Supporting College and Career Readiness for Grandchildren
By Julie Sweitzer
I don't have grandchildren yet, but when I do, here is what I will do to
encourage college and career readiness.
Many of us look forward to the day we have grandchildren to play with, or maybe you are just thinking about raising a child yourself. College and career readiness (CCR) may not be first on your list of things to do, but there are ways to build the foundation even at a young age.
First, help your grandchild develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset means that you understand that we aren’t born with abilities, or lack thereof, in math or science or art or writing. Brains are somewhat like muscles, in that the more that we use them, the more they develop connections. Instead of “I can’t do this”, try “You don’t know how to do this yet. Let’s figure out how.” Education and indeed future careers are simply a series of things we don’t know how to do yet. Young adults who have experienced that message throughout their lives are more likely to face the new challenges of college and career as something they can take on with confidence.
Explore, without right or wrong (obviously with safety as one obvious limitation.) Try new things and go new places with your grandchild or child, whether it is a walk down a new block or visit museums (art or history) or a park. So many museums now have experiential opportunities for kids and have overcome their stuffy reputations of past decades. Many have free visit days or family opportunities that aren’t limited to specific generations. A wide range of experiences helps a young person identify potential career fields.
Take a walk on a local college campus. Most have grounds that are open to the public, even private colleges. Research says that developing an identity as a future college student is important, long before the child has any idea what that means. Seeing what a college campus looks like can help, especially if you visit more than one. Mention “when you go to college” occasionally. Don’t worry about the ‘how’ now – but do consider starting a college savings fund. Even $25 can start an account, and it can grow tremendously over time with regular contributions.
Education is lifelong, and our kids, especially our grandchildren, are likely to be learning new things on the job throughout their lives. Take a class yourself, whether it is a free community education evening session or finishing up that degree from decades ago (some colleges offer free tuition for those of us over a certain age). Most importantly, tell your grandchild you decided to learn something new and are reading books about the topic, or working with a friend to learn a new skill, or going to school. Your role modeling helps set expectations without ever saying “you have to go to school or college.”
To read other blogs written by the University of Minnesota’s staff in the College Readiness Consortium, click on the button below:
About the author: Julie Sweitzer is Executive Director of the College Readiness Consortium and Ramp-Up to Readiness. Previously she directed the Minnesota Principals Academy and helped create Youth Central, a website that makes it easy to find the University of Minnesota programs and activities that serve K12 students and families. Julie was an elected board member of the St. Louis Park Public Schools for 12 years.
She holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota’s Law School.