New Year’s Resolutions 2014: For Soon-to-Be College Parents and Their Students

This year we are focusing our New Year’s Resolutions on high school parents and their students.  If your student will be heading off to college in the fall, this is a big year for you, with significant changes ahead.  In one sense, you’ll have two opportunities for a New Year this year.  January, of course, brings the beginning of the calendar year, but September will mark a new beginning as well.

Now is the time to make some resolutions to help both you and your student through the next few months leading up to the ”big send-off” in August or September.  Perhaps you’ll make some new resolutions to get you through the final few months of the year then.

We shared some of these resolutions several years ago.  They haven’t changed, and in some ways their importance has increased, so we’re sharing them again.  We’ve included some resolutions for students as well.  Parents, consider sharing this list with your student.  Perhaps together you’ll be able to make the final few months of senior year not only more comfortable for everyone, but also more productive.

For high school parents

1)      Resolve that your student’s college choice, or the application process, or acceptance letters, will not be the first thing you talk about when you meet other parents.

2)      Resolve that you will not ask your student what she has decided to major in.  Try to steer others away from asking her as well.  Although it seems an innocent question that expresses interest, this puts pressure on your student to come up with an answer.  Encourage her to keep an open mind — and to know that being undecided can be OK at this point.

3)      Resolve to begin practicing some important communication skills with your high school student.  Try to listen more and talk a little less, keep open and honest lines of communication going.  Remember that your role in his life will be changing next year.  It won’t happen automatically if you’re not building the foundation this year.

4)      Resolve to keep the college process in perspective.  Getting into college — and deciding where to go to school — is important, but it should be only one part of your student’s life this year.  Remember that where your student goes to school is less important that what she does when she gets there.  She can create her success wherever she ends up.  Helping her understand that now will help through the college acceptance process this spring.

5)      Resolve to model de-stressing about the college decision process.  Try to relax — especially while waiting for acceptance letters. Your student will take her lead from you.

6)      Resolve to let your student make the final college choice. Remember that your student is the one going off to college.  He will be better able to adapt to difficult times if he is the one who made the final choice of college. If you insist on a particular school, and things don’t work out — for any reason, it will always be your fault.  Let your student take ownership of this decision.

7)      Resolve to read at least one book about the ”letting go” process and the college experience.  (Check out our book review section for some suggestions.)

8)      Resolve to accept the natural tendency of teenagers to begin the distancing process.  Use this year as a time to begin to step back.  We know it seems this is the year when you need to step in most, but try to hand off responsibility to your student.

9)      Resolve to begin the ”letting go” process now.  Buy your student a good alarm clock and don’t wake him up in the morning.  Make sure she knows how to do her own laundry.  Encourage him to be responsible for his own finances.  Help him prepare to be on his own in the fall.

10)  Resolve to remember that the college transition process happens to both your student and to you.  Remember that you will be undergoing changes as well.  Don’t forget to nurture yourself.

Bonus: Parents — resolve to bookmark College Parent Central — and sign up for our free newsletter — to continue to get information and support as you navigate the next few exciting years.  The more information that you have, the better armed you will be to help your student, and to feel more secure.


For high school students

1)      Resolve that you will not let your guard down this spring and become a victim of senioritis.  Remember that colleges will look at your final grades — and can even revoke acceptance if you slip too far.

2)      Resolve that once your applications are in you will relax and try not to worry about admissions.  Focus on senior year and enjoying this time before you need to make a final decision.

3)      Resolve to find somewhere to invest the energy and time you have now that the college application process is completed.  Take up a new hobby.  Do some community service.  Do something you love — just for you, not because it looks good on an application!

4)      Resolve to spend some time this spring investigating scholarships.  There are many hidden ones available.  Keep searching online and checking with your guidance office.

5)      Resolve to meet all spring deadlines.  File the FAFSA early.  Watch scholarship deadlines.  Make your college tuition and housing deposits on time.

6)      Resolve to spend some time thinking about your life goals.  You don’t need answers, and you certainly don’t need to plan your life, but give some thought to your goals for college.  Don’t just see it as a next step without knowing where you want it to take you and how you want to spend the next four years.  Just for yourself, answer the question, ”Why am I going to college?“

7)      Resolve to talk to your parents.  Remember they are nervous about you starting college too. Work at keeping lines of communication open.  Let them know what you are thinking.  Listen to some of their advice — whether or not you plan to take it. Try to imagine their perspective.  The more you work on this now, the more smoothly things will go in the fall.

8)      Resolve to keep an open mind about where you go to schoolWhat you do at college is going to be much more important than where you go to school.  Remember that the final decision will need to be your decision, based on your feelings and goals.  Don’t choose a school because someone else tells you that you should — or because someone you know is going there.

9)      Resolve to begin to take on more responsibility in your life in preparation for being on your own next year.  Prove to yourself and to your parents that you are ready to be responsible and independent.  Get yourself up in the morning, budget your money, clean up after yourself, keep your curfews and behave responsibly.  Your parents will be more comfortable about you heading off next year.

10)  Resolve to take some time to thank all of the people who helped you get where you are.  Think about family members, friends, teachers, counselors, and others who may have gone out of their way to help you.  Take time to let them know that you appreciate it.

This is a big year ahead for high school seniors and their parents.  Start now to think about what you can do to make the transition to college a smooth and successful one.

Happy New Year!

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