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College Tips for 5th Graders

November 18, 2009 By: Category: Alumni advice

A friend of mine is a 5th Grade teacher in Aurora, Colorado and she asked me to write a letter to her class:

“My students are very curious about college, yet still are unaware of the realities of adulthood (some think “playing football” is going to be their declared major). Most of them don’t think college is even an option for them, because no one in their family has ever considered it. To that end,  I’m seeking out positive adults in my life in hopes that you would be able to share a bit about your childhood, your experience attending college, and your current profession. Our student population is very diverse, and many of my students are 1st or 2nd generation immigrants.  Most come from economically disadvantaged families and have few luxuries in their lives. They are kids who have a lot of potential, but many have minimal awareness about the world at large. Because their families have usually not had the opportunity to attend college, they know very little about opportunities available to them.”

This got me thinking. What advice would I give 5th graders about life and college? And yes, I know you’re not a 5th grader, but you might just learn something from my advice.

My name is Elizabeth Kraus and I have a wonderful life. I have graduated from college. I have started my own business. I never worry whether I’ll have food on the table or whether I’ll be able to pay my bills. I am my own boss. I work my own hours and I love my job. I’m excited to go to work every day because I’ve chosen a career that not only allows me to help students like you earn a college degree, but it also provides me with enough money to live a comfortable life. I am an entrepreneur and the co-founder of, a site that helps students find their perfect college and colleges find their perfect students, and I truly wish you can grow up to be as happy as I am. Here are my tips to get you there:

  1. Go to college! I know this might seem obvious, but I think many kids wonder why you’d pay thousands of dollars for a piece of paper. Sure there are several people who have become successful without going to college, but it is a lot easier to make it with a degree. On average, college graduates earn more than DOUBLE the amount that a high school graduate earns over the course of a lifetime. Life is hard enough with a college degree. Don’t make it even harder on yourself.
  2. Start thinking about college now. I know college must seem like it’s so far away, but the truth is, the choices you make now will affect whether you’ll be able to make it to college. Once you start falling behind in school, it’s really hard to catch up, so the more work you do now, the better off you’ll be in the future. My husband tutors high school kids right here in Denver that still read at a 5th grade level because they didn’t think school was important. Those kids are going to have a very hard time graduating from high school and an even harder time getting into college.
  3. Anyone can go to college. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s true. In my job, I’ve met so many kids who made it to college against all odds. There are so many scholarships and other opportunities out there. You just have to put in the work to take advantage of them. Start your scholarship search early and apply to as many as you can. It’s a numbers game, the more you apply for, the more you’ll get.
  4. Do what you love. Once you get to the real world, you’ll spend almost all of your time at work, so make sure you do something you love. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t pursue your dreams because you won’t be able to make enough money. You can make money doing anything if you love what you do and you are good at it. However, no matter what college major you choose, you should make sure you understand business, so you can make some money doing what you love. This leads me to my next point.
  5. Money doesn’t make you happy, but it sure helps: Fancy cars, expensive jewelry and exotic vacations will not make you happy. Some of the wealthiest people I know are also the most unhappy. However, lying awake at night wondering if you are going to be able to pay your bills is a miserable feeling. Do whatever you can to make sure you can find a career that won’t leave you worrying about how you are going to put food on the table.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the most successful people need a little outside help sometimes. If you need help with anything, don’t be afraid to ask your teachers or counselors, or ask an adult that you admire to be your mentor. Most people are just so flattered that you asked them for help, they will do anything they can for you.

I know these might seem like obvious tips, but if you follow these four simple truths, I guarantee you’ll be successful. Good luck and whatever you do, don’t give up.

 So there it is. My few points of advice for a class of fifth graders. Do you have any college tips for these fifth graders? Leave a comment so I can pass it along!