Last week we took my son to his incoming freshman high school schedule pickup and orientation. I repeated something that I said to him last spring when we were having some difficulties making him put forth the required effort on his school work.
“This year you start high school. This shit’s for real. It counts forever.”
I then went on to try to explain the chain of events that starts with day one of his freshman year. Hard work, good grades, and school involvement will dictate what college opportunities will eventually open up in front of him in a few years. But it’s more than just having a good selection of schools that will accept him, there are financial repercussions as well.
We expect him to go to college. We’ve been drilling that into his head for years. You can argue all day about whether a college education is worth the cost, but the net is I believe a person has a better chance of success in life with college education than without it.
Good grades open doors to scholarships and grants. One month into my senior year of high school I had been accepted to the college I had selected. From that point on, I would stop by my high school guidance counselor’s office at least once a week asking if there were any new grants or scholarships I could apply for. I also continuously called my soon to be university asking the same question. I applied for any and all for which I could possibly qualify.
My favorite scholarship story is one of a mass communications scholarship. I wasn’t going to major in journalism or mass communications in any way, shape, or form. But that wasn’t a requirement for the scholarship. The requirement was that applicants were involved in a mass communications activity in high school. Because of my interest and skill with computers, I had been the layout editor of the school newspaper. I applied, and received a scholarship.
I was awarded so many grants and scholarships that their total amount actually exceeded the total cost of my freshman year in college. The recurring ones that extended through my entire college career picked up the tab for my tuition and books, and between working half time and some help from my parents I paid for for my room and board.
I graduated from college debt free.
That’s the goal I have for my children as well. I want them to start their adult life in their career of choice without the weight of student loans. Armed with good financial sense and no debt, they can immediately begin contributing to their retirement accounts on day ONE of their first job after graduation. Imagine how much that will grow over the 30-40 years of their career, and how much bigger their retirement nest egg will be than if they had to pay off tens of thousands of dollars of student loans
A fourteen year old will have trouble grasping the true gravity of his actions at this stage of life, but it’s our job as parents to instill in him a work ethic that reflects a perspective of pride and “do your best” with each and every task. The grades he earns this year set in motion a series of events that will impact him until the end of his life.
Like I said, this shit’s for real. It counts forever.