For many families, college planning begins well before a student reaches their first year of university. Some student participate in college-readiness programs in middle school, and a growing number of students devote their entire high school careers to gaining admission to the college of their dreams. By senior year, college is typically the primary focus of students and parents alike.
t While you can help complete financial aid paperwork and mail admissions portfolios, you may wonder how else you can support your high school senior at this critical time. Here are three suggestions to help you begin preparing your student for college.
Allow your student to manage aspects of the college application process
t This goal can be difficult to accomplish. After all, as a parent, you recognize how important this stage is to your child’s future; but your student’s success in college and the workplace largely depends on them, not you. They must be able to assess and compartmentalize multiple tasks, as well as manage their time. Allow your student to establish a schedule for asking for and receiving letters of recommendation, or require her to personally contact admissions offices to arrange campus tours and/or interviews. Support your child, but do not assume control of the entire process.
Instruct them in non-academic skills
t Students who choose to live away from home during college must master a host of key life skills. Your child, for example, will most likely be responsible for his or her own laundry. While this may seem like a minor issue, consider that they will also need to cook their own meals and balance their own finances, both of which can impact a student’s performance in class. During your student’s final months of senior year, ensure she knows how to eat well and how to be fiscally responsible. Not only will you share quality time, you will likely allay some of her anxieties about adulthood.
Broach your student’s (and your) fears
t The idea of college can be equally exciting and frightening. You may worry about safety on campus, and your child may have similar concerns, not to mention dozens more that may not have even occurred to you. Though your relationship may be strong, he or she may not bring fears to you right away. Instead, try reaching out to your student first. Have a frank conversation over ice cream or while traveling to a prospective school. Remind them that you are here for them, even if they end up attending college halfway across the country. Confidence and knowledge are powerful tools to carry into freshman year.
t Though the first year of college is unique in its challenges and struggles, and though your student is no longer a child, your guidance will still be necessary in their senior year of high school and beyond. Before he or she leaves for school, establish open lines of communication and equip your student with the basic tools they’ll need to begin the college journey. Then, hold on tight! The college experience is not unlike a roller coaster, but with forethought, it can be one filled with fun and many positive memories.
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