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Jill Haley: Parents can make a difference

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

One of the more universal truths is that parents want a great life for their children. And most parents believe that this means attending college.

But is college really worth it? The answer is yes.

Not only does college create opportunities for learning, finishing college is linked to greater financial earnings even in the face of rising costs. Attending college is tied to better health, more satisfying careers, and more civic engagement. Statistically speaking, college is a more valuable investment than ever.



Are there ways parents and schools can encourage children to attend college? Nevada County native Elizabeth Dayton thinks so.

Dayton grew up in Nevada City and attended Nevada Union High School. I sat down with her a few weeks back to talk about her most recent book that she co-authored with her father Charles Dayton. The book is called “First In My Family” and focuses on how families can support children to attend and graduate from college.




While doing research as a doctoral student at John Hopkins University, Elizabeth Dayton analyzed data across the country and found that supportive family relationships had a great impact on whether children attended college. This was true whether the families themselves were educated and regardless of family income.

While only one in three youth in the US completes a bachelor’s degree, Dayton identified factors that encourage children to attend and complete college. What she found was that one of the greatest influences was how the family spent time together: when parents support their children’s interests and get involved in their social and academic lives, children are far more likely to attend four-year college, two-year college, and other paths in higher education.

Dayton’s research highlights each of the following as a key family support:

Spend time together. This can include family meals, reading together, shared chores, and family celebrations.

Support children’s interests by helping them with things that matter to them, celebrating their successes and ideas, and following through on plans you make together. Alongside encouragement, help children make good choices, as children benefit most from parents who both respond to their interests and help to guide them.

Become involved in children’s academic and social lives. Get to know your children’s friends and their friends’ parents, and provide an atmosphere where friends feel welcome in your home. Get to know your children’s teachers and learn about your children’s experiences throughout the day.

Provide an enriching environment through access to classes, books and computers, which can expand children’s horizons. Share family conversations about educational and career goals to help children think through their aspirations and how they might achieve them.

Dr. Dayton’s book provides first-hand stories from first-generation college students who talk about the positive influences their parents had on their journey to college. Many are heart-warming and insightful. The book is available on Amazon.com and Dayton is offering free Kindle downloads to anyone who visits the book on Amazon.com from today (August 3) through August 6.

Jill Haley is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.


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