let s go down to the local river let s talk to someone at the boat club and see about taking up crew. Do we have crew at our school? Yes, as a matter of the fact we do, let s go talk to the crew coach. So, whatever the interest is, let s start to push that kid -- and I am using the right word when I say push. Let s start to push that kid in that particular area, so the conversation starts in the freshmen year and its about interest, its about things that you like, its about things that you want to pursue, its not so much about is a Howard versus Yale, that will come later. But I think what is appropriate is to just start to have dialogue about things that you are interested in and things that you want to do, that s important. That s what started at home and then go into the school and go from there.