Discussing College and Career

discussing college and career at cafecollege San Antonio Education Partnership

Everyone deserves to achieve their dreams, and education plays a significant role in realizing an individual’s success. Based on my experience as a teacher, curriculum developer, and trainer, and my current role as Executive Director of the San Antonio Education Partnership, I believe that education holds enormous power as the ultimate societal equalizer. That’s why it’s important that we all start talking to our kids at an early age about college and career paths.

We have to convey the message that the possibilities are endless for them, and do it sooner than later. Children begin thinking about what they want to do with their lives at an early age, and college should be a natural part of an ongoing conversation throughout childhood.

For more ideas about summer experiences you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Summer of Learning.

For more ideas about summer experiences you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Summer of Learning.

Pretend Play for Preschoolers

Having taught preschool and kindergarten for seven years, I can attest to the power and ubiquitous presence that dramatic play and dress-up holds in the early childhood development of a preschooler. When you notice your child talking about what they want to be when they grow up, take the cue and talk about college. For example, if your child says, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up!” respond with, “That is wonderful. Doctors help people. You will get to go to college to become a doctor. That’s where people will learn how to care for those who are sick.”

I remember stocking my dress-up center in my classroom with Halloween costumes, most of which I would pick up after Halloween at a discount. Having a career chest or dress-up drawer at home is a great way to organically inspire these discussions early on, normalize the topic of post-secondary possibilities, and lay the foundation for expectations and potential in your child’s life.

Also, another great resource is from a local nonprofit in San Antonio, Yes Our Kids Can. They have fun learning videos and fun learning videos designed for children and their parents that focus on topics like staying in school, working hard, and getting good grades.

Here is another fun song to teach young children about occupations.

Career Storytelling for Grade Schoolers

While grade school isn’t necessarily the time to talk about GPA, college majors, and standardized test preparation, this is the perfect time to continue nurturing a college-going culture in your household by discussing different career pathways. You can create fun activities to engage your kids and have them think about the endless career possibilities, or speak candidly about the life experiences of your own family and friends. Casual conversations about both successes and failures, processes and barriers can resonate with grade school students for a lifetime.

At cafècollege, we offer free summer camps for school-age children. These camps are are facilitated by our talented staff and feature community members who work in fields ranging from law enforcement to scientists, attorneys, physicians, and politicians. Campers are afforded the opportunity to experience numerous different fields through hands on activities and demonstrations, while learning about the various paths required to achieve different careers. This summer’s camps are virtual due to COVID-19, but we are already planning next summer’s topics, which will hopefully be in person again.

At home, families can use printables and crafts to help kids have fun while talking about careers. Mahalia Mouse Goes to College is a picture book with an engaging, rhyming story. Kids love learning with songs, too.

College and Career Questions for Middle and High School Students

By this age, students have a growing awareness of the importance of GPA, class selection, and college choice. This is a great opportunity to build on that foundation by discussing the importance good study habits, encouraging ways your student can improve on their time management, and reinforcing the importance of seeking out expert advising early in their college decision process.

The risk is that if parents bring up these topics (college, grades, class choice, advising, etc.) too often, students this age can easily get overwhelmed and shut down. Instead of asking direct questions that require teens to come up with and accomplish a seemingly endless list of tasks, ask your questions that allow for autonomy in the process.

Instead of open ended questions like “Have you given thought to what you’ll major in?” or “What are you going to do about your low GPA?” try these:

“Would you rather take a time management class or a study skills course this summer?”

“When should I expect to see you sign up for SAT prep classes?”

“Would you rather chat with a cafécollege advisor by Zoom or on the phone?”

“While you’re studying, since I know phones can be distracting, would you rather place your cell phone in a drawer in the kitchen or in your room?”

Just by simply shifting the question slightly, students are left feeling in control and empowered.

If you notice your student is getting understandably overwhelmed, give them both time and space and, most importantly, let them know you understand. It is an overwhelming process for everyone, and this is almost an inevitability. While deadlines are strict with many college admissions processes, if you plan ahead and post visual cues for your student, facilitate their success and both understand and reiterate their individual responsibility in the entire process, you’re doing enough.

college advising cafecollege San Antonio Education Partnership

Visit cafècollege and Local Colleges and Universities

Middle and high school is a good age to bring in your child to visit cafècollege and have some of these discussions with a college success advisor. Sometimes, the message is better received when it comes from someone other than a parent. Once we can safely reopen to the public, you can come visit Tuesday thru Saturday, with no appointment necessary. Right now, we are offering all of our services virtually, with a college access and success advisor ready to guide you via Zoom, Google Classroom, or phone.

Research has found that spending time on college campuses improves a student’s chance of speaking with school staff about college and increases the rate at which students took honors or advanced courses in ninth grade. San Antonio is blessed with numerous incredible higher education institutions that are always welcoming to students of all ages. The earlier the better!

cafecollege San Antonio Education Partnership

Local Connection for College and Career Readiness

San Antonio Education Partnership is a nonprofit organization that has been around since 1989. We accomplish our mission through four core programs: Road to Success, cafècollege, Upgrade, and our scholarship program. Each program focuses on five key services areas:

College Aspiration & Goal Setting

College and Career Exploration & Planning

College Entry and Enrollment

College Affordability and Financial Aid

College Transition

Charter Moms Chats

Watch Inga Cotton’s interview with Lisa Cunningham on Charter Moms Chats.

For more ideas about summer experiences you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Summer of Learning.

About the Author

Lisa Cunningham is the Executive Director of the San Antonio Education Partnership. After completing her undergraduate work in business and education at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at San Antonio, Lisa began her career in education as a teacher, curriculum developer, and trainer. She has also worked in the business world and served as the Executive Director of the Bexar County Family Justice Center. As a San Antonio native, Lisa’s passion for education and strong ties to the community drive her work at the San Antonio Education Partnership. She adamantly believes in the enormous power education holds as the ultimate societal equalizer. Lisa is a member of several local civic organizations and serves as a mentor for area high school students. She lives in San Antonio with her two daughters, Madison and Haley, and their tiny rescue dog, Charlie.