How to get kids working toward college, no matter their age

Any parent would be proud to see their child graduate from a good college and move on to a successful career. But it can be challenging to know just how to get them there, and especially for parents of younger children, higher education might not even be on the radar yet.

But when you consider that college graduates have significantly higher earning potential, and experience much lower unemployment rates than those with less education, pursuing higher education becomes a top priority. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2020, seven out of 10 jobs will require training beyond high school.

No matter how young or old your child is, there are ways that you can help them work toward higher education. It’s never too soon – or too late – to start!

  1. Talk to your children regularly about what they want to do with their life. What sort of lifestyle do they want? How will their innate interests and talents play a role in their job?


If they’re unsure about what they want to do, consult resources such as the Arizona Career Information System, which can provide useful background on a variety of careers. Encourage them to speak with people who work in varied professions to get an idea of what they might enjoy. These dreams may change as youth are exposed to new and intriguing career paths, but the overall vision should remain: postsecondary education shouldn’t be a matter of “if” but “when.”


  1. Once your child has a clear career goal in mind, work backwards to formulate a plan that will make that goal a reality. Consider whether your child is on track academically and what they need to improve to get there. Resources to help you evaluate their academic preparedness include grades, teacher evaluations and standardized test scores, such as AzMERIT.


For help in crafting a specific, actionable path to college, check out the Create Your Next college and career planning guide, which will help your child get – and stay – on track. For younger kids, check out Expect More Arizona’s resources for parents, which include grade level-specific outlines of key academic milestones and tips.


  1. Keeping kids focused on the long-term goal will help them stay motivated to do well and challenge themselves in school. Exercising self-discipline, asking for help, and seeking self-improvement opportunities will open many doors.


In fact, the hard work they put in now may even help them pay for their continued education though academic scholarships.


  1. Getting to college is a goal that is years in the making, which makes it easy to get off course along the way. Having specific, written goals and keeping track of successes along the way will ensure students remain headed in the right direction.


The Create Your Next college and career planning guide includes specific to-do lists that will help, but you might consider creating your own goal tracking method, if there’s something that will work better for your family.



Expect More Arizona is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan education advocacy organization working to build a movement of Arizonans in support of world-class education for every child. For more information visit



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