As the parent of a high school senior (or junior) you may be doing everything that you can to help your student make decisions and get into the college of their choice. This is an important time and there certainly are a lot of things to do. As your student works on the college admissions process, you may be drawn into the whirlwind along with your student.
This is a good time to stop and think about how the college admissions process has involved you either directly or indirectly.
Your student is
- preparing for PSAT, SAT and/or ACT exams,
- making sure that extracurricular activities and community service are documented,
- keeping grades strong,
- cleaning up social media accounts,
- attending college information workshops,
- completing financial aid applications,
- compiling lists of schools,
- attending college fairs,
- working with guidance counselors,
- making college visits,
- getting all paperwork organized,
- writing essays,
- sending out applications,
- and finally — waiting impatiently for admissions decisions.
It’s no wonder students — and parents — feel overwhelmed. Just thinking about the process can be exhausting. And once those applications are in the mail, you may feel as though the real work of senior year is done. Now you just wait — at least until letters arrive and new, and final, decisions need to be made.
Eight things you can do right now to help prepare your student for next year
The work of applying to college may be almost completed, but the work of preparing to succeed in college continues until your student leaves for Move-in Day next fall (and even beyond that).
Are there things that you can do right now, while they are still in high school, to help ensure success? The answer is, yes. Perhaps you’re already doing some of the following, but consider these suggestions.
- Let your student take over making any upcoming appointments. Whether scheduling their own doctor or dentist appointments or scheduling college visits, insist that they make the calls rather than you. This will help your student get comfortable with phone interactions and also keep track of their calendar. Your student will need these skills next year. Make sure your student has a good calendar or planner and let them take over responsibility for their own schedule and appointments. If your student misses an important appointment, meeting or deadline, have them deal with rescheduling. Help them develop a workable system with reminders, but give the responsibility to your student.
- Make sure your student has a good, and reliable alarm clock, and let them be responsible for getting up and out of the door on time in the morning. If your student sleeps through the alarm, misses the bus and is late to school, they’ll need to deal with the consequences. No one will be checking up next year. (Please resolve that you won’t be calling your student in the mornings to wake them up!)
- Put down the phone. Don’t call your student’s teacher, guidance counselor, coach, or principal unless there is a dire emergency (decide whether you need to redefine emergency). If your student has a problem, talk to them about options and what they might say to the teacher/counselor/coach/principal, but step away from the phone and let them handle it. It will be important that your student be able to self-advocate next year. Let them practice now.
- Help your student set up a budget, and talk to them about managing money. If you are in the habit of paying for your student’s expenses — clothes, activities, other expenses — give them a set amount and insist that they budget to make it work. Talk about how to keep track of spending and anticipate expenses. Many students say no one ever taught them how to manage their money, and most students say they want to learn this skill from their parents.
- Make sure your student is knowledgeable and competent in handling their money beyond planning. If your student doesn’t already have one, help them open a checking account and learn how to write checks, help them get a credit card and talk to them about compounding interest and minimum payments, make sure they have and know how to use a debit card.
- If your student takes any medications regularly or has serious allergies, make sure that they know how to refill a prescription and work with their allergies. Talk about who should be notified at school.
- Work with your student on the life skills they may need. Are they comfortable doing laundry? Have them do their own this year. Help them learn how to cook a few simple things to augment the dining hall food. If your student is taking a car to campus, make sure they know when and how to service and maintain it.
A few simple things put in place this year, while you are around to coach and encourage, will help your student feel even more competent and confident next year. And you’ll have the satisfaction of watching your student grow in independence and responsibility.
If your student is in high school, check out our e- 60 Practical Tips for Using the High School Years to Prepare for College Success. This guide is not about getting in to college. It is about how to work now to help your student succeed once they get to college. Open the door and get the conversations started!