4-H mirrors benefits obtained from the college experience: Part 1

4-H programming can offer youth an edge in preparing for college or the workforce.

College is a major financial undertaking and time commitment for parents and their children. Parents want their children to be successful and gain the most out of the experience and children want to feel confident and well prepared as they head off to college. However, obtaining the skills needed to get there and have success may be difficult. In addition, college is important, yet it might not be for everyone. What can these youth do to prepare for the future?

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development programs can help both parents and children feel prepared by providing educational opportunities and experiences similar to what is experienced in college, without the burdening costs. Both employers and college admissions boards look for these types of experiences that demonstrate teens have the qualities needed to help reach their goals and gain an advantage in the workforce. These programs can aslo help youth prepare for a smooth transition to college and/or the workforce.

If you search the web for the top 10 reasons to go to college, you will get a dozen or more sites reflecting various opinions. They may differ in their reasons and perspectives, but there are some common themes that emerge. Highlighted below are some of the most frequently listed reasons to attend college and how 4-H programs can offer similar skills, opportunities and experiences. In this two part series, I will review these reasons and show that 4-H programs can meet many of the same skills attained in college, making it a great experience for all youth, regardless of their post-secondary plans.

  1. Education opens doors. The more education, the more opportunities a young person has. Getting more educational experiences for your child is always a benefit as it  will aid in building a résumé that employers and admissions officers think highly of and allow your child to network for future jobs. It is the education outside the normal school setting that can set your child apart and open the doors to new opportunities and future connections. 4-H offers many educational opportunities in a variety of areas such as academic success, animal science and youth entrepreneurship.
  2. College allows your child to choose his/her career. In college, your child can choose a career or a field of study that interests them. 4-H, with its wide range of programs, can also give your child the opportunity to explore careers in up and coming fields  and industries focused on current topics. Global and cultural education, leadership and citizenship, civic engagement and science and technology are just a few of these exciting areas. From robotics to rutabagas, your child can explore these areas and possibly a career at little to no cost. 4-H also exposes kids to fields they may not have considered and are curious about. In addition, 4-H can help children and teens develop a passion that can lead to a profit and gain a wider base of knowledge to bring to the classroom or job.
  3. College education will lead to higher earnings. Statistically, the data is strong and shows those with a college education have a greater annual income and earnings potential, compared to those with just a high school diploma. Although 4-H programs may not directly lead to higher earnings, there are opportunities to earn scholarships, reward money and expertise in a field that can earn a higher salary. More skills often equates to more offerings and earnings. 4-H programming offers an opportunity for these skills to be  learned, practiced and developed.
  4. College develops job skills. A college education can offer internships, experimental learning and hands-on projects. During these experiences, students develop the job skills needed to be successful. This same experience is at the core of 4-H programming: programs are designed to instill decision-making skills, life skills, reasoning, creativity,  analytical awareness and valuable communication skills. 4-H programs focus on real life hands-on experiences that prepare the student for their next step, whether it is college or the workforce. All these experienes are implemented with different learning styles in mind.
  5. Education expands your child’s mind. The exposure to a variety of learning opportunities with a plethora of topics can bring on a greater awareness of world issues. This worldly view can help with creative problem-solving in local communities. 4-H and MSU Extension also cover a wide range of educational opportunities in categories that include business, family, health, community, agriculture and natural resources. Through 4-H, youth can gain exposure to these fields, learn how they are affecting our world and their community, and interact with people in these fields to gain a greater knowledge of what skills may be needed to succeed in that area.

Stay tuned for more ways Michigan 4-H programs mirror the college experience in Part 2 of this series.

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