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The Best Ways to Help Your Teenager Prepare for College

You know the day is coming. You’ve thought about it and planned and budgeted for it for many years, and now it’s almost here. Your teenager will be moving out and going to college very soon! It’s going to be an exciting time for all of you.

But with all the joy that this approaching event brings, there is also some apprehension. Will she be ready to stand on her own two feet? Does he have the maturity to stick it out for the entire four years? Will she make wise decisions? Will he wear clean, matching socks?

You can’t hold their hands forever, but you can still try to squeeze in a few more life lessons before they head out the door. Here are four things your teen will need to know how to do as a college student, and you can help prepare him for the road ahead.

Get a Job or Side Gig

First of all, you want your teenager to learn the value of honest, hard work and paying her way in life. While her focus should be on her schoolwork, she will likely need to put in a few hours per week to cover some bills and personal expenses. Even if you can afford to pay every penny, it’s a good idea for her to develop the maturity required to hold down a job. And the only way for her to do that is to actually get a job.

But it’s 2018, and there are a lot of options out there that didn’t exist when you were her age. She might also want to do something with a little more flexibility like delivering groceries for UberEats or writing some articles in her spare time as a freelance writer. You’d be surprised how many of her fellow classmates will be paying their own way through college in such ways.

Learn to Budget and Pay Bills

He’ll also need to learn to create a realistic budget around his paychecks and pay his bills on time. Don’t let him go out into the big, bad world at age 22 without knowing what an electric bill looks like or how to file a tax return. These are basic, grownup things that he should be getting some experience with now, before he’s out on his own.

Be Flexible with Career Plans

Your teenager will also need to learn how to be flexible. Mom and Dad, you have to face the fact that your teen will likely change her major several times during her first year or two in college. This isn’t a rejection of your guidance. And it’s not a sign of weakness or confusion on her part. It’s just normal, real life.

But many college kids don’t know how to adjust to these changing feelings, and they end up dropping out of college entirely. This is what you want to avoid. She’s going to be exposed to all kinds of interesting new ideas and career paths, so she needs to know that it’s okay to pivot without giving up on the whole idea of getting a college degree.

She might want to travel. She may announce that she’s going to drop out and start a business. This might be a good move for her, but it might be a huge mistake. Either way, the choice is hers to make. That’s why you’ll want to teach her now that she can shift her plans, pursue her new direction and yet still walk away with some certifications or an associates degree. In fact, you might even suggest that she start with a 2-year degree or certification program at a local community college and then transfer to a university to begin her major.

There will be many options, and she needs to know that it’s okay to adjust course without quitting college completely.

Accept Full Responsibility for One’s Life

The bottom line is that moving from childhood to adulthood is all about becoming an independent person. It’s about making your own decisions, supporting yourself and your family and taking full responsibility for your decisions and actions.

Now is the time to let your teen taste the freedom of adulthood and the burden of self-sufficiency that comes with it. It will be difficult to let go of the steering wheel and let him do his thing, but isn’t it better that he begin making some decisions himself now—while he’s still living under your roof and your watchful eye—than next year when he’s away at college?

He can’t learn to make good decisions if he’s not allowed to make any decisions at all. So start nudging your teen out there now, if you haven’t already been doing so for the past few years.

Getting your teenager ready for college isn’t easy—for either of you. But it’s a necessary part of your family’s journey through life. The earlier you start putting these ideas into practice, the better.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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