How can I prepare my teen for college?
Real Mom Problem
“How are you preparing your teens for the realities of living on a college campus? My daughter is in her second semester of her senior year and is absolutely consumed by anything college-related now.”
- 1. Talk to your teen regularly about life: goals, dreams, professions, costs, colleges, family, etc.
- 2. Encourage learning life skills like laundry, cooking, managing finances, etc.
- 3. Talk about schooling options, the cost of college, and working towards/applying for scholarships
- 4. Praise them for good grades, accomplishments, and for trying their best
- 5. Encourage your teens to follow their dreams and set goals
Real Mom Solutions
College is an exciting time for teens, but they won't have the same comforts and securities of high school. See what these moms suggest for preparing your teens for college.
Help Them Hone Their Life Skills
My son and daughter know how to keep house and cook as well -- things kids nowadays rarely study. These are things that will help them survive college and being on their own.
My son just left for college 2 weeks ago. We did a "crash laundry course" together. He called me after his first round of laundry and couldn't believe how much work it was and how long it took.
My teens have been doing laundry since they were 9, 10, and 12 years old. I got tired of washing, drying, folding, and putting them on hangers just to walk into their rooms and find half of the clean clothes thrown in with the dirty ones! Now they wash, dry, fold, hang, and put them away!
My daughter, who is now 13, has been doing the laundry since she was almost 7 years old. She now has to cook dinner at least once a week, from start to end (meaning washing the dishes!).
I am not raising children to be dependent on me for the rest of my life. I think we as parents would be negligent if we didn't teach our teens life skills. My son, who is 14, has been able to do laundry since he was 12. I also have taught my kids the basics of cooking and baking. It is important that when they leave this house they are able to take care of themselves. My husband didn't even know how to turn the washing machine on when we got married and he was 23.
Encourage Their Interests
My son is 16 (a sophomore). He is starting to feel a lot of stress since he doesn't yet KNOW what he wants to do for a living and many of his peers do. We just encourage him to continue to research career paths and think about things that he enjoys (or thinks he might enjoy). We remind him that the MOST IMPORTANT THING is that he continues his education since it will give him the most opportunities. Also he should pick a direction that he thinks he might like and check with himself every 6 months to make sure he feels like he is still going the right direction. I want him to know that it is okay to change his mind as he gets more knowledge and to make a choice and not just fall into a "job" out of desperation. I tell him that I was one of those kids who KNEW from an early age exactly what I wanted to do and it turns out it was a bad fit. I never knew the job I have now existed, but I have worked in the field for 8 years and love it. Most people are not doing now what they thought they would be doing at 16. If he knew on his own what he wanted to do then I would encourage it, but I don't think it's any crime to not know yet.
My 16-year-old daughter has been writing since she was a very little girl, and has always been in the honors English classes. She wants to write and direct movies. She recently had the movie she wrote and directed about anxiety and depression in teens shown on network TV (local CBS affiliate), and had several TV interviews, newspaper, and magazine articles written about the movie. Although, we are very proud of her, and we believe she has the talent and drive, I worry that it will be a difficult path for her, even with a four year college degree. As a back-up plan, she has mentioned she would keep writing, and if needed, work on getting her teaching degree in English and Theatre.
It's very common and understandable for a teen to not know what they want to major in while still in junior and senior high school. That's because they know so little about what jobs exist, what they pay, what grades are needed to be accepted into the program, and what the job is like. About once a week, my sophomore and I sit down and spend 30 minutes reviewing options with information I've found on the internet, to help her refine her career direction. This summer I'll set up 5-7 informational interviews and short shadowing experiences, using my LinkedIn contacts, to get her a closer look at some career options. LinkedIn perusing is actually great -- beyond your contacts -- to see jobs described and to see career paths of people in the jobs your teen says she's potentially interested in.
My son wants to become a mechanical engineer. I told him he will need all the math he can get, and physics, and science. He wants to learn how things run, and improve them. I told him he will use history to develop his skills. He will learn the difference in cars now and then, and why we have different needs now, and how automobiles adapt to our needs.
Our daughter is 17 and she wants to be a special education teacher. She's been volunteering at the local ranch for the past 2 years helping with horse therapy for the disabled and has grown such a love for working with them. This summer she's also volunteering for The Miracle League. She also babysits a severely disabled child. I don't know where she gets the patience but her heart is 150% into it and she's determined to do it. I love that she found something she truly loves.
Increase Their Freedom & Street Smarts
I prepared my teens for college by giving them more freedom as they grew up during high school. Not complete freedom, mind you. As long as they gave me no reason to not trust them, we extended the freedom. I think you prepare them for college over the years.
I plan to help guide my teen into freedom as she enters her senior year; meaning giving her more freedom to make choices (monitoring them), and talking to her about the realities of life. It is all you can do really.
Make sure she has a phone (most colleges want you to have one with texting ability, since that's how they send out alerts for campus issues). Make sure she knows how to get out of bad situations, and isn't worried about her own abilities. Make sure you have given her the freedom she will have later; during the summer is a good time, since she doesn't have school to worry about yet, but you still have a small amount of ability to guide her. And then relax. It's not that bad. Text with her (I've found most college students are more willing to text with their parents than actually talk to them while at college). Make sure she has a bank account that you can add money to at any time (like the middle of the night, when she needs to get home if she's gotten herself in some situation she needs to get out of). Because really, except financially, she WILL be an adult.
In some ways, we have been working on preparing for college for years (never leave a drink unattended, teaching her how to do laundry, good study skills, and so on). We have talked about the friends I lost to AIDS and drugs. All we can do is our best, and keep our fingers crossed.
I would tell your daughter what goes on when you're away at college and specifically tell her if she is anywhere drinking ANYTHING to never let her cup out of her sight! If she sets it down or a friend holds it, she is to ditch it and get another one! There are too many drugs out there that are slipped into drinks when you're not looking.