Is Your Teen Ready for College
Life after high school brings new changes to the lives of many families. Parents are thrown into the new role of mentoring their adult children. Graduating teens are faced with the decision to attend college or to enter the work force.
So how do you know If your teen ready for college? To be honest, I’m not sure; I’ve never met your teen before. It’s ok though, I happen to know someone who knows your teen best and can determine if they are ready. That person is you. Read on to learn three simple tips to help you determine if your teen is ready for college.
Is Your Teen Organized / Disciplined?
College is typically the first time most teens move away from home. As we both know, the first taste of freedom is always the most intoxicating. A great way to gauge if your teen is ready for college is to simply see if they are organized and disciplined enough to manage the college lifestyle.
In college, you won’t be there to remind your teen to clean up their room, attend class and take care of themselves. Ask yourself, is your teen organized? Can they handle the pressure of balancing an academic life, a social life and a work life? Do they have enough mental discipline to attend class when nobody is forcing them to?
Sit down with your teen and discuss the realities of college. Make it clear to them that, in order for them to succeed, it’s going to require high levels of mental discipline and organization. If your teen could use some improvement in those departments, work with them to find solutions. This can be a fun way to bond and you might learn a thing or two!
Do They Know What They Want to Do?
College is perfect for people who know exactly what they want to accomplish with their life. College is also a great way to accumulate unnecessary debt when you attend college without knowing what you really want to pursue. Why? College is expensive; really expensive. A way to determine if your teen is ready to attend school is to see if they know what they want to pursue.
Teens need to have a vision in order to see their path. After all, without vision, you’re blind! Sit down and ask your teen a few questions. What does your teen want to do with their life? What is your teen passionate about? Is a college degree required for your teen to realize their dreams?
These are big questions that will be replied with bigger responses. If your teen has a dream and college can help them achieve it, they should go.
What’s the best way to determine if your teen is ready for college? Simply ask them if they are! Get feedback from your teen to determine if they feel ready. They might say that they are, they might say that they’re not. You know, addressing the elephant in the room sure seems to work wonders!
It’s important to have an open dialogue, as it helps both parties build trust in each other. If your teen does decide that they are ready for college, have them call the admissions team at the university to get the process started.
How to Help Your Teen Tackle Their College Applications
Scholarships. FAFSA. Grants. Essays. Major. Letters of Recommendation.
Welcome to the college application.
At 16 or 17 years old, most teenagers are focused on friends, driving, earning enough money to go to a concert and doing well enough in school to stay on the football team. Add a pile of college applications to that and you have an extremely overwhelmed, sleep-deprived teenager.
The process of applying to colleges is not a quick or easy one. While some schools may simply require a college application and “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up” essay, many require an extensive application, 2-3 essays, 1-2 letters of recommendation, official transcripts, proof of extra-curricular success, a high SAT score and large application fee.
This isn’t something your teen should have to do completely on their own. So how can you, as a parent or older sibling, help your child get into the right school without stepping on their independence?
Set up a Schedule (and Stick to it)
Set aside a time each day (or at least three times a week) for your child to research college applications. If applying to many schools, have your student make a spreadsheet of what is required for each college and the deadlines for materials. This will help you and your student stay organized and diligent.
Most colleges begin accepting student applications for the following year in the fall. While your FAFSA may not be completed at this point, it is still so important to get a head start on college essays. Set aside time for editing as these essays will not be a single-day affair. Expect to start this process in the summer leading up to your child’s senior year, if not mid-junior year. Trust us, it will be worth it not to scramble to get everything in on time.
Get an Extra Pair of Eyes (and Hands)
Look into hiring a college admissions counselor to serve as an additional pair of eyes as well as someone who can lend a helping hand in the process. Many of these tutors and counselors have helped hundreds of students get into various programs. Take it a step further and arrange time for your child to speak with a current student or dean at the school of choice for some inside tips on what admissions staff are looking for.
There are going to be many days where your child simply wants to throw in the towel and attend the school with the simplest application process. Continue to encourage them and remind them of the reasons they are choosing specific schools. Have a financial talk about how these scholarships will help them in life after they graduate by decreasing the amount of student loan debt they have. Be positive and let your child really voice their opinion and feelings on attending college. Never add more pressure unless completely necessary.
Think you’re ready to tackle those applications?
How to Prepare for Your Student’s Transition to College
The college application has been submitted, the acceptance letter has been received and you just finished dotting the “I” on the deposit check. Darn you’re good. Let me be the first to wish you congratulations! Your kid is going to college! Your hard work and great parenting has paid off!
The transition period between your student graduating high school and starting college is an emotional journey. You’ll find yourself feeling excited, anxious, worried, hopeful and every emotion in between. It’s understandable; as Bob Dylan once crooned, “The times, they are a changin” Below is a guide to help you prepare for your student’s transition to college. Enjoy.
Acknowledge the Situation for What it is
The best way to begin to prepare for your student’s transition to college is to simply acknowledge the situation for what it is. If you’re feeling mixed emotions, something along the line of anxiousness and hopefulness for the future, know that it’s completely normal to feel that way! It means you are realizing that your child is taking the next step in their life and accepting change is inherently emotional. It’s ok, we’re only human. When you recognize your emotions and responses for what they really are, you view life through the vivid lenses of reality. Reality takes away the sting of uncertainty and keeps you centered.
Read the School Material
Do you remember the countless forms you read and filled out in order to put your student in a position to attend college? I wish I could tell you that your form filling, paperwork days were over but they only just begun! Use the transition period to fill out all the required paperwork and read any material that the college sends you. This step is often missed, which can have you make unnecessary mistakes.
Thankfully, colleges want your student to start off with their best foot forward. The materials they send you will typically advise what you should bring to the dorms, what you and your student can expect and free resources that the college offers to students and parents. Be sure read all the material that is sent your way in order to ensure a smooth transition.
Make Doctor Appointments
Don’t you love making doctor appointments? Yeah, me neither. However, good health certainly makes for peace of mind. Use the transition time to set all of the required doctor appointments to ensure that your student is in good health. It’s a necessarily evil.
Attend Student / Parent Summer Orientation
Summer orientation is the perfect way to break the ice into the next chapter of your life. Try to attend summer orientation as it offers a number of great benefits. Orientation makes you aware of college expectations, introduces you to key members of the university faculty, helps you learn important information, puts your student in a position to meet their classmates and brings a sense of reality to you and your student.
Support Your Student
The best thing you can do to prepare for your student’s transition to college is to simply support them! As a parent realize that your student is starting the next chapter of their life and more than anything your student wants to know that you have their back. Support your student, I know you want to anyways!
Should You Encourage Your Student to Get a Job while in College?
It doesn’t matter if your kid is going off for their freshman year of college or if they are earning a degree, it is always difficult to know whether or not you should put the pressure on them to get a job while they are in college. You don’t want to push them too hard and make them miserable during a time in their lives when you want them to have fun, but you also don’t want to coddle them financially and fail to teach them the importance of working a job. If you’re not sure how to approach the situation, you’re going to need to ask yourself a few questions before you can decide if you should encourage your student to get a job in college.
How Old is Your Child?
If your child is one of those wonder kids who finished high school a few years early and is going off to college at a very young age, then you might not want to encourage them to get a job just yet. Adjusting to living independently and leading a life with kids that are much older can be daunting enough, so you might want to give them a year to get used to things a bit. However, if your child is at least 18 or has had a year or two of college to adjust, then it’s probably not a bad idea for them to get a job.
Do They Have a Full Schedule?
Even if your kid is going to school full-time, they will probably have enough time on their hands to get a job. Then again, if they are also playing for one of the college’s athletic teams or are part of an elite performance program within the school, then that may be a lot to expect of them. If you’re unsure whether or not they actually have time, you should ask them to try for at least a semester and see if it affects their grades. If they can still manage and they enjoy having the extra cash, then the answer is clear.
Can You Afford to Support Them?
If your kid is doing well in school and not getting into any kind of trouble, and you can afford to support them financially, then they might not need to get a job just yet. You just want to make sure that they are finding ways to prove that they are responsible and understand that taking on school is their job. If they are, then you really don’t need to worry, they will have the rest of their life to work a job. Just let them be a college student. However, if they aren’t earning good grades, getting a job might be the source of discipline that they need in life.
Has Your Child Ever Had a Job Before?
If your child has never had a job, then they might be opposed to it just because they are nervous about what it will be like. If they have had a job and they have shown you that they can be responsible and earn the support of their boss, then they really don’t need to prove anything to you or anyone else. Just let them work hard at being a student.
Should You Encourage Your College Student to Study Abroad?
Don’t you love being forced to make difficult decisions? Yeah, me neither! Due to the rise of social media, the average college student has been exposed to more sites and sounds from all over the world more times than ever before. In the ever-shrinking world that we live in, studying abroad has been an increasingly popular program for college students.
Here’s where it gets complicated, should you encourage your student to study abroad? I mean, when you your student studies abroad, they’re thousands of miles away from home. What if they need you? You certainly don’t want to intentionally send your kid into harms way, right?
But on the other hand you might think that studying abroad will make your child well rounded. Decisions, decisions. Fortunately for you, I have made a list of simple tips to help you determine if you should encourage your kid to study abroad.
Find Out The “Why”
If your student truly wants to study abroad, they likely have a good reason. Your next step is simple. Open your mouth, address the elephant in the room, and find out exactly why your student wants to study abroad. Communication is a beautiful thing, right?! Maybe your student wants to study abroad because they always dreamed of performing international business. Maybe your child wants to study abroad because they heard stories from when you went overseas and have always admired your experience. Or perhaps your student wants to study abroad because they are a humanitarian at heart and have the most joy meeting and helping strangers.
If your child’s “why” is academic based and you can see them benefiting from their experience abroad, you should encourage them. If your student wants to study abroad because they think it will be a vacation, you should try to steer them in another direction. Whatever reason your student chooses, acknowledge it. The best way to solve any problem is to start with the why.
Do Your Research
Ok, so now that you know the “why” behind your student’s reason to study abroad, it’s now on both of you to do the research. Here is a list of some basic questions to answer: How much does studying abroad cost? How will your student benefit from their experience overseas? What will happen in case of emergencies? Is your student organized and disciplined enough to handle life thousands of miles away from home? Is your student mature enough to live in another country? Is the area safe? Are there any people you can meet with that have done this program before? If so, what did they say? What do they recommend? How does the process work? Where do I even sign up? What are the benefits to studying abroad? What are the drawbacks?
Research is always necessary in solving any difficult question; this situation is no different. Complete your research to give yourself a better idea if your student is ready to study abroad.
Make a Decision
Now that you have all of the information you need about this situation, it’s time to make a decision. So how do you know if you should encourage your student to study abroad? It’s simple: If the benefits outweigh the risks, you should allow your student to study abroad. Life is so short that if studying abroad benefits your student, let them have this experience. It’s not often that your student will be in position to receive college credit and live in another country ever again. Make sure if you decide to let your student study abroad that their school’s credits will transfer over.
What Should You Do If Your College Student Gets Homesick?
While this phrase has gained popularity in memes around the Internet, the struggle can be real for first-time college students experiencing life away from home. It can be easy to succumb to your child’s insecurity, but it’s also important to remember that they are blossoming on their own, and that they’re going to be just fine.
So what do you do when you receive a call or text telling you your college student is homesick?
Remember That a Little Homesickness is Normal
Your child is in a brand new environment surrounded by new possessions, people, and activities. The loss of the comfort of parents, friends, childhood belongings and a regular routine, not to mention sleeping three feet from a person they hardly know, can make a child feel a bit lost and unstable. Be reassuring and comforting, reminding them that they are embarking on a brand new adventure while still validating their feelings.
Suggest Possible Ways for Your Child to Get Involved
In order to feel at “home,” a person needs to be connected. Are there any clubs or organizations your child has an interest in? Are there people they can talk to such as counselors, campus leaders or fellow roommates? What events are happening around campus that could switch up the routine a bit? Is there someone they’re attracted to or interested in? Asking these questions will help put your child back in the present place and time.
Explain That They are in Transition
Even if the homesickness makes an appearance a few weeks into the semester, your child is still making the transition between childhood and young adulthood. Mom making soup for them whenever they are sick and sleeping in their childhood bed with mementos strung about is not part of their life anymore. The change happens quickly but the adjustment is what takes time and energy. Continue to emphasize the fact that they are in college, living the life, accomplishing their dream and it will in fact get easier!
Suggest Relaxation Exercises
It may be that your homesick college student is stressing themselves out to the point of exhaustion. Suggest a few relaxation exercises they can practice such as doing yoga, going for a run, listening to music, taking deep breaths or participating in meditation.
Once your child takes a few breaths they will be able to think more clearly and rationally.
Pay Attention to Serious Signs of Adjustment Issues
While it is common for a homesick student to feel a bit depressed, be wary of signs such as extreme drug use or drinking, suicidal thoughts, avoiding social situations or academic difficulties. If these sort of symptoms make an appearance, encourage your student to speak to someone right away. If they still seem reluctant, see if there is a way for you to contact a counselor at the school who can reach out to your child.
Your child is embarking on an amazing adventure and there are sure to be some growing pains along the way. Stay positive!