Professional development is important to Head Start staff especially as new developments are constantly being made in providing quality child care and education. Head Start staff can use this tip sheet as they pursue plans for continuing their education. It offers insight about preparing for college and things to consider when implementing professional development goals.
TIP No. 1 Take time to make your decision.
College is a big investment in time, energy, and dollars. Recognize that you are making a personal investment. You are going to college for "yourself," not to keep a job, fulfill an expectation that someone else has for you, or to make someone proud of you. It is important to be honest with yourself–you want to attend college for yourself and you believe that you are going to get something out of the experience and education that will benefit you the rest of your life.
TIP No. 2 Take time to look ahead in your life.
What kind of a job do you want to have in five years? Do you see yourself as a "career person?" Do you plan to stay in the field of early care and education? Do you intend to stay in your present community for the next few years? Then ask the big question: "What will a college education do for me to increase the quality of my work life and the quality of my personal life in the years ahead?" Once you have that answer, you are ready to decide about going to college.
TIP No. 3 Ask yourself, "How prepared am I to go to college?"
Look at your attitude and feelings. Are you hesitant about going to college? Do you have reactions based on experiences you had five years ago? Or twenty years ago? Did someone tell you that you're not "college material?" Remember, you are a different person today and will have different experiences as a student. Most adults who return to school find studying easier.
TIP No. 4 Be honest with yourself about your study skills.
This may sound simple, but really, study skills are skills. If we don't use them for a while, they fade. If we haven't had good coaches, our skills may remain untapped.
To tackle college courses, you need to be able to do several things–read complex books and articles, present ideas clearly and logically, write papers that make sense and are grammatically correct, and use math. Do not let this scare you. There's help from several sources. Take a series of assessment tests to determine which skills you need to strengthen. Find out if the college has courses in study skills. Ask the college about tutors. Find ways at work and home to increase the amount of reading you do. Offer to make short presentations for your work team or your church. Write out your ideas before presenting them.
TIP No. 5 Learn as much as you can about the different types of college options.
In today's world of higher education, students have more choices than ever. And the choice you make will depend on your own learning style and your personal life demands. Some of the options include:
- Area Technical Colleges
- Community Colleges
- State Universities
- Private Colleges and Universities
- Correspondence Classes
TIP No. 6 Take a tour of the colleges you are interested in attending.
Plan to walk around the campus, have lunch at the student union, pick up catalogues and brochures that describe the student services, and drop in on the career management office or the registration office to ask questions.
TIP No. 7 Take advantage of all the support the college has to offer before you enroll.
Each college has advisors and counselors who can answer your questions, and even give you information you didn't know you needed, such as:
- Career guidance
- Assistance in locating financial aid and scholarships
- Ways to plan your course schedule to fit your personal needs
- Information about different courses and requirements for degrees
- Ways to boost skills (like math) before you take college-level courses
TIP No. 8 Make a career plan for yourself.
List your career and job goals. What kinds of jobs do you want? Where do you want to be working? What kinds of payoffs do you want–salary, benefits, quality of work life? Take this plan to the college counselor and ask for help in putting your college plan into a bigger life plan.
TIP No. 9 Stay focused.
Every time you hear yourself saying, "This is too much work! Why, I'll be 30 (40, 50, 60, or 70) years old before I'm finished with college," remember that you are going to be that old anyway. Why not have the college education you have dreamed about when you get to that great advanced age?
TIP No. 10 Gather a strong support team around you–a college cheerleading squad.
Most of us need "study buddies," and some colleges even make that a part of the program. Find a role model or mentor someone who will set the standard and give you advice. All of these wonderful folks will make reaching your goals a breeze!