4 Ways You Can Help Your Child Prepare For College

4 Ways You Can Help Your Child Prepare For College

By Josie Parker

I graduated from high school in 2015, and I felt absolutely ready to leave for college. I remember feeling ecstatic and ready for independence. My life was a sailing ship in a wave-crashing ocean, and I was finally becoming the captain. I was 18 years old.

To me, moving to college meant living in my own dorm room, constantly being surrounded by friends, and attending classes I was truly interested in. I felt like a real adult–I might even be allowed to sit at the adult’s table at family Thanksgiving. I had life figured out. I could make decisions on my own terms without any stress hindering me.

Long story short, I was very wrong.

I just graduated college in December. College has proven to be the best four years of my life, but I made a lot of mistakes along the way because I didn’t do a lot of preparation before leaving.

If your son or daughter is edging closer and closer to enrolling in college, I highly recommend instilling these four principles before he or she packs up and hits the road. (If you’re a student reading this, try a few of these practices before moving. If you want me to give you tips directly or just chat, send me an email.)

1. Budgeting

As a high school student, I worked two jobs and my parents made me pay for most of my own things. I felt financially independent, supporting most of my own needs. As it turns out, your parents are paying for a significant portion of your life while you are still living with them!

Two months into my freshman year, I remember looking at my bank account and feeling a bit shocked. I often went out with my friends and spent way too much money at Chipotle. (Chips and guacamole are my weakness.) The small things definitely added up and my bank account was feeling the pain of my spur-of-the-moment food choices.

College students don’t have the luxury of having everything they need all the time. You can’t go to the movies every weekend, splurge by purchasing new clothes regularly, or go out to eat whenever you want. You do have to live on a budget and you don’t always have the same privileges you have in high school. In addition, college is expensive. I knew I eventually needed to pay for school on my own, but I relied on my parents paying the bills for far too long. It’s better to have a good sense of budgeting and “doing without” before you ever arrive on campus. Help your son or daughter understand what independent living is really like before they run off to college–the financial transition may prove to be a little less shocking.

2. Time and Stress Management

Time and stress management–some people are great at it, and some (like me) are not. In fact, I really didn’t begin to understand real time management until my senior year of college. I was playing collegiate volleyball, working two jobs, keeping up with my senior-level courses, and applying for post-graduation jobs that required going to interviews. I remember getting a text from my roommate late one night at work, asking if I was dead because she had not seen me for days. To summarize the semester, I figured if I finished the year alive that was good enough.

High school was a stressful at times, but nothing like moments I experienced in college. Demonstrating time management skills to your son or daughter is the best way for them to implement it into their own lives before they leave home. My senior year, I bought my first planner. It was a little overdue, but my life felt much more organized and comprehensible when it was all written out on the pages of my Happy Planner.

As a college student, you won’t have time for everything and you will get stressed. Understanding that it is possible to manage stress in a healthy, productive way is a key skill any student should carry into college life.

3. Healthy Habits

There are plenty of healthy habits I would advise any high school student to pick up before college. During my four years as a college student, I realized two habits seemed to be more important than the rest–exercise and healthy eating.

As cliché as it sounds, these habits are very difficult for a lot of college students to stick with. Fortunately, I played volleyball in college and it forced me to work out daily. I developed a routine of lifting a few times a week and running for thirty minutes, four days a week. I had to make it a routine.

More importantly, routine exercise stuck with me because of my mom. Throughout high school, she always encouraged my sister and me to be active and make smart food choices. In fact, she joined me for a run almost every night–she even beat me at times. This early habit, stemming from my mom, is a big reason fitness stuck with me through college.

Throughout each semester, I would watch as it became a struggle for a lot of my friends and classmates who didn’t make exercise or healthy eating a priority in their lives before. If it’s not a habit by the time you enter college, it might be too late. Encouraging these two habits might help your son or daughter avoid the “Freshman 15” (the well-known problem of gaining weight during the first year of college); but more importantly, these habits will help keep them healthy, strong, and happy.

4. Strong Work Ethic

Moving to college meant gaining a lot more independence and a lot more responsibility. For me, having a strong work ethic became the key to success. As I transitioned from high school to college, I realized how this shift challenged my integrity and discipline. Suddenly, college gave me the option to go to class–or, not. I decided when I finished my work and what would become a priority in my everyday life. I learned more about my work ethic as I completed each semester–that is, how to push and keep myself accountable.

I struggled with this freedom during my freshman year. I remember taking one of my first college courses, General Biology, and often forgetting about assignments, missing class, and putting studying aside. As the end of the semester quickly approached, my grade was sitting at a D+. I realized I needed to change my work ethic and hold myself accountable or my next seven semesters of college wouldn’t be very fun.

It’s easy to get caught up in the new, exciting freedom college students experience in their first year. If your student is not responsible, this freedom can be abused. Help your student develop a strong work ethic prior to leaving home to stay motivated and driven everyday.