I’m a homeschooling dad of 8, and this is the 3rd post on the 5 P’s of Persuasion for College. Today we are talking about P number 2: Planning. YOUR PLAN DOES NOT NEED TO BE PERFECT!
Our family goal
I should state that as a dad of 8, my goal was to help each of my kids discover something they can study that they would enjoy doing and also something that they would be able to earn a living doing.
Along that path, we wanted them to gain a credential in a marketable skill in as few calendar months as possible, in as few semesters as possible, spending as little as we can reasonably spend, and having our kids gain that credential with zero college debt.
So far, we have 3 university grads, and no loans. I think we have been pretty successful.
The problem is that graduating means you need to comply with a bunch of specific rules.
This many hours of science, that many hours of math, and so forth.
So you need a plan.
President Eisenhower famously said “Plans are useless, but planning is essential”
Planning is essential.
What is your family’s goal? What is your kid’s goal?
The better your plan, the better your outcome.
Where do you start?
First: A bachelor’s degree generally requires 120 college credit hours (maybe a few more.)
Our plan has been to map a route that completes the needed hours in the shortest time.
What defines “needed hours”?
That will definitely depend which college major your kid is interested in.
Are you telling me that your 16 year old doesn’t know RIGHT NOW what they want to do for the rest of their professional life?
No. Wait. That’s 100% normal.
So what do you do if your kid “doesn’t know” what to study?
In the majority of cases, by the time your kid is in high school, you know a lot about their “bent.”
- What are their natural gifts?
- What are their interests?
- Where are they weak?
- What do they hate?
- One of my kids has what I call “engineer brain” so we knew that he was most likely to end up in some flavor of engineering.
- Another kid was not good at math, so we figured a business degree was more lined up with his gifts.
We need to know the general direction, not the precise destination.
For kid 1, at first we felt like an Associate of Science was a good call. (We later made a mistake by trying to change that to Associate of Engineering, but that is a story for another blog post.)
For kid 2, we felt that an Associate of Science was a good fit, too.
So, knowing that we wanted to pursue an associate of science (generally) we started making our plan.
YOUR PLAN DOES NOT NEED TO BE PERFECT.
Getting started – Year 1 Plan
In our state, Dual Enrollment requires that students complete a core set of classes (called a pathway) before they are allowed to complete any other classes.
These are the kinds of “general education” or “core” classes that are required for every degree, so it’s pretty straightforward.
For the first two semesters, your student has to take some English and Math, some social studies and humanities. For those semesters, just fill up the schedule with these core classes, and let your kid pick things that interest them.
For example, if they need 9 hours of Humanities/Fine Arts, let them pick whether they want to study Intro to Jazz, Intro to Ethics, or American Literature. These kinds of “general ed” classes are required everywhere, so let your kid pick something interesting as you fil lthe schedule with the required classes.
Before first semester, pick your associate’s degree path, then plan semester 1.
Talk to the adviser at your kid’s school to see if they can help you make your plan better or at least help you execute your plan.
During first semester, make final selections for semester 2.
You don’t have to have a complete four year plan at this point.
That’s the plan, but plans can change
With a family our size, we make lots of plans. Many of these plans don’t end up working out.
We have a slogan around here “That’s the plan, but plans can change.”
I repeat that your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, because the chances that you’ll get the plan exactly right and your kid will be 100% on board with that plan for the entire four years? Not likely.
Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, and it will probably change. Multiple times.
And that is fine. “That’s the plan, but plans can change.”
Year 2 -What’s Next?
I’m a data guy with a bad memory, so we used a spreadsheet to map out the planning by semester. And to help me remember the plan.
The university can help
Also, my local university also offers three other resources that are a HUGE help:
- Transfer counselors who know about helping kids make good plans
- A tool that shows what classes at the community college count for what classes at the university and
- Transfer Guides that show helpful classes your kid can take to help them more efficiently get through university.
Here’s where you can use your plan to start to save money and time.
As you get into year two, now is the time to look for “overlap” between the core classes and your kid’s expected college major.
Rather than let your kid “explore” classes that may fill in the requirements for the associates degree but not map to requirements for the bachelor’s degree, take some time to review.
For example, here’s a transfer guide for going to the business school. https://admissions.charlotte.edu/sites/admissions.charlotte.edu/files/media/assets/transfer_guides/cc-business-2year.pdf
In this example, if your kid is thinking of business as a four year degree, then having them take Accounting, Intro to Business or Economics at the community college allows them to get “credit” towards their Associate’s degree, and complete prerequisites for the business degree at the same time.
My recommendation is to prepare your idea of a plan, then connect with a transfer adviser at the university to have them review your plan.
For my engineering kid, we thought we had a good plan.
However, in speaking with his adviser at the community college, she highly recommended we connect with the university. That led to a very useful conversation that resulted in a complete change in dad’s plan. Ouch!
For year 2 planning – fill in classes that meet requirements for the two year degree and that also overlap requirements for the four year degree.
During year two, start the application process for the university and start conversations with the advisers at the university about your kid’s program.
Years 3 and 4
If you’ve done a solid job on planning, years 3 and 4 are a lot simpler.
Your kid “dials in” to the core classes in their major and begins to make elective selections.
Two of my kids even figured out on their own that they could double major without taking additional classes by carefully selecting electives!
What if your plan doesn’t work out?
That’s normal, and it’s 100% ok.
For one of my kids, we thought he might end up in sales or marketing. As a result, we chose the business college and put him on a course for a marketing degree.
During his JUNIOR year, he came to me and said “Dad, I don’t like these marketing classes. I don’t think I want that degree at all.”
What? But my plan was….
Who cares about my plan? We are guidance counselors helping our kids navigate.
Here’s how that conversation went (at least how I remember it now. I may have been upset and might not have been this calm.)
Dad: “So no marketing. Ok. Is there something that you think you would enjoy?”
Kid: “Yeah. I’ve been looking at business operations and supply chain, and those classes look fun.”
Dad: “OK. So what does that do to your graduation date?”
Here’s the interesting thing. Because his new degree was in the same college, and both degrees required the same core business classes, it didn’t change the graduation date at all. These “major-specific” classes mostly happened in senior year anyway.
What if his graduation date changed?
But let me talk about if it HAD changed his date. So what?
Remember that my goal is a marketable credential in a field that matches my kid’s interests and skills where they can earn a living doing it.
Does another semester (or two) really matter all that much?
“That’s the plan, but plans can change”
Advanced planning thoughts
So far this post has covered the core of planning, but there are some advanced topics we have not examined.
For example, we have not talked about
- Setting up a manageable schedule.
- Choosing a class based on the instructor
- “Thinking outside the box” by looking at classes at other schools when your school doesn’t offer a particular class when your kid needs or wants it.
- Looking deeply at prerequisites – classes that you must take befoer taking other classes.
All of these and more may be topics for future posts.
They are certainly worth of your thoughts as you plan for your kid.
That’s the plan, but plans can change.
Here’s to your plan!