Handbook: Preparing Your Child for College

Introduction: A Note to Parents

Education can be the fault line between those who will prosper in the new economy and those who will be left behind. Today's good jobs require skills and training beyond a high school education, and effective and accessible postsecondary education is critically important to individuals as well as our nation's economy and democracy. In fact, the Census Bureau estimates that a person with a bachelor's degree earns about $600,000 more in today's dollars over the course of a lifetime than a person whose education ended with high school.

You and your family can take specific actions to prepare properly - both academically and financially - to put America's excellent colleges and universities within reach of your children.

First, your child will need to study hard at every level and take the courses in middle and high school that lay the foundation for success in college-level courses. This has to include taking challenging math courses throughout high school. Second, it is important for you and your child to try to put money aside for college and to be well informed about the many sources of student financial aid for college. College costs are not nearly as high as many families assume, and there are many financial aid programs like Pell Grants, federal work-study, loans, and Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning tax credits that make college more affordable.

This resource book is designed to help you and your child plan ahead for college. It describes the types of courses students should take and when to take them, how to work with teachers and school counselors to choose colleges that fit your student's needs, and how to plan financially for the costs of college.

The President has emphasized universal access to postsecondary education and lifelong learning as top priorities of his administration. In addition to tax credits, he has proposed an increase in the maximum size of the Pell Grant, community service loan forgiveness programs, better borrowing and repayment options for student loans, and creation of education individual retirement accounts (IRAs). He has also worked with Congress to pass the Gear Up legislation to establish broad partnerships supporting middle schools and to help families plan for their children to attend college.

The American family is the basis on which a solid education can and must be built. Years of research show that family involvement in children learning is the key to putting children on the right path in life; your interest in helping your child prepare for college is an example. That is why we have formed the Partnership on Family Involvement in Education, an organization of thousands of parent, religious, business, and education organizations dedicated to creating family-friendly schools, businesses, and communities. Materials about the Partnership may be of interest to you and are available by calling 1-800-USA-LEARN, where you can also obtain another booklet - Getting Ready for College Early - specifically for middle school students. You can learn more about Department programs and assistance by visiting our azvard-winning Internet web site at www.ed.gov.

Ultimately, families like yours who work with your children, their teachers, and their principals to improve schools are the ones who determine student success. Thank you for your interest in this book and your commitment to the education of our Nation's youth. I hope you find that Preparing Your Child for College makes a difference in your child's life.


Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education

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