With all the talk about the importance of grades in the college prep process, have we neglected to look at some other key elements of preparing for college. Many parents believe that once their students get into college they will magically grow up and mature. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many college freshmen are ill-prepared to face college because they haven’t learned the basic principles of adulthood.
Part of college prep should be preparing to live independently with the tools needed to function without constant parental involvement. Parents can play a significant role in preparing their college-bound teen for college.
Many students who enter college have never had to budget or keep track of their spending. Teach your student financial literacy before he leaves for college. He should know how to budget, how to determine the difference between wants and needs, and how to hunt for bargains and compare prices. Neglecting this essential part of college prep will ensure that your son will be calling home asking for money or worse, using credit cards for basic expenses.
If you’re still waking your daughter up for school, preparing her lunch every day, doing her laundry and making sure she does her homework, you are not preparing her for college. Helping your teen gain confidence in these areas is just as important as helping her with his homework. Just as you can’t go with her to class, you can’t go with her to college.
One of the best ways you can teach self reliance is to have your teen be invested in her college education. Studies show that students who are invested financially do much better in college because they see the value of the education.
Teach your student how to advocate for himself. This begins in high school. Don’t fight his battles for him. Don’t be a helicopter parent and swoop in to the rescue. If he is struggling in class, let him take the initiative and ask for help. Once he’s in college, he will be responsible for advocating for himself—from roommate disputes, to conflicts with professors, to simple decisions related to his major.
Does your daughter text you when he forgets her lunch or her homework? When your teenager is faced with a problem, teach her how to ask for assistance. Give her plenty of opportunity to talk to adults, ask questions, listen and follow directions. If you are always there to solve her problems in high school, she will never learn what to do when she’s on her own in college.
You can help teach your teen maturity by allowing him to experience life apart from the family: summer camps, studying abroad, and summer vacations with friends. Feeling homesick is a miserable way to spend the first semester of college. Therefore, schedule activities so your teenager can spend enough time away from home. Teenagers who have learned to survive away from home, if even for a short time, will be more likely to survive on their own in college.
If parents really want their students to successfully maneuver all the temptations of parties, late nights, and skipping classes while obtaining a college education, a degree, and the beginning of a promising career, they need to start preparing their teenagers during high school. Academics is, of course, a crucial part, but if your teenager cannot wake himself up in the morning, cannot handle conflict, cannot manage his time and priorities, cannot self-advocate, cannot manage his money, does not know when he needs help or how to get it, then despite a stellar grade point average, that teenager will be leaving home with a deficit.