Maryland Scholarships for Community College - Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

What will help my daughter with the motivation she needs to complete at least a two-year certificate program and hopefully a four-year degree?

She struggled to get through high school but passed enough courses, even with a few A’s, to graduate. She tried one semester at the community college but didn’t really have a path. After taking time off to stay with my sister and her husband overseas to help out with their two little ones for half a year, this now 19-year-old seems a bit more focused on getting back to school to prepare for her future. She’ll be balancing a part-time job with her studies to help pay costs since my ability to help financially is very limited. I know it will be tough, but I want to encourage her to take advantage of this time in her life. I think she’s getting the picture that the jobs for which she is qualified – having only the high school diploma – do not pay much.

Mother Bird

Dear Mother,

While it’s not critical to know exactly what one wants to do, it helps to imagine the possibilities.

Finding a Direction

The research behind Kids at Hope  suggests that holding a vision of one’s future self allows a young person to move toward success. For the futureless student, there doesn’t seem to be any point in taking a course just to complete it. The course material should be related to something she wants to do, and to do well, in the future. Does your daughter have any idea of the career fields she’s interested in? A session or two with an advisor at the community college can help her to narrow down the options. It will help her to mentally connect to an end goal as she steers herself through even a meandering course. Before the semester starts encourage her to make an appointment so she can choose her Fall courses knowing they fit into a long range plan. In the meantime, she can try out some quick online assessments  to see what patterns emerge. (I just did a five-minute checklist that determined I should be in Human Services, Education, and or possibly work in a Museum!)

A part-time job can be good experience for any college student, whether just to help pay the bills or to help determine which career fields, work environments, and types of tasks suit her and which don’t. Also, as she’s noticed, she will be learning first-hand how one’s level of education corresponds to job responsibilities and pay. That can be a strong motivator.

Easing the Financial Stress

While attending a community college versus a four-year college is clearly a smart bargain, your family may qualify for an even better deal a year from now. The state of Maryland will be joining California, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee in offering tuition-free community college and career training for qualifying students . Maryland students whose families earn less than $150,000 a year, or single adults (or student living with a single parent) who earn less than $100,000 a year, would be eligible for up to $5,000 annually toward tuition at a Maryland community college. A minimum GPA of at least 2.3 is also required. As a 2017 high school graduate your daughter meets the condition of being within two years of having finished high school (or completed the GED) to be eligible when the funds are available in July 2019. (Check with her college advisor whether this means she’d have to enroll for the Summer 2019 semester.)  She will have to take at least 12 credit hours per semester for the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship. Although students will need to re-apply each semester, the state has budgeted to support this initiate over the next five years.

Connecting with Social Support

In addition to finding her direction and securing financial support, your daughter will benefit from identifying some social connections to assist in navigating her way through college. She’ll need time in her schedule for on-campus information sessions, recreational activities, student service projects, and other ways of interacting with her college peers and informally mingling with faculty and staff. A rich college experience includes much more than class and study time. Although a good advisor and good study habits will help her get into and pass her courses, great advice and important connections won’t come from course catalogs and text books. The relationships gained from outside-of-class-time opportunities could lead to a paid internship for hands-on career experience or a valuable letter of reference to her next institution of higher learning.

Your daughter’s path through education and career may twist and turn. Encourage and support her to find good friends and mentors as she journeys to find her future self.    

Dr. Debbie

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