By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
Taking college entrance exams, researching and applying for financial aid and scholarships, visiting colleges and meeting admissions counselors: by the time a student reaches his or her junior year of high school, there is certainly a long list of to-dos to prepare for the college search and application process. Your teen’s guidance or college counselor will assist him or her each step of the way, and perhaps you have taken on that role as well: making sure he or she takes an entrance exam preparatory course, writes a compelling essay — and does everything in between.
When it comes time to finally send your teen off to college to live on his or her own for the first time, however, perhaps you can’t help but panic. You might question your teen’s self-motivation or organizational skills, or his or her ability to handle college-level coursework. Sure, he or she might have performed well in high school, but how will your teen fare without you nudging him or her out of bed in the morning?
Here are five ways to help your teen prepare for college:
Raise a reader. Many college courses require heavy reading, so encouraging your child to read from an early age will benefit him or her greatly in the long run. Students who read regularly (both for pleasure and for school) communicate more effectively and have a stronger comprehension ability and vocabulary.
Help your child become a better writer. Students who struggle to write coherently and clearly may find college overwhelming, as many college classes require reports, essays and other written projects. However, not all children take to writing at a young age, so it is important to help your child fine-tune this skill by the time he or she reaches high school. At college and beyond, writing is a necessity.
Teach your child to be organized. Research shows that students who are organized do better in school, so promote this skill from the time your child starts kindergarten. Your teen should use a planner or calendar to track his or her homework and other responsibilities. Teach him or her to keep a tidy desk and room, and to have a place for everything: books, graded assignments, school folders and more.
Teach your child about good time management. College students may be experiencing freedom for the first time in their lives, and it isn’t uncommon for such independence to promote bad habits, such as skipping classes and procrastinating. Your teen will be much more successful at college—and much less stressed—if he or she has mastered the concept of time management. You can help your high school student by teaching him or her to establish a routine (try a family calendar in the kitchen, and be sure your teen has and uses a day planner) and by encouraging prioritization and goal setting.
Talk about college early. It’s never too early to plant the “college seed” in your child’s mind, letting him or her know that getting into college will require hard work and dedication, and that once he or she is there, the workload will be much greater than in high school. Be sure your teen understands that college professors will expect him or her to think critically, be attentive and work independently.
Going to college is a major transition for your teen, and the preparation should begin even before he or she reaches high school. Work with your teen to instill good study habits and time management practices so that when he or she arrives at college, your teen will be comfortable balancing a variety of fun activities and school priorities. Remember: Getting into college isn’t enough. Help your teen be ready for a significant and exciting life change.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at 818-907-5557.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.