A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Partnership for Family Involvement in Education

Thinking College Early

The fact is that low-income students attend college in far fewer numbers than students from middle-to-high income families. This statistic, however, has nothing to do with capability or brain power; it has to do with not knowing how to plan for college. Many supportive parents and families, regardless of background or status, do not know how to advise their kids. "Thinking College Early" is about learning how to plan for college and how to garner support from the various groups that come into play in a student's life, including the family, schools, community, businesses, religious organizations, government, and local universities.

All students, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, need to know that education after high school is necessary. If you know HOW to do it, then you can do it?


To plan for your future, get on track by:

  1. Setting high expectations and high standards for yourself;
  2. Working hard and getting the best grades you can;
  3. Finding mentors who will support your positive goals;
  4. Planning to take the RIGHT courses--like algebra and geometry--to keep your education options open; and
  5. Learning about financial aid.

To all parents, families, and groups in the community, each of you can provide appropriate support to students that will strengthen our workforce and our society

Why go to college?

Fifteen years ago, the typical worker with a college degree earned 38 percent more than a high school graduate; today, the difference is 69 percent. Two years of college alone gives the typical worker a 20-percent increase in learning and a quarter of a million dollars more in earnings over a lifetime. Pursuing higher education is about more than increasing your salary: it is about expanding your options for a more satisfying professional and personal life as well.

Who goes to college?

How can we increase access to college for all students?

After more than ten years of study, the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development presented the following conclusions in their 1996 report Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century:

(a) "The years from ten through fourteen are a crucial turning point in life's trajectory"; and

(b) "Adolescence, in fact, is the last phase of life in which society has reasonably ready access to virtually the entire population, so the potential for constructive influence is great."

We must make the message of postsecondary options clear to younger students, no matter what their background, while their outlook is bright and their choices for the future are still wide open.

A 1995 U.S. Department of Education study of the largest pre-college programs showed that of the hundreds of precollegiate programs for at-risk students operated at higher education institutions throughout the country, most begin in the ninth grade. Twenty-two percent begin at the middle school level, again most toward the end.

We need to start this work even earlier. We need to reach and encourage younger students, starting in the sixth grade, to introduce and inform them about their postsecondary options. We need to help students find and prepare for these options as they enter middle school.

How do we reach out?

Education is, first and foremost, a "family matter."

For students, it means HARD WORK and a PLAN.

For parents and families, it means SUPPORT and INVOLVEMENT.


For businesses, it means MENTORING and COMMITMENT.

For religious and community organizations, it means STABILITY AND ENCOURAGEMENT.

Answering the Call to Action includes some great examples of people, places, and programs that are "Thinking College Early."

The Getting Ready for College Early guidebook (August 1997) will help you and your children understand the steps you need to take during the middle and junior high school years to get ready for college. The Spanish version of this document, Preparándose a Tiempo Para la Universidad, is also available.

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Last Update: 10/4/98
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