College prep takes work

Obviously, college is not an open and hassle-free avenue for everyone to take. Specific requirements are necessary to just be accepted to attend.

This is where popular universally-recognised tests such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Academic Competency Test (ACT) come into play. In addition to those and other external examinations, a reputable scholastic history through high school would be necessitated.

It also goes without saying, the more expensive the school, the more restrictive the requirements become. Not just any person can attend an Ivy League school for example.

Mr. Sam Basdeo, Dean of the University College of the Cayman Islands, explained the requirements that the UCCI evaluates in its admissions process.

The Bachelor and Associate degree programme uses the college’s entrance examination, comprised of math and English, along with the student’s choice of major. The professional programme offers courses in accordance with the needs of the student’s sponsoring company.

‘The continuing education programme is a mix of everything in order to further develop skills,’ he explained. For example, students lacking math skills in high school.

The Associate of Applied Science degree programme looks for three O levels (or the equivalent) or also at the students’ maturity, Mr. Basdeo said. Mature students are considered to be over the age of 21.

Planning ahead

According to Mrs. Arthurlyn Pedley, the career advisor/exams officer/life skills teacher at Cayman Prep, at this point most college hopefuls already have their acceptances in hand. The actual college search and application process can start as much as a year ahead.

‘Students (at Prep) are urged to plan seriously for college from the start of high school. I urge students to keep a record of all of their accomplishments in high school for easy reference,’ she said.

‘Normally around the summer before the year when they plan to start, students begin to think about college. For example, last July the students that were going to attend college this September started the preparation process. This also included doing the SATs in December.’

Most senior high school students are in the midst of last-minute preparations such as acquiring clothing or sorting out their passports. Also, some of those students would be in the process of working somewhere to earn money towards college and gain experience in their chosen field.

Wading through college

College is a huge ordeal in and of itself. There are a wide collection of colleges, universities and other tertiary institutions. They can teach you just about anything from how to program computers to how to prepare financial statements.

I have found that there is one key point to remember about wading through the deep waters of college -know what degree/courses you would like to do. You might not know what career you want eventually but you should know what subjects you like or those that you are strongest in. The idea is by narrowing down the choice of subjects, you can narrow down the possibilities of degrees/courses.

Like every other business, there is a wide variety of fees. Some are comparable to the cost of used cars and others resemble more the price of a new luxury car. Going somewhere that offers the best standard of education for the money is of paramount importance.

Attending college locally is also a plausible and prudent option. Mr. Basdeo said there are some big advantages of attending UCCI.

The local advantage

‘There is quality education available here. There has not been a problem gaining acceptance abroad. I am always having lecturers from foreign countries remark to me on the quality of students we are sending to them.

‘A small size works well for most students. It allows students the personal attention they need. Local education has great cost efficiency. It decreases the length of the students’ stay abroad (where colleges are far more expensive).

‘The easy access to professors is also a key point. Our professors are there to help the students in and outside of the classroom. Plus we have extremely qualified staff. Every one of our professors has a master degree in his or her area of expertise.’

At any rate, college is nonetheless worth it. To me, going to college truly is one of the best investments you will ever make. It is no great mystery that with a college degree you can be better prepared for the unstable, changing world of work.

A bevy of studies have been done to show that as the years pass, it is more likely that people will have to go through two jobs or more in their lifetime. Therefore the better qualified you are, the better chance you stand at coping with the changes companies make.

According to Mr. Basdeo, job security is now rare and the only security people can rely on is that gained from their qualifications.

‘Almost everyone should strive to go to college. No one can count on having the same job for a lifetime. People need education to be able to switch jobs. It allows greater job flexibility. Also a paper degree is good because with it people will tend to take you more seriously.

‘A degree entitles students to higher salaries. The world is past the stage where you can start from the bottom of a company and work up to higher positions (without a degree). Everyone is looking for qualifications.’

Mrs. Pedley agrees and remarks on the great opportunity for development that college brings.

‘It is best to get your education behind you. Ideally you would be able to get some work experience at the same time.

‘It is amazing the doors that open up simply because of your degree. College allows students to become more well-read, well-rounded and more disciplined.’

She also feels that as long as students have the drive and desire to work toward their goal, then college is a great route to take.

‘Just about anyone, people of all skills and academic backgrounds, who have finished high school, should attend college.

‘They should have the desire and intention toward a particular career and have worked out a career path (with the help of a guidance counsellor in high school). They should know their interests and strengths and be investigating their options.

‘However, it all depends on the student. College is not the best option for every student. I try to find what field the student is interested in and also factor in their personality.’

Parent input

In the end, college is not all about the student. The parents play a big role throughout college life. Especially, as Mrs. Pedley points out, in the preparation stage.

‘Parents need to know they play an important role. They need to talk to their kids as much as possible and encourage them to stay ahead of deadlines.

‘If possible, encourage the child to go and see a college on a vacation. Colleges hold campus tours on a daily basis. With advanced notice of their intentions to visit, a student can show up on any given day and get an up-close look at a potential school.’

In a way, college is like dining out. You have in mind what you want to eat. You look for somewhere that can give what you desire at the best possible value. Once you have found that place, you go and enjoy your meal among friends.