Getting Them Started: Parental Tips for College


They grow up so fast. One day they are taking their first wobbly, little steps and before you can even blink, they are heading out the door to start their own life. As your child grows, matures and begins to think about who they are, who they want to be and what they want to do with their life, it is a parent’s duty to help guide them through and that includes creating a plan for life beyond high school – whether that means attending college, beginning a trade career, or taking time off to backpack through Europe. As your child ages, it is up to you to plant the seeds to get them thinking about the next steps in their life. What will that be? If your student has expressed interest in a profession that requires a college degree, then helping them plan for it is one of the best ways to set them up for success.


Here’s a few tips to guide you toward your child’s collegiate success:

  1. Start early.
    The best time to plant the seeds for your child’s future is when they first enter high school. It’s a great time to discuss extracurricular activities and how they can be important when applying to colleges. Most public schools have a plethora of clubs and societies that can help spruce up a resume. Remember: it’s about planting seeds, encouragement and support – never force.
  2. Teach finances.
    As your child proceeds through their high school experience, they may begin job hunting, paying car insurance, and more. Teach them fiscal responsibility so that they understand how to save and how to spend when they are away. Teach them how to responsibly use a credit or debit card and the problems irresponsibility can create.
  3. Teach goal attainment.
    If they are interested in getting a head start on college, help them enroll in AP classes or early programs that are offered. Work with them on gaining the correct amount of high school credits and how to plan ahead. For financial goals, help them apply for scholarships and other funding that they may need. Help them to plan for and meet application and testing deadlines.
  4. Have the “college talk.”
    Many feel that this is the hardest thing to do; but when they are ready to go, make sure you address the topics of drugs, alcohol, sex and how to be responsible when dealing with all three. They will see, hear about and be exposed to all three when they are on their own – pretending they will not is foolish. This may be your last chance to assure them that you will be there for them if needed.
  5. Guide them through the process, then let them go.
    Help them choose a school, get them enrolled, move them into their new surroundings and support them. They are adults, let them handle it from here. However, it’s okay to call them every week (every day, not-so-much).


Parent Don’ts

We all want what’s best for our children, but going too far can do more harm than good.

  1. Don’t fill out your child’s applications, write their resume or essays. By all means take a look and edit, but don’t take over. They need to learn.
  2. Don’t choose their college or course of study for them. If they don’t want to go to your alma mater, let it be. Help them choose a place and profession that is best for them.
  3. Don’t dissuade from an interest. If your child wants to work in a profession you don’t understand or undervalue, never guilt them into choosing something else; instead, work to learn about their interest and help them pursue it.
  4. Don’t be a helicopter parent. Your role is now to support. It is inevitable that they will make mistakes; when it happens, help them to learn from and grow through it. Let them live their life!

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