With the costs of college rising every year and the competition for scholarship monies increasing, it would be a relief to look into a crystal ball and see your student’s college future. That way you would know whether or not to make the investment. But even without those seer skills, there are things that a parent can do to increase the likelihood that their teenager will be successful in college.
Whether you have a high school senior, a freshman, or even a middle schooler, parents who expect their child to go on to higher education need to prepare those students to succeed in college while they are still living at home. If parents really want their students to successfully maneuver all the temptations of parties, late nights, and skipping classes while culling a college education, a degree, and the beginning of a career, they need to start preparing their teenagers long before the end of high school.
Academics, of course, are crucial; but parents need to realize that if a student can’t get herself up—or even get motivated to try— in time to make it to a class where she is one of 300, to listen to a lecture on a subject she doesn’t like but is required to take, where attendance is not taken and nobody checks to see why she isn’t there—well, that takes more than academic skills. It takes self-discipline, motivation, dedication, and a student who sincerely wants and understands the value and cost of that college education.
Likewise, if the student cannot handle conflict, cannot manage her time and priorities, cannot self-advocate, cannot manage his money, does not know when she needs help or how to get it, then despite a stellar grade point average, that teenager will be leaving home ill equipped for the challenges of college life.
Parents have been teaching most of these life skills since their kids were toddlers, but many need a new course of action once their kids hit adolescence; a time when teenage logic, impulses, and choices leave parents screaming for help.
Give teenagers graduated responsibilities with real, but reasonable consequences. Many will stumble and hopefully learn, but when they do make progress, they should be rewarded with more responsibility. Have your teenager make his own appointments to talk with a teacher over that missed assignment. Let her make the orthodontist appointment. Guide him to figure out his time and calendar and commitments—you will not be there to do it for him in college.
College is a time of change, more freedom, and new and challenging situations. Students who arrive already capable of solving conflicts with a roommate, who know how to safely handle themselves at a party, who can determine just how much time they need to study for that mid-term, are the students more likely to succeed in their academics. Look for opportunities to give your middle and high school students a chance to mature, to be responsible, to learn from failures and consequences, and to accept challenges. By doing so, you are guiding them toward college success.