3 Ways to Help Prepare Your Teen for College

There are three conversations parents should have with their child prior to college.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 01, 2022

3 Ways to Help Prepare Your Teen for College
Trust that they’ll fall back on the expectations you’ve set for them.
College isn’t just a transition for your high school student – sending your kid to college is a life-changing event for the entire family. For the first time, your child has total responsibility for himself or herself. College life encompasses a lot from getting to class on time to making good choices on the weekend. While they may be away from home, they’re still under your care, protection, and supervision, from a distance. So how do you look after your child without managing your child?
There are three ways to ensure your teen and the family are both ready for college:

Share expectations.

Over the course of several conversations, lay out what you expect from your young adult when they leave for college. You may have financial expectations that you require of your child – like paying for gas to get around town, late-night pizza deliveries, or coffee breaks. Discuss the costs that you’ll cover from your bank account– maybe it’s gas money to get home for holidays or nothing at all. Also, be sure your son or daughter understands the proper way to use a credit card. It's important expectations are clear for college students and parents. It’s also reasonable to expect your teen to perform well academically. Whether that’s just passing each class or maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher, it’s important for them to have a benchmark from you of some kind. Oftentimes, students that don’t perform well get placed on academic probation by the university, which could lead to losing financial aid. Stress to your teen that it literally pays off to perform well in class.

Set boundaries.

It's important for students and parents to establish boundaries. For starters, this may be the first time your child is away from home and out of your care for an extended period. They may be exposed to certain activities that they’ve never been around before. Both you and your student need to prepare them for this. It's okay and encouraged to discuss topics like partying, mental health, and even social media don'ts. At the same time, it’s important for you to set boundaries for yourself. College isn’t just about majoring in engineering or communications; it’s about your child having a good time, becoming an adult, and shaping his/her identity. It involves decision-making and exploration on their part that is completely out of your control. As parents, you must let go and trust that they’ll fall back on the expectations you’ve set for them.

Discuss commitments.

Given that you’re likely paying for some or all their college costs, it’s not too much to ask your student to commit to certain ideas or values while they’re in college. What is your family’s idea of a good college experience? Is it graduating within four years or keeping a certain GPA? Is it studying abroad or getting a semester-long internship? Joining a Greek organization or playing intramural soccer? While it is ultimately their college experience, you’re a huge part of that as their financial, emotional, and physical support system. Committing to college together helps to reinforce that idea and gives your young adult the motivation and security to make the most of their college career.

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Kathryn Knight Randolph

Associate Content Editor

Kathryn Knight Randolph is the Associate Content Editor at Fastweb. She has 17 years of higher education experience, working first as an Admissions Officer at DePauw University before joining Fastweb. In b...

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