February 15, 2021

Parents: Get Your High School Student Ready

By B&SC Admissions Team

Parents: Get Your High School Student Ready

Giving Them the Skills They Need for College

Making sure your high school student is prepared for college is about more than making sure they have a laptop and ramen

First off, congratulations. If you’re reading this, years of your hard work, love and parental support have paid off: Your son or daughter is going to college. Enjoy this moment.

OK, now you can go back to worrying. (It’s what parents do. No biggie.) You’ve already made sure they have the laptop chargers and school sweatshirts they’ll need. But what about the skills they need to thrive? What do they need to know about life that they don’t know? And if they aren’t 100% prepared, how can you use the few months before they head off to help them?

College is a big experience for them and for you. Your student can absolutely handle it, even if they don’t have all the skills they need right at this moment. The first step is for both of you to believe that they can be a success. The second step is to help them develop their skills. Luckily, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of students start college, and we have a pretty good idea of what they need to hit the ground running.

Here’s how you can help them.

Give Them the Financial Aid Talk

Kids your son’s or daughter’s age are just learning to handle money. Sure, they’ve got a job, and maybe a basic checking account, but for all the big decisions they rely on you. Then all of a sudden they’re in college, navigating financial forms that require tax returns, taking out loans and making financial decisions that will affect them for years.

When it comes to financial aid, most freshman don’t even know what they need to know. The students figure their parents will take care of the money stuff. The parents assume that this is something the school takes care of. A lot falls through the cracks.

This is the time to teach yourself the financial aid fundamentals: How to fill out FAFSA, how aid works, how loans work and what deadlines you need to meet. It’s too much to go into here, but there are a lot of great resources out there (like this one, and this one.)

Take an hour or two, learn the basics and when you think you have them down, find the time to teach them to your student. A little effort now can save them a lot of confusion and stress in a year or two.

Make Sure They Understand the Big Picture

We’ve noticed that incoming students are often great at tackling the assignment or the class that’s right in front of them. But because they’re still so young, they sometimes miss the big picture. The big picture is that college is only the first step in having the career they want.

There are lots of additional steps that students often aren’t thinking of. Like maybe the career they’re aiming for requires passing professional licensure exams. Maybe the students need to do an internship to get hands-on experience. Maybe they need to be thinking about what specialty they want to pursue.

When you check in with your son or daughter and they tell you how classes are going, ask them questions (without nagging; we know they hate that) that help them see beyond the semester. Ask them questions like “How will this class help you in your career?” or “Once you’ve finished this class, what’s your next step?”

The more they get used to answering these questions, the more they’ll get used to thinking more than one step ahead.

Show Them How You Communicate

You pay your kids’ phone and data bill, so no one knows better than you that students are communicating all the time, in every possible way.

Still, one thing we’ve noticed is that while most students coming out of high school can easily tap out a hundred text messages a minute, some of them don’t know how to communicate in a professional way. They’re used to talking with their friends, their family and high school teachers who still view them as kids.

When they make the move to college and are expected to communicate in a more formal way, many approach their instructors as if they were friends, and are confused when the instructors don’t seem receptive.

Just as you’ve taken some time to help them understand financial aid, do the same with communication. Explain to them how you need to approach an instructor when you need extra help or are confused about something. It can help to show them examples from your job – maybe emails or texts with your boss or colleagues – for them to get it in a concrete way.

Build Their Resilience

No matter how well you prepare them, college is going involve some setbacks for your kid. As a parent it’s hard to see them miss a deadline or not do as well on a test as they could have, but it’s all part of the experience.

What’s important is that your student is resilient: that they learn from the setback and keep pushing themselves forward.

Resilience is often something we learn by example. We know we can handle a setback because people we’ve known have handled similar ones. As you’re preparing your student for school, and as you’re listening to them throughout the semester, remind them that setbacks will happen, and share times when you’ve encountered setbacks and overcome them.

You’re A Big Part of Their Success

As a parent, watching your kid go to college can feel like the end of something. And it is: They’re no longer a child.

But when they go to college, something much bigger is beginning. They’re launching their adult lives and building successful careers. And as a parent, you have just as big a role in helping them become successful adults as you did helping them grow through childhood.

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