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Helping Your Child Prepare for College

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Preparing to go to college is an exciting time in any teenager’s life, but it can also be challenging. After all, living the university life is a major transition, providing more freedom than ever before. Before your child heads off to college, follow these tips to help them prepare for the change and increase their chances of having a successful undergraduate experience.

Teach Them Life Skills

In school, your child may be getting the education needed to prepare for going off to college, but there are certain life skills they won’t get in the classroom. It’s up to you to prepare your son or daughter to handle these important tasks on their own, such as laundry, cooking, and managing a budget. Learning to take care of yourself is tough, but it’s something that will benefit your child as they go off on their own.

Provide hands-on experience by setting aside a night each week where your child is responsible for preparing and cooking the family meal. Show them how to use the washing machine and dryer to take over the laundry duties. Budgeting is another important skill, especially if your child will be paying their own way through college.

Walk Around the Campus

If the college or university campus your child will be attending is close enough to visit, plan to spend some time there as a dry run. These visits will be especially beneficial if they already have their class schedule, as walking around the campus to check out each building where classes will be held can help your new student feel more confident on their first day of school. If you can’t visit in person, use online and printed resources, such as virtual campus tours and public transportation routes to map out a plan of attack.

Engage in Tough Conversations

When kids get out on their own for the first time, they need to understand the potential risks associated with certain behaviors for their own safety. Walking around at night may be perfectly safe in your neighborhood, but that action could put them at risk if they’re on their own near a college campus. Have the tough conversations with your teen and provide tips, such as how to get out of a potentially risky situation and what to carry for self-defense. Other important topics to discuss include drug and alcohol use, consent, sexual assault, dating safety, and hazing.

The emotional well-being of your new college student is also important. If your son or daughter is used to having you to talk to, they may struggle in a new situation with people they don’t know as well or with whom they don’t feel as comfortable opening up about their needs. Research the university’s resources available to students, such as counseling and peer support, to ensure that your teen knows where to go for assistance.

Help Them Track Deadlines

Certain deadlines are non-negotiable for colleges and universities, and missing one could result in serious consequences for your teen. While they do need to become responsible for their own time management and deadline tracking, helping them keep track of any potential deadlines could reduce the risk of them losing out on an opportunity to secure housing or pay the required fees on time. One way to help is to get your teen a calendar that they can use to write important dates and deadlines. If you’re both tech-savvy, using an online shared calendar could also provide access to that information from anywhere.

Provide Support for Financial Needs

College is a major expense, and many students rely on financial aid and student loans to pay for the cost. Even if you’re not financially supporting your child’s college costs, you can still assist by providing the documentation they’ll need when applying for financial assistance and loans. Many schools use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what aid students qualify for, but some colleges and universities require a supplemental financial aid form, the CSS/PROFILE, which has an earlier deadline than the FAFSA.

Encourage Time Management

Learning to manage your own time is an essential aspect of entering into adulthood, and it’s a skill that your teen needs to learn before they’re on their own. After all, if they’re always relying on you to wake them up to get to school on time or keep them apprised of any upcoming appointments, they may struggle when it comes to setting alarms and managing their schedules.

In the months leading up to when your teen will start college, discuss the importance of time management and take a step back in the help you provide. Encourage your child to get up without your assistance, make their own breakfast, and keep track of their own schedule to help them prepare for college life.

Discuss Work and Social Needs

College is a great time to explore interests and connect with like-minded individuals. Joining clubs and organizations can help your teen form connections with other students, as well as build networks that can benefit them personally and professionally. Talk about the various options available on campus to help your teen determine what they might be interested in being part of when they start school. Certain opportunities, such as volunteering clubs, social activism, and academic organizations, may be more beneficial in the future, while other opportunities are designed for fun and the mental well-being of their participants.

Plan the Timeline 

Preparing your child for the responsibilities they’ll face when they go off to college can start early. Many parents begin some aspects of preparation when their teens begin high school before ramping up the responsibility as the kids reach grades 11 and 12. Your timeline for college prep depends on the needs and personality of your child, as some teenagers are naturally more responsible and on top of things than others.

At Spark Admissions, we understand the complexities that come with preparing a child to go to college. We’ve helped students located around the globe get into their dream schools, and our helpful team members can provide expert guidance on every step of preparing for and applying to college, from building strong applications to navigating the demands of this exciting but occasionally daunting stage of life.

 

 

 

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