Even if you insist that your children go to college whether they want to or not, it's still a good idea to get them to buy into the idea. Here are some tips:

You might point out the differences between high school and college. Some kids may assume that college is very much like their regimented high school. Point out the freedoms of college: There's much more latitude in choosing courses to take, and students can focus primarily on subjects that interest them. Their schedule will vary widely, too. Some days they may have no courses until noon. Most courses may only meet three times a week. These are interesting details that not every youngster is aware of.

Play up the social angle, as well. They'll meet many, many new friends. They'll be in a community where almost everyone is roughly the same age. Colleges typically feature scores of clubs, sports, and other activities. Students aren't likely to be bored. Instead of being out in the working world, they'll be among new friends, taking many courses that interest them and enjoying a rich social life. And speaking of the working world, you might want to make a detailed comparison of the everyday life of a young professional and the everyday life of a college student and see how they feel about college then.

Finally, another compelling tidbit is financial. Point out how much difference a college education will make to their earning power for the rest of their lives. Explain how most good jobs today require at least a college education. Share this eye-opening table with your children early, and you may find that they're suddenly considering law school!

The Earning Power of Education

Education Level Achieved Yearly Salary Weekly Salary
Not a high school graduate $22,074 $425
High school graduate $27,975 $538
Some college but no degree $33,948 $653
Bachelor's degree $51,644 $993
Master's degree $61,296 $1,179
Ph.D. $80,225 $1,543
Professional degree (M.D., J.D.) $95,175 $1,830
  (Median earnings, source: U.S. Bureau
of the Census, 2000)

If those numbers have got you thinking about how you'll cough up the money to pay for this exciting post-secondary education, drop by the Fool's College Savings Center and check out our book, The Motley Fool's Guide to Paying for School: How to Cover Education Costs from K to Ph.D., by Robert Brokamp.