Ever since the first day that we brought our child home, we knew the day would come when we’d need to start preparing them for college life. And yet, no matter how much we tell ourselves that, there never seems to be enough time. One day, they are sitting in a high chair and the next they are studying for their ACTs.
If you currently have a junior or senior living in your home, then you know better than anyone that the clock is now officially ticking. In a matter of what will seem like several hours (even if it is many months), they will be leaving high school and heading off to the institution that will prepare them for living out their adult lives.
So, how can you properly prepare them for what’s in store? That’s a pretty loaded question, but here are five ways to get a good head start.
Encourage them to stay academically disciplined. Traditionally, we encourage kids to take it easier their senior year. Sure, there is time for fun and making some unforgettable memories (like prom and their senior trip). But the reality is that after that year, they are freshman once again and the demands in college tend to be unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. By encouraging them to keep a study schedule, to read on a daily basis and to stay in touch with their teachers about how they can improve and get extra credit work, it will condition them to take those healthy study habits onto their college campus.
Teach them to keep a budget. A lot of us tend to learn the long and hard way about why it’s so vital to keep an itemized budget. So, before your child has to deal with things that overdraft fees, maxing out credit cards and messing up their credit, teach them the tools that they need to budget their money now. It’s never too early to have a savings account. It’s never too early to allot only a certain amount of money for “fun” things. And it’s never too early to get them books on these kinds of topics. As a matter of fact, one of the best things that a parent can do for their child is to teach them how to be financially savvy and stable.
Be honest about your own college experience. Sure, we’d all like our kids to think that we were straight A virgins who never skipped class, had a drink underage or disappointed our parents, but come on, we all live in the real world. Your “good points” can serve as inspiration, but you might be surprised how much some of your “bad ones” can be a wonderful word of caution. Teenagers are far more intuitive than we tend to give them credit for. So, be (appropriately and relevantly) honest. They can handle it and will probably respect you all the more for it.
Make sure they are self-sufficient. If your kids are going to be living on campus (or an apartment), they should know how to wash their own clothes, balance a check book and cook their own meals. Unfortunately, some find out that they don’t do any of these things well until they are already on campus. If your child lived in a house where you did everything for them, the world is going to seem pretty overwhelming. Use this time to do a bit of “crash course teaching” on general life/maintenance skills.
Inspire them to dream big. Some teens are ready to go to college just to move away from home, while others do have a sense of what they want to do with their lives. No one should be a bigger cheerleader in a child’s life than their parents. So, if they want to be a businessperson, encourage them to check out online MBA degrees. If they want to be a chef, ask them if they’ve considered running their own restaurant. If they want to be a teacher, talk to them about getting a master’s so that they can grow in the field. The more that you tell them that the sky is the limit, the more they will start to believe it!