For Parents: Preparing Your High School Graduate for College

Your baby isn’t such a baby anymore. They took a big step; they’re a high school graduate! Now what?

Many of you have reached out to your network of fellow parents and asked for tips on how to prepare your child for college. They’ve probably covered everything from applications to dorm room checklists. And since you’re a good parent, we know you’ve done everything they suggested (and maybe even went a little overboard).

The stuff no one tells you about

Now that your high school graduate has picked their college and is preparing to leave the nest, what’s left to do?

In a Psychology Today article, former Northwestern University Professor, Marika Lindholm, Ph.D. said no matter if her college students were high school valedictorians, first-generation college students, or college legacies, they all struggled with the same things:

“Every semester, I’d meet or hear about students who floundered in their new environment and quit. They simply couldn’t weather the academic and social challenge of college.”

Remember, this is a sensitive (and life-altering) time for recent high school grads. They’re about to say goodbye to the routine they’ve had in place their whole lives.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare your child to for college and all the new-found responsibilities that come with it:

Eyes on the prize

Reach for the stars.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

If you can dream it, you can be it.

These are all old adages we’ve come to reinforce in our children. But the part we sometimes leave out is how to turn dreams into a reality.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do for your budding adult is teach them the importance of goal-setting. Start by helping them define the goals they want to achieve during their first year of college. Finding clarity on goals makes it easier to make an action plan to reach them. It also provides perspective on what’s attainable and what’s not.

After defining their larger goals, help them plan short-term ones that work toward reaching bigger ones. And remember, not all goals have to revolve around grades. You can help them set goals around finances, part-time job options, making friends, wellness, and more.

Effective goal-setting helps make this huge transition from childhood to adulthood far less overwhelming for your all-grown-up child.

Adulting 101

This one might seem silly, but here are some startling statistics from a recent study:

  • Nearly 80% of millennials can’t fry an egg
  • Nearly 90% of millennials can’t cook a grilled cheese sandwich
  • Over 70% of millennials can’t make mashed potatoes from scratch

Millennial adults make up 40% of the working class and they say cooking isn’t the only skill they lack. In fact, many of them struggle with basic adults skills like balancing their finances, doing laundry, using public transportation, and more.

Remember, your brand-new college student lived with the extra support of you and your family for most of their life. It’s easy to see how doing it all by themselves could quickly become overwhelming. Take the summer to teach them some of these skills. It’s also a great way to bond before they’re off to college.

Talk about it

Set some time aside to talk about what to expect. Talk about the possible problems they might face and ways to solve them.

Help them find ways to cope with feelings like frustration, loneliness, and disappointment. Try exploring positive outlets like working out, journaling, or turning to a good friend. And most importantly, let them know it’s okay to ask for help, even if it’s not from you.

After all, they are growing up and that means letting them do exactly that. Sometimes growing up requires them to make a few mistakes here and there. And that’s okay. You’ll always be there, but letting them figure things out on their own might teach them more than protecting them will.

Need more tips on how to stay engaged with your student’s progress at school? Check out our Summit Learning Spotlight stories.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.