Monday, September 21, 2009

A Name-Brand Education

As new parents, we probably all fantasize about where our children will wind up. These fantasies do not usually include the words 'community college' (not to dis on them; I will be at a local community college next semester, in fact). But the truth of the matter is, we all want to see our children get into a big-name university; something Ivy-League would be nice. And if not fully covered in Ivy, then at least a university with a few leaves to its name.

How do we get our kids there? The first thing we can do is aid their development as much as possible, starting as young as possible. You don't need the fancy expensive genius baby tutors; Parents as Teachers will do the trick. Even if you're still pregnant, they'll meet with you (for free, of course) and discuss what you can be doing to help your child have every advantage possible. They will continue to meet with you and evaluate your child's needs, and what you can do to reach the next developmental milestones, well into toddlerhood.

You can also help your child to reach milestones provide developmentally-appropriate toys for your child; Enter to win $100 in free toys from Fisher-Price or a Baby Einstein Package. Reading to your child every night has also been shown to improve academic success. Although not a replacement for reading to you child, these free audio children's books will be a greatly enjoyed supplement for in the car-- or whenever.

You can aid the intellectual development of a child of any age-- or of yourself-- by attending museums and other expositions. On Saturday, September 26 (Museum Day), you can attend most museums for free-- just download a free admission card from the Smithsonian website.

Of course, the next question is, how to afford Yale or Stanford? The name-brand university costs quite a bit more than the generic community college! If your kid is still in diapers, I recommend Upromise. A division of Sallie Mae, UPromise gives you cash back on grocery purchases, restaurant meals, online shopping, and many other purchases-- even for major appliances, such as refrigerators and houses-- and puts the saved cash towards your kid's college fund. Brilliant. Imagine how much money you'll spend on, well, stuff in the next 18 years. Now imagine if you could use 8% to pay for college. Dartmouth: paid for.

If your kid's a little older and looking at going to college in the next couple years, or if you're looking at going back to college soon, it may be more realistic to set your sights on scholarships. Make sure your kid (or you) takes all of the practice ACTs and SATs he or she possibly can, as well as any IB or AP classes he or she can reasonably handle. Free practice questions are available online; you school or community may also offer affordable prep classes. Schools also want students who exhibit leadership, so your kid should be involved in extracurricular activities: sports, clubs, and community service. Bonus points if he or she wins a major award for organizing a community service project, like these fine gentlemen (high school friends of mine).

Once your resume is ready, start applying for scholarships. Zinch and Fastweb will match you up with scholarships based on personal strengths and extracurricular activities.

Whether you child's in diapers or high school, hopefully these resources will help you to see that name-brand pennant on their bedroom wall in the years to come. =)

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