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Parents looking to help their teens navigate higher education may be wondering where to begin when deciding which type of school is the best fit for their child.

“What parents should focus more on is what is their child more interested in? What do they want to study? What career do they want to have?” said Maggie Morganti, director of school counseling at Chancellor High School. “All of these questions can help steer them to the school that best fits their interests.”

Here’s a breakdown by school of things to consider as you and your teen approach the academic world.

2-Year Schools

Students can jumpstart their career without the price tag or time commitment typically seen at a four-year school. They can complete the coursework within two years or less and graduate with an associate’s degree, launching them into careers like radiologic technologists or mechanical engineering technicians.

A two-year school is a great alternative for students who either are interested in saving money while they complete their basic studies or need to build up their grade-point average before enrolling in a four-year school, said Michael Zitz, spokesman for Germanna Community College. But first, ensure class credits will transfer with your student before choosing this route.

4-Year Schools

A four-year school is perfect for students who are not only looking for the full college experience, but also have chosen a career that requires a bachelor’s degree like teachers, engineers or accountants. The cost may be a bit more expensive, but Ben Bousquet, admissions counselor at the University of Mary Washington, advises parents to talk openly with their children about finances.

“Talk about debt and what it takes to pay it off,” said Bousquet. “Look at the interest rates and find out the average salary of the career of their choice. Then, look at how long it will take them to pay it off.”

Even if your teen is still uncertain about their career goals, a four-year school “could help them figure that out,” said Bosuquet.

Trade Schools

Trade schools are a good fit for students who are passionate about a particular trade, said Bousquet. Since the curriculum typically covers specific occupations like massage therapists or NASCAR technicians, students should find a school that focus on their particular skill of interest. Within a few months or even weeks, your teen will receive a certification in their field of study and will emerge ready to launch their career, said Morganti.

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