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

Preparing Your Child For College: 2000 Edition

Why attend college?

A college degree can provide your child with many opportunities in life. A college education can mean:

Some of these benefits of college may not be obvious to your child. Even though he or she has to make the final decision to attend college, you can help in the decision-making process by learning about all aspects of college yourself and sharing what you learn with your child.

What types of colleges* exist?

*Throughout this document, the word "college" is used to refer to all postsecondary institutions--technical colleges, junior colleges, community colleges, other two-year colleges, and four-year colleges and universities.

More than half of all recent high school graduates in the United States pursue some type of postsecondary education. In many other countries, a smaller percentage of students go on for more schooling after high school. However, in America, recent surveys show that most parents want their children to get some college education. There are many higher education options in the United States. For this reason, your child is likely to find a college well-suited to his or her needs.

There are two basic types of post-secondary education institutions:

Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges

Colleges with programs that are less than four years in length are often called community colleges, technical colleges, or junior colleges:

Community Colleges: These are public, two-year colleges. They mostly serve people from nearby communities and offer academic courses, technical courses, and continuing education courses. Public institutions are supported by state and local revenues.

Technical Colleges: These are generally colleges that have a special emphasis on education and training in technical fields. However, although some technical colleges offer academic courses and programs, not all technical colleges offer two-year programs that lead to an associate of arts or science degree. Technical colleges may be private or public. Junior colleges and community colleges that offer many technical courses are often called "technical colleges."

Junior Colleges: These are generally two-year colleges that are private institutions. Some junior colleges are residential and are attended by students who come from other parts of the country.

Some programs at two-year colleges lead to an A.S. or A.A. degree in an academic discipline. These academic programs are often comparable to the first two years of a general academic program offered by a four-year college or university. In many cases, students who earn two-year degrees may enter four-year schools and receive credit toward a B.A. or B.S. degree.

Many junior and community colleges offer technical and occupational training, as well as academic courses. For example, many cardiovascular technicians, medical laboratory technicians, and computer technicians received their education and training at junior colleges, community colleges, or technical colleges.

Many junior, community, and technical colleges offer technical programs in cooperation with local businesses, industry, public service agencies, or other organizations. Some of these programs are formally connected to education programs that students start in high school; they are often referred to as "tech-prep" or "school-to-career" programs. [Footnote: These "school-to-career" or "tech-prep" programs often provide students with an opportunity to learn new skills by working for a local employer and by taking high school courses that link with courses offered at local colleges.]

Two-year colleges such as community colleges often operate under an "open admissions" policy that can vary from school to school. At some institutions, "open admissions" means that anyone who has a high school diploma or GED certificate can enroll. At other schools, anyone over 18 years of age can enroll or, in some cases, anyone deemed able to benefit from the programs at the schools can enroll.

Application requirements at colleges with two-year programs and shorter programs may include a high school transcript -- a list of all the courses your child took and grades earned in four years of high school -- and college entrance examination scores as well. Some schools have programs that allow open admissions, while other programs in the same school -- particularly in scientific or technical subjects -- may have further admission requirements. Because requirements vary widely, it is important to check into schools and programs individually.

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

Students who wish to pursue a general academic program usually choose a four-year college or university. These institutions may be either public or private. Such a program lays the foundation for more advanced studies and professional work. These colleges and universities primarily offer B.A. and B.S. degrees in the arts and sciences. Common fields of study include biology, chemistry, economics, English literature, foreign languages, history, political science, and zoology.

Here are the main differences between four-year colleges and universities:

Four-Year Colleges: These are post-secondary schools that provide four-year educational programs in the arts and sciences. These colleges confer bachelor's degrees.

Universities: These are postsecondary schools that include a college of arts and/or sciences, one or more programs of graduate studies, and one or more professional schools. Universities confer bachelor's degrees and graduate, master's and Ph.D. degrees. Many universities also confer professional degrees, for example, in law or medicine.

When a student earns a bachelor's degree it means that he or she has passed examinations in a broad range of courses and has studied one or two subject areas in greater depth. (These one or two subject areas are called a student's "major" area(s) of study or area(s) of "concentration.") A bachelor's degree is usually required before a student can begin studying for a graduate degree. A graduate degree is usually earned through two or more years of advanced studies beyond four years of college. This might be a master's or a doctoral degree in a particular field or a specialized degree required in certain professions such as law, social work, architecture, or medicine.

What kinds of jobs are available to college graduates?

Certificates and degrees earned by graduates of two-and four-year colleges or universities lead to different kinds of professional opportunities. Many professions require graduate degrees beyond the traditional four-year degree, such as a medical degree or a law degree. For example:

In Chart 1, below, there is a partial listing of different occupations and the educational background generally required or recommended for each. Some people who go on to acquire jobs in the four-year-college column obtain a graduate degree or some graduate education, but many of these jobs can be filled by people who do not have more than a four-year college education. For more information on the educational requirements of specific jobs, contact a guidance counselor or check the latest copy of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor, in your library. (See the last section of this handbook for information on this book and other publications that discuss jobs.)


Chart 1

Examples of Jobs in Which a College Education May Be Recommended or Required

Two-Year College
(Associate's Degree)

Administrative Assistant
Automotive Mechanic
Cardiovascular Technician
Commercial Artist
Computer Technician
Dental Hygienist
Engineering Technician
Funeral Director
Graphic Designer
Heating, Air-Conditioning,
   and Refrigeration Technician
Hotel or Restaurant Manager
Medical Laboratory Technician
Medical Record Technician
Insurance Agent
Registered Nurse
Surgical Technologist
Visual Artist
Water and Wastewater Treatment
   Plant Operator

Four-Year College
(Bachelor's Degree)

Computer Systems Analyst
FBI Agent
Investment Banker
Medical Illustrator
Public Relations Specialist
Recreational Therapist
Research Assistant
Social Worker

More Than Four Years of College
(Various Graduate Degrees Required)

Management Consultant
Public Policy Analyst
University Professor



Help Your Child Think About a Career

Step 1:

Using the form below, sit down with your child and make a list of jobs that sound interesting. It may help to first think about friends or people you've read about or have seen on television who have interesting jobs. List those jobs in the left-hand column. If your child cannot think of interesting jobs, have him or her list subject areas of interest. Then try to help your child identify jobs in those subject areas. Depending on the job, there may be courses in middle school or high school that will give your child a preview of the type of knowledge that is needed for the particular job. In the right-hand "Education" column, write down the level of education required for the job and any high school or college courses that may help your child prepare for such a career.

Step 2:

Take the form to your local library and, with the help of a reference librarian, locate books and search the Internet for information on some of the careers your child has selected. Libraries usually have directories that list career requirements. It is not a problem if your child does not know what career path he or she wants to follow; his or her focus during these years should be on doing well in school.


Careers of Interest and the Education They Require

Career or Job Education
1. High School:
2. High School:
3. High School:
4. High School:
5. High School:
6. High School:


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