Preparing a Teen for College – What Your Teenager Needs to Know

Ha! Is there really a way to prepare a teen for anything, let alone college and the expanse of total freedom that will find them knee deep in choices, opportunities, and trouble! Experts say that there most definitely is and that the best time to start is as young as possible. In college, there are few leniencies when it comes to homework and test grades and many experience this seemingly lackadaisical approach and respond with laziness of their own. Then your teen ends up having to work from behind which can stymie their success and easily overwhelm them. The following tips on preparing a teen for college should start as they enter high school and be facilitated by parents who want their children to succeed and have fun as they enter higher learning.

First of all – teaching children how to prioritize and schedule themselves is important. Your teen has no clue how long things will really take them and they easily get lost in time when they are having fun. Most teens procrastinate everything from brushing their teeth to finishing a 5,000-word essay. Once they start high school, begin allowing them to schedule their time for schoolwork and pleasure. Rather than just depend on them to do so, stress how important it is to be accurate in their personal planning and help them understand that the better they plan their responsibilities – the more time they will have to goof off (or sleep). Allow them to show you what is expected of them and devise a schedule. Each week, make sure that they deliver their schedule to you and have you sign off on it. This way, you and them can be sure that they are sticking to their own plan, and since it is theirs – they can take control and ownership of it. Similarly, even if you see a huge miscalculation – try to let it be so that your child reaps the consequences and can make appropriate alterations in the future. This is the only way they will learn. After a few months, the schedule can simplify family matters and will help them learn time budgeting that will be crucial in college.

Speaking of budgeting – money should also be part of the grander picture. Many parents are eager to throw their own financial future under the bus in order to fund a trip to an SEC college. Rather than dive head first, consider having your child attend locally at first until they can prove their worthiness of a quarter of a million dollars. Financial experts encourage parents to save for their own retirement since it cannot be financed once you stop working. This means that involving your child in the financial aid process, payments, costs (from parking to dorms and food) will ensure that they are not walking into the situation blind. In high school, encourage your child to work and pay for certain amenities on their own such as car insurance or car payments. There is no written rule for parenthood that dictates a parent has to pay for expensive cars without their children helping. In fact, paying the way will serve to be a grand disservice to your child in the long run and through adult hood. Learn to say no early in their teen years, force them to be financially responsible for themselves on as many levels as possible and don’t be a pushover. This way you and your teen can come up with a financial plan that works.

You also have to prepare a teen for college by being honest with them. No parent wants to see their child grow up and into the deep world of sexual promiscuity, drinking, and drugs. BUT – you have to remain aware that this world exists for your child and is awaiting them in college. Many of the kids who have had no freedom in their life to experience negative situations are completely unprepared to face them in real life. These might be the intellectual kids, the class genius – and they are just as susceptible as the rest. Never carry the thinking that your child would never do something….because they will. And college offers the perfect opportunity. Talk to them about what is going on in their high school; remain open to hearing what they have to say about sex, drinking, and drugs. Be candid and non-judgmental in your conversations and realize that they already know much more than you give them credit for! This does not mean you should allow your child to drink, or encourage them to try drugs – but you should allow them to make a few mistakes of their own along the way. By holding the reins to tightly in high school, your child will react like a caged beast once they leave the nest.

Another aspect of preparing your teen for college is preparing yourself. Typically, parents become sad and weepy; and feel as though their child’s graduation presents a certain end in their life. They may pressure their child to visit often or unintentionally hold their children back from flying – by clipping their wings emotionally. Your child at this age – as they are about to enter college – are quite simply standing at the threshold to the next phase in their life. Just as potty training didn’t last forever, this one won’t either. Part of being a good parent is realizing that our children are individuals and that a mom and dads purpose is to lead them to themselves – rather than lead them in your own personal direction. They will leave and come back a thousand times from the minute they take their first steps. If you feel you have successfully parented your child and have built a solid family unit – then you can feel safe in letting them go.

Preparing a teen for college is not something that can be done in a day, a year, or even two years. It is something that parents should begin thinking about and planning for emotionally and physically – as soon as your child is ready. By offering children, even young teens – opportunity for growth and responsibility, you will find that as college approaches they are ready for life in more ways than educationally. Job well done mom and dad! Job well done.



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