Third, map out a timeline of what needs to be done when. Include specific courses that might be required and when they should be taken, what tests (e.g., PSAT, SAT, ACT, SAT II) have to be taken, and application dates. You can also think about enrollment in community college classes, taking classes via distance learning, taking Advanced Placement (AP) tests and taking College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. These are all things that should be planned into the timeline.

Fourth, look for avenues for funding, such as scholarships. Often money is available and goes untouched because of lack of awareness. Look for those opportunities to defray the costs of higher education.

And fifth but probably not last, consider college at home. There is the possibility, through distance learning programs, to continue your education from home at a significantly reduced cost. There are even ways to tackle lab courses and meet research requirements through distance learning. Don't discount the possibility before researching.

All of these things are offered as catalysts to get you thinking and researching. There's so much I'd love to write, but due to space constraints, I'll have to leave it to you to do the research pertinent to your interests.

What is God's plan for your life?
I think the most important question to ask, now that I've written this column on higher education, is, what is God's plan for your life? Focus and prayer should be on this very question with the answer dictating the direction of education.

Often we hear people stressing that their children must go to college if they want to get a good job, make a good income, and support a family. Just as often, colleges or universities are pre-selected for those children because that particular institution is a parent's alma mater. Then, a child is often sent to that institution without clear direction (i.e., a clear plan of a major and a goal at the end). What a sad, but all too typical, story.

I heard Mike Farris speak at our Christian Association of Parent Educators (CAPE-NM) conference in New Mexico several years ago, and he spoke of this very problem. He basically said that after the purchase of a home, there is no greater expenditure of money than sending a child to a college or university. Further, this decision is often made with little thought or planning. We send the child to school, he or she goes for a few years, and then, all of a sudden, is on the spot to pick a major. Credits in various areas are tallied, and often the decision rests on what area has the most credits. He went on to say how foolish we are when it comes to higher education. We don't plan. We don't counsel our children in this area. We don't pray. We treat this particular expenditure pretty cavalierly considering how much money and time is at risk.

Mr. Farris also went on to speak about young women attending college and how he has counseled his daughters. He has suggested to his daughters areas of study that could lead to a career that could be conducted from the home. For example, if a woman went into graphic design, in the event that income was needed due to the death of a spouse or job layoff, she could do that work from the home while still caring for the children. As I listened, I thought that that was excellent wisdom.

Much of the data out there, and much of what is reported above, focuses on the material rather than the spiritual. We must pray for guidance when it comes to any area of our lives, including higher education. We must also seek wisdom in counseling our children. As I was working on this column, I came across a website, Heart of Wisdom, at homeschoolinformation.com/FAQs/what_about_college.htm. A paragraph on that page caught my attention, and I thought it worthy of using as a closing to this column.

Before you place extreme importance on a college education, however, remember that a college degree is worthless if one does not know Christ. It is of little value for our children to master chemistry and algebra if they don't know how to get along with their spouses or cannot learn how to discipline their children. It is of little value for one to be fluent in several foreign languages if he doesn't have tongue control. It is of little value for one to diagram a sentence if one cannot communicate true feelings. Are you sure college is God's plan for your child?