Helping your child prepare for college might look like a distant thing in early childhood, but the years are really short while raising a child. As a parent, you are sure to want only the best for your child. From the moment they are born, and for the rest of your life, you will be looking out for them, helping them, teaching them, and guiding them. This is not always an easy thing to do, and there are definitely going to be some difficult times, but as long as you are doing everything from a place of love, it should all work out well for everyone concerned.
One of the most difficult times may well be when your teenager is preparing to head off to college. This will be the first big significant change in their lives and in your life with them, especially if they are moving away from home, and you will want to help them prepare as much as possible. The key, of course, is not to become overbearing; this is the time in their lives when they are beginning to branch out on their own and become much more independent, so the last thing they are going to want is a parent hovering at their shoulder all the time. However, they are still very young, and this is a potentially worrying time, so they will want you to be there in some capacity. If you can get the balance right, everyone will be happy.
The best thing a parent can do for a child at this time helps them be as prepared as possible for college and their new life.
Here are 5 tips to help your child prepare for college
Start Talking About College Early On
If a child has no idea about what college is or how it can help them in their future careers and lives in general, and suddenly they are presented with the idea as a teenager, everything is going to feel a lot more concerning. They won’t really know what they are meant to do or why, and they will feel a lot more anxious than they would have done if they had known more about college from an early age.
As a parent, you can start talking about college when they are much younger, helping them to get used to the idea. Of course, it’s not your place to insist they attend college; this should always be their choice, and it might be that they don’t need a degree to do whatever job it is they are interested in doing. However, if you can provide them with the facts early on, they will at least be aware of what college is and why they might want to attend, and not be shocked and surprised when they are told about it as an older child.
Not only will this help your child prepare – at least a little – for college, but it may also help them do better in school. There are many different tests they will need to take in school, and if they understand the context of these tests and understand that they are needed to help apply for college, they will be more willing to be involved and work hard for them, assuming college is something they are interested in doing after graduating high school.
Help Them With Research to Prepare for College
There are many bad reasons to choose a college. Picking a school because your best friend is going there or because it’s close to home – or far away – or because it has a prestigious name is never a good idea unless the course itself is also exactly what you want. The best thing to do is research each potential school and visit it if you can. If you want to help your teenager prepare for college, you can help them with this research.
Look through as many websites and brochures as you need to to create a shortlist of three or four different schools. Next, list out the pros and cons of each one and the specific course your teen is interested in studying for. Now you can see exactly which school is going to be the best one.
Of course, you won’t be able to make your teenager pick one school over another, even if you are sure that they aren’t picking the best one, but you can help to guide them, explaining your reasoning and ensuring they understand why you are making the suggestions you are. In this way, you are helping as much as possible without forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.
Of course, college doesn’t have to be a physical place far away from home; it can be in the home if your teenager prefers. Thanks to modern technology, online learning is now something that many schools offer, and some are even set up to deliver only that option. It means your teenager can remain at home and study if that’s something they would prefer. This idea is not for everyone; some teens would certainly benefit from leaving home and exploring the world more. However, some would be better staying at home for a variety of reasons, so talk about this, and see if it’s an option that would suit them. Some courses, such as what is needed to become a family nurse practitioner are ideal for taking online, whereas others need a more practical element. Make sure you know which is which.
Remember, you are their parent and can only help up to a certain point once they reach college age. Make sure you are supportive of their decision, even if it’s not the one you would have taken yourself. If they know you are behind them, they will be more confident in the next step in their lives.
College Doesn’t Have To Be Mysterious
Some parents simply don’t talk about college in enough detail or at all, and this can make it seem much more mysterious and potentially problematic to teenagers than it needs to be. College is not a mystery; it’s a place of learning, and it’s important that the young adults who might benefit from this additional education are aware of it and the advantages it could bring and are prepared to apply when the time comes.
The more mysterious college is, the more frightening it will seem, which can lead to some people choosing not to participate in it. This can clearly be a big mistake for some people who would have been able to use their college degrees to find an excellent career. So your task as a parent is clearly to remove as much of the mystery surrounding college as possible.
If you attended college yourself, this would be an easy thing to do. You’ll be able to tell your teenager precisely what it’s like and make sure there are no surprises for them. If you didn’t go to college then it will be a lot harder; it’s likely to be just as much a mystery to you as them. In this case, you can seek out friends and family members who know what it was like, and ask for their help instead.
It’s crucial that there is as little mystery surrounding college as possible. This is not something that should be left as a surprise so that those who are willing to apply have to find everything out for themselves once they start studying. If they are to make the right choice for them, your teenager is going to need to know as much as possible as soon as possible. It’s the fairest way, to help them prepare for college.
Your College Experience Might Be Different
Following on from the above point, it’s also important to recognize that your college experience could be very different from the one your child is about to have. If you talk too much about the things you were able to do, you might be making your teen even more worried – perhaps they don’t want to join so many clubs, or maybe they were hoping to join a lot, for example. They won’t want to disappoint you, and they may well think – depending on what you say – that they have to follow in your footsteps. This could lead to an unsatisfactory college experience.
So, of course, talk about what you did at college and the opportunities you had, but also make it clear that they will be able to make their own choices and that they don’t have to do everything you did, unless they want to, of course. In this way, you can ensure they know you are just telling one side of a story that has many different facets and that they can make their college days anything they want them to be.
Help Them Skill-up
If you protect your child too much – something that all parents might easily do because they love their children and want the very best for them – and then suddenly expect them to do amazingly well at college, it is going to be much harder for them.
In reality, this process should be a gradual one. Once they start high school, you should slowly but surely start to allow them more responsibility and more freedom. Allow them to make choices and build themselves – and their confidence up – so that they are fully prepared to take care of themselves and be responsible by the time they leave for college.
It’s always going to be hard for parents to let go, but it will be a much easier transition for both of you if you do it gradually.