Attending My First High School PTA Parent College Panel: Aimee’s View

scream mask
College prepping–the horror of it all! Photo: TFF

Overall, I am glad that I went. I have three children. I stayed home for 8 years to raise them on one teachers’ salary. My oldest is a high school freshman. 

While there was the expected population of Fairfield Parents of Privilege in attendance for this panel, it wasn’t a complete waste of time for someone like me to attend.

I learned more from the head of pupil services than the parents on the panel:

  • The school offers many opportunities for all students, beginning in 9th grade, to participate in extracurricular activities to help build their high school resume, not just with sports or music, but with a built-in club/activity time during school.
  • There are a number of “fairs” that are offered: the typical college fair, a community college fair and, even, a gap-year fair. I was pleased to hear encouragement for and support of considering the values of attending community college.
  • I need to “talk-up” my child’s guidance counselor with my daughter. I need to tell my daughter to let her counselor know when positive experiences happen, as well as when there are negative ones that typically require getting a counselor involved. The better the rapport, the better the support and advice.
  • “Naviance” parlance. Parents and administrators praised the school’s subscription to this service that helps families guide their children through preparation for life after high school. I will learn more about it and its effectiveness as I go along.

What I got and what I wanted from the panel:

  • Great advice was offered by a parent in the audience and one on the panel. For those with children with L.D, A.D.D. and/or other needs, inquire about the support systems and accommodations they offer for students’ success. Another parent suggested “to think outside the box” saying, “Schools in other regions of the country would love to have kids from our part of the country.”
  • I wanted to engage parents in a discussion about college loan debt. I wanted to know more specifically about what they wished they knew then and what they know now about the financial aspects.
  • Even though, I raised my questions and my concerns about how the growing school loan debt crisis could be the next bubble to burst and crash our economy; how we need to pay attention as a nation to the consequences of having a generation of young people who cannot afford to live on their own, only a couple of the panelists responded. One pointed to the Financial Aid night date as a way of getting more information. The other told an anecdotal story of one kid who went to a local community college (that has profs from local private universities) then transferred to NYU and is now very successful.
  • I wanted to scream (can you tell?) that we need to teach our children about the consequences of incurring debt. If we truly have a generation of young people who don’t have purchasing power to build a life, start a family, buy a car or a house, our economy slows to a halt, we all suffer.

My sense from this first outing is that few people want to talk about the struggles involved to afford college, and try to make it debt-free. In reflecting on Marilyn’s last question in her post, another take-away from this evening is that there IS a stigma attached to just even the idea of sending your kid to a community college and, to a certain extent, a state college or university (unless your kid is going to there for business program; that’s more acceptable). Considering a community or state college suggests you are low-income vs. being someone who values being debt-free.

We sadly live in a society that values perception over reality.

We are aiming to buck that trend!  Join us! Go us!

~Aimee, TFF