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K-12 Education

Detroit College Access Network Director Shares Tips for Students and Families

College is a gateway to opportunity. Unfortunately, the path to achieving a college education can be a difficult one to navigate and often seems out of reach for many young students in Detroit.

That’s why the work being done by Detroit College Access Network is so important. Through focused campaigns and initiatives, the organization is working to align the missions of schools, community programs, and other partners to help boost a college going culture in Detroit high schools.

To get a better idea of how students, parents and educators can prepare for postsecondary options, we spoke with DCAN’s Director, Ashley Johnson, about her advice around this important, but sometimes challenging, process.

Tip One: Talk About Postsecondary Options Early and Often

Starting the college conversation in middle school can have a huge impact.

It is never too early to starting thinking about a child’s postsecondary education.

“We often begin the conversation too late,” Johnson said. “By 12th grade, students already have solidified test scores and GPAs. That is why starting the college conversation in middle school can have a huge impact.”

By talking with students about their post-secondary options at a young age, parents, mentors, and educators can help form a plan, both academically and financially, to help ensure a child’s success down the road. This is something that is especially true for first-generation college students, whose families may not have the familiarity with the college application process that is present in other households.

In order to make a plan successful, Johnson says students, parents and educators can work together on completing key steps like:

  • Maintain a high GPA and seeking out rigorous courses if available at the student’s school.
  • Visit colleges prior to the application process to get a better feel for the campus, degree options and culture.
  • Create a list of target schools and refine selections based on student’s yearly test scores, GPA, and changing career interest

Taking the time to create a plan and making adjustments when necessary can go a long way in the college application process and will help keep goals focused and achievable.

Tip Two: Be Realistic About Finances

Another major barrier for students is finances.

“Many students see the price tag of many schools and automatically count themselves out.” Johnson said. “That is why it is important to inform students of how grants, scholarships, and work study programs can help to make their education affordable.”

But there is a flipside.

“Sometimes we all think that college is going to be free.” Johnson added. “But at a certain point you’re going to have some costs like books, supplies, and living expenses. It is important that students are prepared and ready to manage their finances as well.”

To help connect students with the financial resources they need, DCAN help drive the Detroit Drives FASFA program which provides important information and support tools to schools, students and families centered on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The campaign aims to have a 65 percent FAFSA Completion rate citywide by March 1 of 2018.

Through strategic campaigns and support systems, DCAN is continuing to provide students with the tools they need to achieve their postsecondary goals and ensure parents, educators, and community members have the training and resources to support them. This important work is helping to guarantee that the bright future of a college application is available to all.

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