Preparing for Future College Attendance

My Future, My Way

Are you thinking about attending college or a career school after you graduate from high school? Start here to learn how to prepare for and pay for your education beyond high school. Start asking questions now. Talk to your teachers, your parents, your older siblings, or to other mentors. After all, it’s YOUR future.

Begin to discover your college and financial aid options today!

Un cuaderno de ejercicios para estudiantes de escuela intermedia y secundaria

College can help you turn your passions and interests into a career.

Understanding your career goals and options (and their earning potential) will help you find a college or career school that meets your needs.

Why students go to college:

Credential clout : How higher ed can prepare for an evolving job market

A survey of U.S. students and recruiters

Key takeaways:

  • A quarter of employers that require degrees for entry-level jobs accept credentials in place of a degree
  • Recruiters and students agree there is a soft skills gap
  • Institutions need to invest in business models to support lifelong learning

Student and employer perceptions around the value of college degrees are evolving. Sixty-two percent of students surveyed enrolled in college to improve their job prospects but only 39 percent believe they will be very prepared for the workplace when they graduate.

The College Wealth Divide Continues to Grow

“The college wealth premium has increased threefold since the 1970s.”

Alina K. Bartscher, Moritz Kuhn, and Moritz Schularick, “The College Wealth Divide Continues to Grow,” Economic Synopses, No. 1, 2020.

Empowering Lifelong Learning

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College Degree + Credentials = Lifelong Learning

In this Future U Podcast, Katie Lynch-Holmes shares results from a survey of US Students and employers on credentials and the implications for higher education institutions.

Key takeaways:

  • There’s a confidence gap between students and employer regarding workforce preparedness
  • Gen Z students do not know how to translate skills they learn to the workplace
  • Degrees and credentials are not mutually exclusive

What do students think about degrees and credentials?

An information technology major explains why he went to college, what he thinks about credentials, and his plans for future educational programs.

  • A quarter of students enroll in college because they are expected to do so
  • 45% of students believe workers should pursue additional education or credentials more than once a year
  • 95% of college students think that credentials on top of college degrees will make them more specialized

Do employers still value college degrees?

Recruiters and a career coach weigh in on the value of a degree, the skills gap, and the ongoing need for lifelong learning to remain relevant in the workplace.

Key Takeaways:

  • Degrees indicate candidates have foundational skills and are looking for professional positions
  • Recruiters value soft skills, like communication and accountability
  • Lifelong learning is essential regardless of industry or position level

College Preparation Checklists

Why go to college? A higher education introduces students to new people and new experiences and usually leads to a higher salary and lower chance of unemployment. This checklist will tell you how to get ready for college—and how the government will help you pay for it.

How to use the checklist

Q: Who should use the checklist?
A: Students of all ages who haven’t attended college, and parents of students in elementary and secondary school.

Q: What is the checklist?
A: A to-do list, starting with elementary school, to help students prepare academically and financially for education beyond high school. Each section is split into subsections for students and parents, explaining what to do and which publications or websites might be useful to them.

Q: When should a student or parent refer to the checklist?
A: At the beginning of every school year, and then more frequently as college approaches. (Or, in the case of an adult student returning to school, as soon as possible!)


2018-2019 College Readiness Curriculum Guide, published by RaiseMe for educators, parents, and college-bound high school students.

Saving for College

How America Saves for College

Introduced in 2009, How America Saves for College is Sallie Mae’s national study conducted by Ipsos that surveys American parents with children under the age of 18 about how they are preparing financially for college. The 2018 study is the seventh in the series.
This primary research captures data on parents’ saving-for-college behaviors and habits, their attitudes and feelings about saving, planning, and paying for college, and how much they have saved.

Coverdell Education Savings Account

A Coverdell Education Savings Account allows up to $2,000 a year to be put aside for a student’s education expenses (elementary, secondary, or college or career school).

Qualified Tuition Programs (QTP)

A QTP/529 plan is established by a state or school so that you can either prepay or save up to pay education-related expenses. Once you’re in college or career school and you withdraw money from your account to pay your education expenses, the money you withdraw will not be taxed. Learn more about state 529 plans . To find out whether the college you plan to attend participates in a QTP, ask the financial aid or admissions staff.

Individual Development Accounts (IDA)

Oregon IDA Initiative

Individual Development Accounts, or IDAs, are matched savings accounts that change the financial futures of qualifying Oregonians with lower incomes.

Participants enroll through one of the many partners located in all corners of the state, set a goal and begin saving. Once the participant’s goal is reached and all parts of the savings plan are completed, every dollar saved by a participant is matched by the Initiative, typically three dollars for every one dollar saved. Initiative participants may benefit from matched funds to help them purchase a home, fulfill an educational goal, develop and launch a small business, restore a home to habitable condition, or purchase equipment to support employment.

Oregon residents twelve years of age and older who have low incomes and modest net worth may be eligible for the program. Residents work with a local partner to define and reach their goals.

If you’re applying to college or graduate school, you may need to take certain tests.

Many U.S. colleges require that undergraduate and graduate students submit standardized test scores as part of their application packages. Standardized tests provide a consistent way for a college to evaluate you and sometimes even help you choose the right courses.

For information about which tests you should take, talk to your high school or college academic counselor, or to the admissions offices at the colleges you are interested in attending. In the meantime, here’s a summary of most standardized tests.

Definitions *

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“A credential is the highest level of proof supporting an individual’s educational or professional achievement. A credential is issued by a third party with authoritative power, and is proof of an individual’s qualification or competence in a given subject. Possessing a credential not only helps one to prove competency and capability in a given field, but also demonstrates to one’s community and employers that the individual is competent, properly trained and equipped to carry out his or her duties. To sit for a credential exam, an individual must possess certain requirements — a set level of education, experience or a combination of both. Credentials serve as verification that a professional has achieved a baseline level of competency in his or her subject matter. With credentialed staff members, employers are assured of having a workforce of employees that are capable of handling whatever challenges their job responsibilities present.”


“Certification is a formal process that recognizes and validates an individual’s qualifications in a certain subject. Certification is awarded to an individual once the issuing agency can objectively quantify that he or she is qualified to perform a job or task. This is often done through educational achievement. Certificates verify that a professional has achieved a baseline level of competence in a complicated subject area and assures employers that an individual is capable of handling the challenges his or her job responsibilities present. Certifications are earned from a professional society and must be renewed periodically, generally through completed continuing education units.”

Certificate Program

“A certificate program is a program of education that results in the issuance of a certificate of completion rather than an educational degree. Often these certificates are issued by the educational institution, therefore do not carry the weight of a credential or a certification. Certificate programs educate individuals about one particular aspect of their field and supplement an individual’s prior education — preparing him or her to work in another arena within the same professional field. Certificate program definitions change over time, do not confer a degree or a credential, but do not require renewals.”

Educational Degree

“An educational degree is awarded when one completes an educational program with a recognized degree, such as an Associate Degree, Bachelor degree, Masters or a Doctorate degree. Those who achieve these degrees are entitled to and proudly display these educational credentials, generally at the highest level achieved.”

* References

Differences Between Credentials and Certifications. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from
Certificates, Credentials & Degrees – Do You Know the Difference?. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from

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