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Raising our Military-Connected Kids to be College and Career Ready

10/08/2015 Published by: Suzanne

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Categories: Your Child's Ages & Stages, Transition to College

So what does it look like to be College and Career Ready? Fortunately, there are many paths to successful readiness for life after high school graduation, and there are many organizations and resources available to help our military-connected students get there!

A Quality Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation:

Before a child learns to ride a bike, they must learn as a baby to crawl, stand, and walk. These basic skills become the foundation on which they build more complex motor skills allowing them to complete increasingly challenging physical tasks. In education, students begin with learning the fundamentals (like reading, writing, and arithmetic) in order to lay the groundwork for the development of their intellects, so that in the future they can grasp and analyze increasingly more rigorous material.

Before a student begins the work of gaining career-specific skills (more on this later!), they must develop more universal skills like: critical thinking, problem solving, communicating and collaborating with others. In her te@chthought post titled, “7 Skills Students Will Always Need”, Jennifer Rita Nichols shares the results of a Harvard University survey investigating what skills people will “need to survive and thrive in the 21st century.” In the face of an ever-changing job environment, these are the skills that will remain in constant demand.

So how does a student gain and develop these skills? Previous entries in this blog series, “What’s the big deal about ‘College and Career Readiness?’”“Why College and Career Ready Standards are Important for Military-Connected Students”, and “College and Career Readiness . . . What’s being done about it?” all discuss the need for strong academic standards across the country that military-connected students and families can rely on so that no matter where they are stationed, students are held to a uniformly rigorous curriculum. The widely-adopted Common Core standards (CCSS) are in place to help students meet the demanding needs of college and workplace environments upon high school graduation. (Even the states not participating in the CCSS do endorse the need for college and career ready standards.) These rigorous standards require that students dig more deeply into subject matter requiring more analysis, critical thinking, and team problem-solving. Several organizations are working to support these standards and thedistricts, schools, and teachers implementing them and the students being held to them:

Post-Secondary Education and Career Paths:

For those students who have completed their elementary and secondary educational career, the question then becomes, “Do I have the specific skills necessary for Job A, B, or C?” Undeniably many jobs require very specific skill sets . . . utilizing a particular spreadsheet program, operating a specific piece of equipment, or applying a new surgical technique. These specific skills are gained through specific training gained through various channels . . . community college, four-year colleges and universities, technical training, and/or military service. 

Community Colleges and Four-Year Colleges/Universities:

Studies have shown a direct correlation between the level of one’s education and their lifetime earnings potential.  For example, this Bureau of Labor Statistics report from 2014 shows higher earnings and lower unemployment for those who have earned higher degrees. Obviously there are some exceptions to this rule, but seeing this connection can be a strong motivation for high school graduates to work on a college degree sooner than later.

Students who wish to pursue post-secondary education at a college or university should enroll in a challenging college prep curriculum during their high school years in order to better prepare for the academic rigors of college courses. MCEC® offers a number of videos for parents on preparing for academic success!

With the rising cost of college degrees, community colleges are becoming more and more appealing to those trying to keep the cost of their college education down.  Improving upon grades and study skills while in attendance there can be an added bonus as well, allowing students to transfer their credits and then complete their education at a four-year institution.

For any military-connected student hoping to attend a college or university, a free scholarship finder is available via the MCEC® website initiative SchoolQuest™ along with several other free college prep resources!

Career Technical Education:

Students who don’t see themselves attending four years of college don’t need to worry. The fact that over 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain vacant due to unqualified applicants demonstrates the point that college need not be the path for everyone. There are plenty of technical careers and job vacancies available, all that’s required are qualified applicants to fill them! Connecting students with the necessary training to place them into these vacancies is where organizations like the following come into play:

Military Service:

Enlisting – For those looking to gain specific skills and life experience immediately following high school graduation, enlisting in one of the nation’s armed forces offers young men and women an opportunity to not only see the world while serving their country, but also to gain highly-transferrable skills should they decide not to make a career out of military service.

Military Academies – For academically-motivated students who wish to serve their country, gaining entrance into one of the nation’s five military academies is not only an honor, but an opportunity to gain a college degree from an esteemed institution without the price tag. Acceptance is highly competitive so hard work and planning during a student’s high school years is especially important. Research your options by visiting their individual websites:  the United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York, the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) in New London, Connecticut, the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, New York, and the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) – Those students looking for a more traditional college experience but still interested in military service might consider an ROTC program. Available at more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the nation, ROTC cadets receive a paid college education and a guaranteed post-education career in exchange for committing to serve their country after graduation. With the rising cost of college, ROTC scholarships are becoming increasingly competitive as well so, again, planning and hard work during one’s high school years is important.


We invite you to read more about College and Career Readiness and to join in the discussion by visiting the Military Child Education Coalition® (MCEC®), its SchoolQuest™ website initiative and its Homeroom interactive online community. Help us get the word out by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter . . . for the sake of the child!


* This blog was made possible by a Gates Foundation grant.

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