In the midst of worrying about college admissions, it can be easy to forget that your child’s high school years aren’t just about getting into college. High school is also an important time for developing the life skills necessary to do well in college and into adulthood. Here are five ways parents can help their high schoolers prepare for success in college.
Help your child choose the appropriate level of academic challenge. High school academics lay the foundation for academic success in college. However, this doesn’t mean that piling on a full slate of AP courses is right for every teen. Encourage your child to make thoughtful course selections, taking into account both individual strengths and weaknesses and a reasonable work-life balance. Also, discuss how high school coursework aligns with what your student will be studying in college. For instance, strong quantitative skills are a requirement to do well in many college courses; taking math through senior year in high school can help make the transition to those courses go more smoothly.
Cut the reins. It’s nice to be needed, but as your child nears the end of high school, your goal as a parent should be to be needed less. Gradually give your child more freedom to make her own decisions and manage their own schedule: for instance, making and attending a doctor's appointment alone, picking up a prescription from the pharmacy, or dealing with a difficult coach. Sure, it’s likely that your child will make a few mistakes along the way, but it will be better to make those mistakes – and learn how to fix them – before going to college.
Make reading a family affair. Remember reading story books to your young child? That activity likely helped your child learn to read. Even with teens, reading together as a family is just as important. Few teens, of course, want to be tucked into bed with a story, but there are ways that you can help your child continue to develop the strong reading skills needed in college. Clip or email articles that might interest your child and suggest you discuss them. Ask questions about the books read in English class: What do you like about the book? What have you learned? Better yet, get a copy of a few of the same books, read them yourself, and talk to your child about your thoughts and impressions of the books.
Travel. College introduces students to many new ideas, cultures, and ways of doing things. Travel is a great way to help your teen get comfortable with new environments and people. You don’t have to go all the way to Europe on a fancy trip for your child to reap the rewards. Even a quick trip to a new city an hour or two from home can help your child begin to see how to approach the larger world that awaits them in college.
Teach life skills. Academic success is important, but in order to live independently in college, your teen still needs to know how to do laundry, balance a checkbook, and make simple meals. Make a list of all of the basic day-to-day tasks you do for your child today, and gradually teach your child how to do each one on the list. Along with practical skills, teens should also work on the communication skills that are essential when living with a roommate. Coping with their emotions and interpersonal skills are also important as they venture into their new environment. Don’t wait until the summer before college to get started. The sooner your child is able to confidently handle these tasks, the easier the transition to college will be.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by The College Advisor, and prepared for our clients and their families.