Helpful Hints and Tips for College Bound Students by Robin Dance

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As I’ve thought through what to include in this series, I’ve realized some content will be of more value to those who are years away from college, while other posts will be more helpful for students with high school graduation in sight. To keep things interesting, I’ll alternate between the two.

One thing you will learn, if you haven’t already, is what you believe today may not be the case tomorrow.


This applies to most anything, I suppose, but it was a surprise to discover it also applied to parenting. I mean, I had Certain Ideas about how I would parent, and it didn’t occur to me those ideas were subject to change.

Case in point: I always thought the best choice for our children would be for them to get a part-time job in high school. Working would help fund their interests and activities rather than us hand out an allowance. After all, there were so many good things about getting a job–

  • Lessons in responsibility and submission to authority.
  • Cultivating a good work ethic.
  • Learning something new and developing a new skill set.
  • Substance for a resume when applying to college.

Those things, and more, in addition to dollars and cents.

Until my friend Rhonda explained they weren’t allowing their children to get jobs during the school year.

What the heck?????

At first I thought she and her husband were crazy. Wouldn’t this breed laziness? Children need to learn the value and practice of work, and isn’t a head start before they launch into the real working world important? Could it hurt them when it came time to applying and interviewing for post-college jobs? What message was it sending? What would they learn (and not learn) as a result of not working during school?

But my friends are pretty smart and they’re thoughtful, intentional parents, and it wasn’t long before I understood their perspective:

Their children’s “job” was school, and their “paycheck” was to get good grades.


Hear me out and you’ll get this faster than I did.

Say your child has a minimum wage job and works 10 hours a week; that’s $72.50/week before taxes. A school year is typically based on 180 days or around 26 weeks (not taking into account holiday breaks). That comes to $1,885 for work during the school year. Even if your high schooler has a $10/hour, 15 hours/week job it’s under $4,000.

This is PENNIES compared to what your child can earn with a good GPA and standardized test scores.

How to save money for college - by Robin Dance - 31Days

Your child has the potential to save tens of thousands of dollars (depending on their chosen school and conditions for merit) over the course of four years with their good grades, and/or ACT or SAT score.


Thousands beyond what they could earn with a part-time, during-the-school-year job.

I’ve lived in three states that offer merit (grade)-based scholarships funded by a state lottery; in a quick search, I discovered 44 states and D.C. have state lotteries. While I don’t know if all of them earmark the revenue for higher education, I’m certain many do.

Children do not have to have straight A’s and a 2100 on the SAT to earn scholarship monies; each institution has its own guidelines and varies school to school. (However, the lowest weighted GPA I’ve seen to qualify is a 3.0 and a 21 on the ACT or 980 on the SAT (TN). I haven’t done an exhaustive survey.


The most important reason your child needs to strive for good grades and standardized test scores:


It provides options for college.

It puts your child in the driver seat and allows him or her the luxury of choice.

Yes, good grades and test scores save you money, but the higher for both, the greater your child’s opportunities.


A little parenting advice


Begin stressing as early as possible the importance of good grades but keep in mind this is not about you. Do not make your child’s academic success a banner for you to wave or bemoan. Help her to understand why it serves her to do well. 

If your student understands the connection between grades and increased opportunity, it will be motive for him to take ownership of his schooling.

Do not guilt your child if he has studied and done poorly. Do not lecture. If you see your kid is spending time on a subject and yet still not doing well, it is a wise investment to secure tutoring. First, talk to your school and find out if it’s available there; but if not, ask for referrals. Whatever it costs, if grades improve, it’s worth it when you consider what is to be gained in scholarship.

Now, if your child has made bad grades and you know they’re not studying, that’s an entirely different conversation; one we’ll save for another time. We’ll also discuss ACT and SAT testing more at a later date.

There’s definitely a place to develop a good work ethic, and that can be provided through summer employment, compensation for extra responsibilities at home (beyond basic chores), and a flexible job (like baby sitting) that doesn’t require an on-going, school-year commitment from your child. If he is free and encouraged to concentrate on school, it can serve him better than the demand of a job (and possibly allow more time for co-curricular and extra curricular activities (more on that later, too)).


Your homework for today: Buy and read An Educated Choice by Frank Brock, former president of Covenant College (affiliate link used).

This book affected the way we approached the choice for college and informed the shape of our perspective more than any other tool in the process. It’s only a few dollars’ investment but it provides much food for thought, worthy of consideration. You won’t likely agree with everything Mr. Brock says, and despite it being written from a Christian ed perspective, he makes some compelling arguments for how and why you do, what you do as it relates to college choice (regardless of attending a state, private or Christian college). It’s an mind-stretching, short read for parent and student.



Here is a link where you can research government-funded scholarships in your home state (scroll to middle of page for the listing).


Tomorrow we’ll look at standardized testing. I hope you’ll be back!

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Helpful Hints and Tips for College Bound Students by Robin Dance

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