Attention Parents! Preparing Your Child for College

Mom and Dad: you obviously want what is best for your child. You want them to go to the best schools, get good grades, and maintain a healthy lifestyle so they grow up to be successful, independent individuals.

You motivate them to study, prioritize, and remember their responsibilities. Discipline is inevitably a part of helping your child in these years before applying to college. But when does it become too much? Where do you draw the line?

You still want your child to learn to be more independent as they have to acclimate to the college life (i.e. no parents or guardians around to help). If you become too involved in their life at this stage, constantly over their shoulder and wondering what they are doing 24/7, it can be overwhelming for a young adult.

In fact, by getting too close, you can push them further away. They are already going to do that in a couple months when they go to college. Now is the time to cherish the moments you share together at home.

Of course you don’t want your child to get off track when it comes to looking at and applying to colleges. It is a very stressful time for a high school student- probably the most stressful period at this age. It is NO time to be critical or condescending, as this will only cause more stress/anxiety (you wouldn’t want your child to experience their first ulcer because of your demands, right?)

As independent as they want to be in this process, however, they will need your help to either:

  • A. Keep them motivated to complete application after application,
  • B. Keep them motivated to actually attend college,
  • C. Complete and proofread their application essays, and/or
  • D. Provide the money to pay for the application fee.

After the application process, your child may need advice and tips on how the college life really works. They have to choose which college is best for them, sign up for classes, potentially apply for room and board, and organize their possessions to get ready for move-in day.

These are all occasions in which they need your help. Even though they say they can figure it out for themselves, they will inevitably ask questions as they become more and more nervous for their first day on campus.

Here are a few tips on how to effectively help your child prepare for applying and attending college:

  • Check in occasionally on their application status. You don’t have to nag them constantly about which college they are applying to and how many they have completed (only do this if there are 3 or fewer days until the deadline), but simply ask where they are in their college process.
  • If they need help on their essay, HELP THEM. For me, the personal statement was the most difficult part of the common application, so I asked my parents for ideas on concepts to write about. This is probably going to come up in the application process.
  • Keep up the conversations of college. Talk about all the fun things that college life brings, and how your child will meet new and awesome people when they get to college. Also motivate them by telling them about all the opportunities they have to study different subjects and follow their passions.
  • Do not make a big deal out of paying for applications. This is a very important part of a student’s life, and they want to get into college (so they need their dream AND backup schools), so multiple applications is unavoidable. The fees are just part of the process.
  • Tell them how great your college experience was. Personally, my parents’ stories of college made me even more excited for the first day. Not only did they meet their best friends in college, but they eventually met each other.
  • Help them sort out their belongings for their dorm. It is easy to over-pack for freshman year, but there are only so many “important” things you need to bring for the dorm. Ask them what they really need, and make sure they have pictures of home to bring with them to avoid being homesick.
  • Help them research classes, majors, and campus buildings to help them maintain a peaceful state of mind when starting their first year. Class signups and finding the way through campus can be very overwhelming, so any previous knowledge of campus resources is always beneficial.

College brings the best four years of your child’s life. You don’t want to ruin this time before they even start their first lecture, so help them with anything they need in the application process and maintain the motivation to attend college. This is most effective and optimistic way to ensure your child’s success in their freshman year.

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Megan Heneghan

Megan Heneghan

Megan Heneghan is a junior at the University of California, Davis pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Communication, as well as a Spanish minor. She is originally from Orange County, where she grew up playing tennis. She is currently a member of the UC Davis Women’s Tennis Team. When she is not studying, she enjoys singing, reading, and cooking all different kinds of food. She also loves spending time with friends and family.
Megan Heneghan

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