Pearl Chang Esau, President & CEO of Expect More Arizona, talks to Sonoran Living about creating a college going culture at home from the earliest years. Scroll down to view more videos of Pearl answering questions about preparing for college.

While many parents know that college should be a priority in their home, others are not sure when and how early to start talking to their kids about continuing their education after high school.   The simple answer is it is never too early to start creating a college going culture in your home.

With a startling 50 percent of Arizona high school graduates not qualified to enroll in our state universities, setting the expectation that high school graduation is not the finish line is imperative. Setting this expectation sooner rather than later allows more time to discuss how to make it happen and the different pathways they can take – turning the question from “if” they are going to continue education after high school to where, how, and what type of  postsecondary education to pursue.

“To ensure Arizona students are doing what it takes to be ready for college, it’s really important that parents embed this topic in their conversations with them,” said Pearl Chang Esau, President/CEO of Expect More Arizona. “For example, when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, the conversation doesn’t end there. That leads perfectly to a conversation about what subjects they would need to take in school to qualify for the postsecondary education needed for that career.”

Esau adds that talking to children about their passions and interests can lead to conversations about the many different career choices that fit those interests, and the type of education each requires.

To help students and their families make sure they are on the right path to being ready to succeed in education after high school, Expect More Arizona, in partnership with NAU’s Arizona GEAR UP, created a College and Career Planning Guide. The guide includes different pathways students can choose, a checklist by grade level to make sure they are on the right track, simple explanations about the differences in Arizona’s postsecondary institutions – what’s the difference between a community college, a university, or a technical institution, for example, and covers the different benefits of their education. All of this information and much more is contained in the guide, which is distributed to students across the state, and is also available for download and as an interactive tool.

In addition to starting early conversations about college, building excitement leading up to college is equally important. One of the most effective things to do to get your child excited about college is to take them on an actual campus visit. Getting them physically on the campus and exposed to the interesting and – to them – “grown up” qualities of campus life will give them something to look forward to. Campus tours can be coordinated by contacting your local university or community college, or you can visit an older sibling or family friend who is currently attending college.

“Starting today, you can take steps to ensure your child is on the right path to attending college,” said Esau. “Make a commitment to have regular communication with your child’s school and teacher. Talk to them about getting your child ready for college, ask what resources and programs they provide, and how you can support what they are doing at home.”