Beyond Admissions: Preparing Your High School Senior for College

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 his 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 he is still in high school, to help ensure his 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 his own doctor or dentist appointments or scheduling college visits, insist that he make the calls himself.  This will help your student get comfortable with phone interactions and also keep track of his calendar.  He’ll need these skills next year.
  • Make sure your student has a good calendar or planner and let him take over responsibility for his own schedule and appointments. If he misses an important appointment, meeting or deadline, have him deal with rescheduling.  Help him develop a workable system with reminders, but give the responsibility to him.
  • Make sure your student has a good, and reliable alarm clock, and let him be responsible for getting himself up and out of the door on time in the morning. If he sleeps through the alarm, misses the bus and is late to school, he’ll need to deal with the consequences.  No one will be checking up on him next year. (Please resolve that you won’t be calling him in the mornings to wake him 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 him about his options and what he might say to the teacher/counselor/coach/principal, but step away from the phone and let him handle it.  It will be important that your student be able to advocate for himself next year.  Let him practice now.
  • Help your student set up a budget, and talk to him about managing his money. If you are in the habit of paying for his expenses – clothes, activities, other expenses – give him a set amount and insist that he 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 his money beyond planning. If he doesn’t already have one, help him open a checking account and learn how to write checks, help him get a credit card and talk to him about compounding interest and minimum payments, make sure he has and knows how to use a debit card.
  • If your student takes any medications regularly or has serious allergies, make sure that he knows how to refill a prescription and work with his allergies. Talk about who should be notified at school.
  • Work with your student on the life skills he may need. Is he comfortable doing his own laundry?  Have him do his own this year.  Help him learn how to cook a few simple things to augment the dining hall food.  If he is taking a car to campus, make sure he knows 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 him grow in his independence and responsibility.

Related Posts:

New Year’s Resolutions for Soon-to-Be College Parents and their Students

Using Senior Year to Prepare Your Student for College Success

Eight Life Skills You Should Teach Your College Student Before He Heads to College

Soft Skills, Strong Success: Fifteen Skills for College Readiness


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