College Ideation – the ability to imagine oneself in or at college.
This is my definition of a term I saw used when I was in graduate school. I can’t tell you where it came from, but it’s is something I feel is of paramount importance to children as they grow up, in terms of increasing their chances of attending and being successful in college.
That’s not to say that a lack of college ideation makes it impossible for a child to grow up and ultimately attend college. I just think it makes it much easier.
I think people need to be able to imagine themselves doing something, before they are willing to or interested in trying it. In the same way as athletes imagine themselves making the putt, hitting the homerun or doing the perfect triple-axle… In the same way as musicians imagine themselves performing on stage or giving a Grammy acceptance speech… In the same way as students standing at the front of the room working math problems on the board enables the rest of the class to see others learning how to do math problems (some successfully, some not). The experience and the images give students information about how they’ll do those things in the future.
Without these images and experiences related to college, it’s difficult for children to want to or feel comfortable planning to go. So it’s incumbent on us as parents to ensure our kids understand, think about, touch, and ultimately strive to go to college. This is easy for me, since I work for a college, but even if you are not close to a college, and yes, even if you didn’t go to college at all, there are several things you can do to help ensure your kids want to and can go to college.
First and foremost, talk about college – ask them what they want to be when they grow up and talk about the training involved in doing that. Talk about people they interact with and where they went to college. Talk about your own college experience or the choices you made instead of going to college. Talk about the college account you set up for them, and how important an education is.
Take them to college campuses, whether just to walk around or to an event. It doesn’t matter if it’s a nearby community college, a large state school or a private institution you think you couldn’t possibly afford – they just need to be able to picture themselves there (later). Get out your old college memorabilia or hang up your degree(s) on the wall. Show them photos of yourself in college. If they’re very young, get on the Internet and look at school mascots. Have them pick their favorite, print out a picture and give it to them. You get the idea…
Make college a part of their consciousness and you’ll increase the chances it’ll be a part of their future.
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