A Guide for Students and Families - Everyone can go to college
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Washington State Public Education:
A Guide for Students and Families

Everyone can go to college

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In today's high-tech economy, nearly all students will need education or job training beyond high school to get good jobs. That's why it's a good idea to start talking to your child early – from the time they start kindergarten – about preparing to go to college.

There are two kinds of colleges:

  • Community and technical colleges take two years or less and prepare students for specific jobs or transfer to a four-year college or university.
  • Four-year colleges and universities prepare students for professions such as doctor, lawyer, scientist, or teacher.

Washington's community and technical colleges have an "open door" policy, which means they accept all students, regardless of their past academic performance. If they aren't ready to do college level work, students can take remedial classes that get them ready for it. Community and technical colleges also offer English instruction and job training for adults of all ages.

Students don't have to be geniuses to go to a four-year college or university; any student who works reasonably hard and gets decent grades can go. But students have to take the right kinds of high school classes—and the right number of high school classes—to prepare.

Families need to start planning for college when students are in middle school. Taking advanced math and science classes in middle school can help students have a head start on being ready for college, so be sure to ask your child's teacher about them.

When your student starts high school, ask the high school counselor for information about college admissions right away. The counselor will explain which classes your child should take each high school year to be ready for a four-year college or university.

Students in Washington high schools can also earn college credits for free during their junior and senior years. They can enroll in community and technical college classes, and get both high school and college credit. This program is called Running Start. Some students who do this graduate from high school with two full years of college credit already completed. There are similar programs that allow high school students to prepare for apprenticeship programs and get job training while they are still in high school.

Washington has many programs to help students go to college. It's a good idea for families to ask a lot of questions about college opportunities. Your school counselor is the best place to start. Here is a sample of what is available:

  • The College Bound Scholarship is available to all students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches (this means students from families that have moderate or low incomes.) Families must sign up for this program when students are in the 7th and 8th grades. The scholarship covers the full cost of tuition and books at a two- or four-year public college. Students must promise to stay in school, demonstrate good citizenship, and graduate from high school.
  • Federal financial aid and state financial aid is available to students from middle- and low-income families. High school counselors can help you apply for this aid.
  • Early outreach programs offer tutoring, mentors, and visits to college campuses for many students. These programs often start in middle school. Some serve specific kinds of students – students who are interested in science, or students from a specific ethnic group, culture or income level. Ask your middle school or high school counselor for information about these programs. Students who participate in them are often awarded scholarships.
  • Skills Centers offer job skills training to high school students. A Skills Center serves many school districts, and offers programs that would be too expensive for one school district to support by itself. Usually, students can go part of the school day to their high school, and part of the day to a Skills Center. They can learn skills such as cooking, auto repair, computer programming, or carpentry. Some Skills Center programs are directly connected to apprenticeship programs or other job preparation programs in community and technical colleges.
  • Tech prep is a program that allows students to enroll in job skills programs at community and technical colleges for free, while they are still in high school. High school counselors can help you learn more about these programs. OSPI's Career and Technical Education resources also are helpful.

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