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Old 02-06-2011, 08:13 PM   #21
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We never gave direct advice to our kids about college majors (by that time they had heard for years that they would be working full time once they graduated or we would have to kill them) and they both have jobs in business.

But we did encourage DD to go to her school's counseling center in her sophomore year as her major was killing her and she was so unhappy. A shoulder to lean/cry on and some aptitude tests and career counseling about different paths made all the difference. I imagine all schools offer these services and for her it was a lifesaver and helped her decide what to change her major to. She was also advised to remember to find ways to do the things she enjoys (working with children, for example) outside her career (so she has mentored for four years a girl who is now a senior in high school--similar to Alan's daughter staying involved in music). DS however wanted no part of this counseling stuff .

But that's one way for them to get advice without it coming from you (so they might actually listen to it).
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Old 02-06-2011, 08:18 PM   #22
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The old adage of going away to college for the experience of college life does not hold true in today's economy. It's no longer an embarrassment to live at home, have a part-time job at the mall, and attend a local community college. And graduate debt free.
My children live(d) at home, have (had) part-time work in their fields while studying (accounting for DD, engineering for DS), attende(d) a state U all 4 years, and graduate(d) debt free (courtesy of their dad).
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Old 02-06-2011, 08:21 PM   #23
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My children live(d) at home, have (had) part-time work in their fields while studying (accounting for DD, engineering for DS), attende(d) a state U all 4 years, and graduate(d) debt free (courtesy of their dad).
Does their mom know you're taking all the credit?
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Old 02-06-2011, 08:27 PM   #24
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Who has been counseling them and helped with school work? Well, at least until my daughter got into stuff I knew nothing about. And with my son, heck, I can still help him with a differential equation or two even though he is in a different engineering major, or tweak his programming code for his lab report so that it shows the results just like an engineering textbook graph.

And their mom, she has the credit for calming me down when I yelled at them too much!
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Old 02-06-2011, 08:44 PM   #25
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As others have said..every child is different. While my daughter lived with us (blended family) my step sons did not (every other week-end and summers sort of thing). My oldest stepson..now 27...floundered in picking a career path in college. Was accepted into the engineering program at NCState, did not enjoy it, quit that and took business courses but forgot to change his major such that he was not allowed to take the higher level business courses his Junior year since he was not "in the business school" (how the heck did that happen?) . At that point, Dad "rushed in" and with an advisor found him "something" (Sports Management) he could major in to get him out of college by the end of the 5th year (by that time he was on the 5 year program). After that he decided to get his masters in Sports Management - spent a couple of more years doing that (think there might have been a year or a semester in between). Graduated with his Masters. Couldn't find a job and not willing to move to get one in his field either...so...didn't work for a year. Then decided...he didn't want to work in the field of chosen study because he didn't want to give up his week-ends (seriously!).
Finally got a job (in marketing at athletic store) but is living with his mom at age 27....as it doesn't pay him enough to move out of her house.
Point is....education without a plan for the sake of education....did not work in his case. And the most important thing....as far as I am concerned is that he is not happy...with where he is.
Oddly enough...he was not the one we worried about in high school . Graduated with top honors in high school, accepted into an engineering program...etc. He has become the one we worry about.
Just don't think a lot of soul searching went into his choices. Seems he choose engineering because his friends were doing it. Then he choose business courses for lack of knowing what else to do. When he hit the wall there, fell into Sports Management by default since he didn't want to be on the 6 year plan. Sort of like "he floated".... without giving much of it serious thought.
My daughter and our youngest son.......who were not all that motivated in high school became the ones to excel in college.
So ..again it depends on the child. Work ethic, motivation, determination...all seem to play a role....perhaps even with a bit of fear mixed in (you mean I have to pay my bills).
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Old 02-06-2011, 09:41 PM   #26
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My Son knew what he wanted went to MIT & did great . My daughter ,I was sure was going to graduate undecided . She fluctuated between teaching , Fine arts, fashion design & being a stand up comic . The best advice I gave her was to go to a large University and frankly you are not funny . She did graduate with a BA and got a Master's in education . She is now an Assistant Dean of a small college . She would have bombed as a stand up comedian .
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Old 02-06-2011, 11:04 PM   #27
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My Son knew what he wanted went to MIT & did great . My daughter ,I was sure was going to graduate undecided . She fluctuated between teaching , Fine arts, fashion design & being a stand up comic . The best advice I gave her was to go to a large University and frankly you are not funny . She did graduate with a BA and got a Master's in education . She is now an Assistant Dean of a small college . She would have bombed as a stand up comedian .
Standup comedian I can understand.....any relative of Moe's......
Assistant Dean.....wow!
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Old 02-06-2011, 11:07 PM   #28
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A couple of interesting threads on the forum concerning children, their educational costs, and avoiding trainwrecks after turning 18, have me thinking about my own daughters future. She is heading off to college this year and does not have any type of career goal yet. What are some experiences from parents on the forum? Did you assist much? Did they listen? Did they want advice from you?
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... and hooking her up (or shadowing) with some of the people who are already working in the field in which she might have an interest.
Like Spanky says, I think the best we can do at that age is to back away and find them a non-parental mentor.

Our daughter is still a work in progress, but from her earliest days she knew that her "job" was to go to school and learn how to be a grownup. Then for the next decade or so it was "Find something that you like to do" and "If you want to buy that then you'd better get a really good job".

A part-time job in high school is a wonderful conversation-starter about what they like and don't like about work... especially if it involves making french fries & cleaning public toilets. Our daughter learned that tutoring at a math/reading franchise means you get to sit on your butt in air-conditioned comfort. She learned about the french fries & toilets from her friend's stories. The nice thing about the part-time job is that she learned her math & reading skills will always enable her to keep herself fed.

Some high schools are offering curriculum tracks, and our daughter took an IT/engineering track. That helped her think about what she wanted to do and then try out things like drafting & building/construction & robotics.

I think the best thing we did for college selection was to get her to pick 3-4 places that she wanted to visit. She made up a list of criteria and screened the colleges for them. Then we visited them! (That's not easy to do, considering all the other things that a high-school teen wants to do with their vacation time.) It gave us all a chance to talk about what questions to ask and what sales/advertising could be manipulated and how she'd like the environment. But most of all it gave her a chance to stand on a campus, look around at the cool college kids & profs, and think "Yeah, I can do this."

I also think it was worth every penny of the college fund to send her to college summer programs in residence. (Notre Dame charged $1750 for three weeks, USNA was "only" $325 for one week.) The college departments spent the entire time heavily recruiting the attendees (including the local chapter of the Society of Women Engineers) and they got to try a lot of cool stuff. She came back from those more pumped up than the campus visits.

Instead of advising her what to do (beyond "what she likes" and "a really good job") we told her stories about what we did. That may have backfired because she seems to be following in my footsteps. But at least she had plenty of warnings & danger signs along the way and it'll be her own damn fault she can make an informed choice.

Even if they "don't want to" go to college, I think it's important to walk through the process at one or two campuses just so that they can work through their feelings and see if there's something interesting there after all. One of my co-workers was extremely frustrated that all his teenage son wanted to do was design & play video games. Dad wanted him to make something of himself and threatened him that he would go to college, so he'd better pick a program and a place for them to visit. Luckily the son managed to find a school with a video-game program and everything turned out fine.

I still think the most important thing a parent can do is to help them figure out how to connect with mentors. Everything beyond that can turn into a parental control issue, and we know everyone loses in those battles.

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I could go on for hours . . .DD didn't have a career focus after HS, and wasn't especially excited about the "college hunt." She decided on a local state college, and we agreed to pay (incl a dorm room).
Truth is, her heart wasn't in it and she went because we (esp I) expected it. I don't know if she attended any classes. 18 months later and she's finishing up her cosmetology training. She's happy. She's much more wise to the world today. I don't know exactly how this story turns out, and it is perhaps the biggest concern I've got.
After all these months, I'm glad to hear that this story is heading for a happy ending!
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Old 02-07-2011, 12:02 AM   #29
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Our kids never needed any career counseling. They always assumed from an early age that they were going to college, that it was the next step after high school. They heard about college from us, and figured that was the way. And they came up with their own majors, following their own interests they had. Which led to decent jobs in their majors.

However, there are a LOT of kids entering college that have no clue what they want to do. Many don't seem to have any real interest in anything (well, I mean major or career-wise ). I don't know how that happens, that did not describe me or our kids.

A lot of kids go into Engineering because they were good in math in high school, and maybe a HS counselor steered them to it because of that. I sure saw many like that. At a good Engineering school, there is a high fall-out rate from the Engineering curriculum. The Freshman "I'm in Engineering!" badge changes to Liberal Arts pretty quick! I'm not saying that is bad, just what I saw, and our kids saw years later.

For a kid who isn't sure what they want to do, I think it is important that they attend a school that has many curriculum areas. If they are tentatively majoring in "A", they will probably meet people majoring in "B", "C", "D", etc. and may discover that one of those other areas really sounds interesting. So kids like that will not be out in four years straight, there will be some do-over. If they come out with a degree in something that they are interested in, and can get employment in it, then it's been worthwhile. Four years and out can be a strong goal, but I don't think it should be an ultimatum.

Flagship state schools can have a wide variety of majors.

Now if they never settle down, switch majors right and left, and are becoming perpetual students, then they need to go to hamburger U
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Old 02-07-2011, 11:14 AM   #30
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A lot of kids go into Engineering because they were good in math in high school, and maybe a HS counselor steered them to it because of that. I sure saw many like that. At a good Engineering school, there is a high fall-out rate from the Engineering curriculum. The Freshman "I'm in Engineering!" badge changes to Liberal Arts pretty quick! I'm not saying that is bad, just what I saw, and our kids saw years later.
I can't really compare USNA to a "real" college, but 30 years ago we had to "apply" for our majors. If you wanted to be a pilot aero major then you needed to have pretty good grades in freshman math & chemistry to be allowed to fill one of the slots in Aero 101. You couldn't drop back to "English" and hope that aero attrition would let you step up after a year or two. You had to push pretty hard and take every chance to shine.

So for the last decade or so we've been telling our daughter those stories, pointing out to her that freshman college professors would just keep raising the grade scale to cull the herd before they started sophomore year.

The reality has been substantially different. Arguably Rice University has not been admitting the rudderless, let alone the stupid & clueless, so you would expect the competition for majors to be particularly keen. Part of that anticipated herd-culling has been giving the freshmen engineering wannabes a schedule that includes a year of simultaneous chemistry, physics, 2x labs, and calculus. Plus at least one other course and preferably two.

Much to our surprise, however, the profs don't appear to be doing much culling. It may be unnecessary. Instead our daughter is feeding back weekly reports of freshman saying "Oooh, chemistry/physics/math is hard", and dropping back to architecture or even liberal arts. In the one class we attended for Families Weekend (physics) the prof pretty much raced through the lecture in an hour, zipped through the demo, and then handed out a huge homework assignment. If you needed the algebraic manipulations & simplifications explained to you then you needed to be somewhere else. It was organized, entertaining, and informative-- but it was delivered through a firehose. Then all the prof needed to do was to sit in his office waiting to see who'd either turn in the homework (and ace the test) or seek help to get caught up. They didn't have to kick out anyone. In fact they were bending over backward to help our daughter with tutoring, study groups, and curved grading scales.

In only one semester the process has been largely self-selecting. Some of those teens are just sucking up the discharge and dealing with it-- clearly ready to be future engineers. The remainder are quitting on their own recognizance. So far our daughter appears to be obstinate and persistent in the former instead of the latter, but I've been surprised at how easily some of her classmates have pulled their ripcords.

The more I learn about college (through the eyes of a teen) the less valuable a parent's advice seems to be. Instead the parent's most useful contributions seem to be helping the teen pick the criteria, organize the search, and find other adult mentors to talk them through the choices.
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Old 02-07-2011, 11:35 AM   #31
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Have you considered having her wait a year or two before going off to school or maybe attending a community college close to home. Doesn't seem prudent to start her on a path she may change half way through. A year or two of working, having fun and/or backing around Europe, to name a cliche activity, might help her decide. If she, or you, are set on attending school try a community college. A lot less money and if she changes her mind, she's not out that much money. Additionally, she can go part time and work. Some work experience might help her figure out what kind of career she wants.

Honestly, you can only do so much to point her in the right direction. You gotta let go and let her make some mistakes. If she incurs some debt, picks a poor career path or decides to move to Mendocino County, California and live in a artists commune and smoke a lot of pot, you gotta let her find her own path and learn from her mistakes. College does not a guarantee that a person will be successful or happy, in and of itself. There are a lot of paths to success and happiness.
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Old 02-07-2011, 12:51 PM   #32
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Have you considered having her wait a year or two before going off to school or maybe attending a community college close to home. Doesn't seem prudent to start her on a path she may change half way through. A year or two of working, having fun and/or backing around Europe, to name a cliche activity, might help her decide. If she, or you, are set on attending school try a community college. A lot less money and if she changes her mind, she's not out that much money. Additionally, she can go part time and work. Some work experience might help her figure out what kind of career she wants.

Honestly, you can only do so much to point her in the right direction. You gotta let go and let her make some mistakes. If she incurs some debt, picks a poor career path or decides to move to Mendocino County, California and live in a artists commune and smoke a lot of pot, you gotta let her find her own path and learn from her mistakes. College does not a guarantee that a person will be successful or happy, in and of itself. There are a lot of paths to success and happiness.
That is part of the plan of being debt free was going to community college for 2 years, then we would pay for the next two years at whatever public state college she chose. I want her to choose her own career, but have it thought out! If I can pound the importance of that and the power and relief of being debt free coming out of college, I believe I will have been somewhat successful (she has at least agreed to the community college plan). I'm not sure she (or many teenagers) understand how much money it takes to even live a modest lifestyle. She says she doesnt need that much money to live, but its easy to be a minimalist when your food, housing, and first car have been paid for! I have no doubt she will graduate, but I'm afraid she is a "live to work", not "work to live person". That is great as long as the career pays the bills down the road. There has been some very interesting feedback and have learned from the discussion. I'm glad to know Im not the only person who questions how much their children listen to "career advise". My father paid for 2 years, and I paid for 2, when I went. He offered no advise because I was the first generation of the family to go to college. He was just happy I went. I feel like I just fortunately stumbled into my career choice and it worked out.
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Old 02-07-2011, 09:04 PM   #33
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I had no idea what career I wanted when I started college and neither did most of my friends with me. We had to declare majors by junior year and by then most had some idea. I found something that I liked well enough in school but my senior year had no interest in it as a career. Still I finished the degree and then found a job in the field I wished I'd studied and did fine. Other friends switched majors, tried a few varieties of the 5 year plan or just dropped out and into some kind of work.

Given that background, I have a lot of sympathy for my kid who doesn't know what he wants to major in or do for a career. For the example of a 16 YO freshman it must be even more so. I'm okay with supporting him as long as he is trying something on for size or changing to something else. I won't be okay with supporting doing nothing, but it's a hard judgment to make that 18 YO choices are making any progress or not. I'm probably erring on the side of being too enabling, but I'm also concerned that some forms of dropping out and associating with drugs or crime are so much worse than any waste of time schooling that I want to be sure to allow enough time to mature into beginning adulthood, even if he turns out to be a somewhat late bloomer. Tough calls.
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Old 02-07-2011, 09:22 PM   #34
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DW and I were fairly hands off when it came to guiding our kids in what to do when they left the nest. They would not have listened if we did give our opinion. They have always been an independent lot. We told them we would help finance their collage but only to a State school and they would have to reimburse us after they graduated.

Well our oldest daughter chose to be a teacher and went to a State school, got a job to help pay her expenses and graduated in 3 1/2 years.

We were worried about our second daughter. We did not even think of college for her. We were hoping that she would graduate from high school before going to jail. Thankfully she started dating a young man and they both got their act together with the help of some caring teachers. Neither went to college after high school. They got married two years after graduating from high school and then they had a daughter with some medical issues. DD decided to become an RN. While working full time she took classes and the night before her son was born, she graduated at the top of her nursing class. Oh and she paid for her own schooling.

Our third child, DS, was uncertain what he wanted to do. He was certain what he did not want to do and that was work for his father. Looking back at those times I can see I was a slave driver but I think he got something out of it that is serving him well today. He went to an engineering school in state and after his freshman year he switch to computer science. He also got a job and was fortunate to have some scholarship money. He worked hard and even after switching majors he graduated in four years.

As for being repaid DW and I have not pushed the issue. We are happy that they could make it through school and have no debt. I tell my son that when he becomes a millionaire we are going to move in with him and I am going to sweep his floors like he did when he worked for me.

I remember how hard it was to decide what to do after high school. It took only a semester of college to find out I would rather work in the family business which I have enjoyed for the most part the past 40 years. Don't push them. Let them make their own decisions and mistakes. I thought it was rather humerous when DW and I were having lunch with our oldest daughter and her husband when the discussion turned to how their careers were going. She commented "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up".

Good Luck
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Old 02-08-2011, 07:16 AM   #35
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Many kids just blunder into college, an unthinking extension of their prior 12 years of school.
This made me remember something that I always thought was significant. After HS graduation I wasn't sure what to do. I had an interest in law enforcement, in part because I loathed the idea of working in an office, but was clueless about how to get from "here to there".

Also bear in mind that I hated school with a passion, almost from day one, being cooped up in a classroom all day with the rigid hours, stinky cafeterias, and all the rest. So college was not very high on my list of possibilities. The other alternative was go in the military but I knew almost nothing about it, Vietnam was in full swing, and I had no interest in going someplace I couldn't find on a map to get shot at for reasons I didn't understand. The fact that a couple of guys I'd known in HS came back in bags didn't help.

So while pondering all this I worked full time for six months for a large department store chain unloading trucks. Clearly this wasn't going to result in a career but I just wanted the time to think about what to do. Eventually I decided to go to the local community college and take the then-new curriculum of "Police Science" in part because friends going there told me that the environment was much more relaxed than HS (Imagine! Being able to schedule your classes so none are before 10:00 AM! What a concept!) and in part because I figured that if I didn't like college I could go in the military but it didn't work the other way around.

So I started community college the second semester. And I still remember during the "orientation speech" the appreciation in the speaker's voice and he said why he was appreciative. When he walked into the auditorium and stepped to the podium, the entire room fell quiet, and this never failed to make an impression on him. Apparently that didn't happen with first-semester students because they saw it as an extension of HS.

The second-semester kids, he reasoned, fell quiet because, like me, they had given it some thought and wanted to be there. They weren't there because it was expected of them, or because they were told to.

They were there because they wanted to be there. They wanted to learn something. And that made all the difference in the world.
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Old 02-08-2011, 09:26 PM   #36
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In our case, I talked to both of my kids about "what was out there for careers" because no one ever did that for me. For DS it was easy, because he was a math whiz and I thought he would love computer science because I did. He listened to me and declared Computer Science. But he changed majors after his first year, because he hated it so much. Too isolated and he likes people more than me. I forgot that part.... Fortunately, he had so many AP credits, it didn't set him off the 4 year plan. He managed to do that all by himself....but that is for another thread. Anyway, he probably would have been fine/better without any advice from me. It was always going to be something with math.

DD had no clue what she wanted to do. I took her to a lot of college fairs where they discussed departments, majors, etc. That was where she figured out what she wanted to do. I would have never thought of it (Merchandising/Buyer). I told her that was fine, but she had to get a business degree - because that would provide her with more flexibility - which it did.

Both my kids knew we would pay for 4 years - no more. If they took longer, it would be on their dime. If you dont know what you want to do, pick a math. science, engineering, or business degree. That should cover almost any direction you want to go in.

My advice - try to show her all the options, let her choose the career. As far as the degree goes - that is a tough one. But today, it's a tough pill to swallow if you pay $40K-$120K for 4 years and they have a generic degree that gets them nowhere. Yet, I still believe a degree is better than none.

P.S. I also agree that if you think she can succeed in a large college, that is a good setting for an undecided - because chances are they will have whatever she finally decides on and she can spend the first year or two just taking gen eds.
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