Raising a child is the most challenging thing most people will ever do, and sending them away to college is one of the toughest parts. Helping your teenager choose the perfect college is a great start – but how can you help them succeed there? Education is your child’s first real job, and college might actually be the hardest job they’ll ever do. You can’t go with them and can’t do their work for them, but send them as well prepared as possible with these five tips.
First, prepare your child for a big step up in academic expectations. For the vast majority of students, college is a tremendous increase in academic difficulty. They can expect work to get harder and grades to get lower. If your child doesn’t expect this they might become discouraged.
Second, prepare your child for self management. In high school, it is the school’s job to see to it the student passes. In college, it’s the student’s job to satisfy the college that they should be allowed to pass. Your child has to manage their own relationships with their instructors, their own administrative matter, and their own studying. Get them to manage these things in high school, especially in their senior year. Your child will be treated as an adult by their college, so they should get some practice as soon as possible.
Third, help your child learn the school beforehand. Orientations, campus tours, literature, and talking to former students is invaluable for preparing to move away and profoundly change their lives. Even a moderately large school has the area and population of a small city and the bureaucracy can be just as hard to navigate. The more your child knows before college starts, the less shock they will experience.
Fourth, help your child budget. If your child is on their own for the first time the temptation to blow through their spending money can be overwhelming. Get the numbers down on paper and show them what they have and how it can be stretched out all year. The last thing a young student needs come exam time is to panic over a money shortage.
Fifth, don’t overemphasize post-college plans. It’s good to think about careers, but as the old sports saying goes, you have to play them one game at a time. Your child might change their mind, change majors, or adjust any number of things, but the critically important thing is to graduate from college first.
Your child is about to embark upon a journey of four or more years. You can’t lead them but you can at least start them off with a map and a compass!