By Melissa A. Kay
The move from high school to college can be one of the most complex transitions of a teenager’s life. The more self-awareness she has, the easier the process will be. Here’s how to help your child think realistically about college and her future.
Your child may have dreams of going to school in a big city. Or maybe she wants to stay close to home. Location isn’t nearly as important as fit, however. Explain that for her to succeed and grow, the school must have majors that fit her interests, career goals and abilities. It also must offer support services appropriate to her needs, and an environment that’s comfortable. You can look for colleges that have it all, but fit has to come first.
Your child may have her heart set on going to a four-year college right away, especially if her friends are. But if you believe that starting in a two-year program will give her the best chance for long-term success, tell her. Start by acknowledging her wishes. Then point out the options and advantages of transferring once she shows she can do college-level work. An associate’s degree on her way to a bachelor’s degree is a good thing to have in her back pocket.
Colleges don’t look at grades alone. They want to see that students have interests and involvement in non-academic areas. Schools also want to see independence from family and home. To increase her chances of getting into a school of her choice, explain to your child that she needs to get more involved in out-of-school and extracurricular activities. These can include clubs, camps, youth groups, sports, volunteer work, community service or a paying job. Let her know her worth is seen in more than just her GPA.
How does your child manage in social situations? If she tends to avoid them, she may have a tough time adjusting to college. Talk to her about the importance of building a social life, and the value of having people to hang out with. Remind her that teams, clubs, campus activities and sororities provide a natural way to meet people. Your child doesn’t have to wait until college, either. Suggest that she join new groups now to build social skills and develop social confidence.
Your child may love painting, but is it a realistic career choice? Even if she’s talented, could she make a living at it? Rather than argue about it, help her understand the realities. Suggest that she research the field to find out what qualifications and experience she’d need, and how much fine artists might earn. At the same time, remind her that there are other ways to work in the field. She can always take painting classes or volunteer at a museum while she explores.
While all colleges must provide basic supports to students with learning disabilities and ADHD, many go beyond that. Some even offer fee-based programs to help build learning and executive functioning skills. Check out this list of 15 from Lauren Sagat, director of college guidance at Purnell School in Pottersville, New Jersey.
Adjusting to college life can be tricky for kids with social skills issues. Everything’s new, and there’s less structure in college. This can leave new students feeling lonely or lost. We asked Marcus Soutra, president of Understood founding partner Eye to Eye, about some of the most common challenges and how to help. Here are his tips.
Melissa A. Kay is a writer, editor and content strategist in the areas of family, health, employment, beauty, lifestyle and more.
Jim Rein, M.A., has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and attention issues.
College Prep: What You Need to Know
My Child’s Grades Are Low. Is It Worth Trying to Get Him Into a Four-Year College?
Discrimination at Work: Understanding Your Child’s Rights
How to Choose the Right Job for Your Teen’s Strengths
“Being You”: Explore Your Child’s Future as a Young Adult
6 Independent Living Skills Kids Need Before Moving Away From Home
There was an error posting your reply.
Thanks for being a part of the Understood Community. Your comment will appear shortly, once it’s been reviewed.
*Please confirm you are not a robot.
Hear from Ellen Braaten, neuropsychologist and mother, on the benefits of an evaluation.
Help your child finish summer assignments before school starts.
Read what insiders say about its potential impact.
Find out how to tell if early organization difficulties could be a sign of a bigger issue.
Sign up for weekly emails with helpful resources for you and your family.
This email is already subscribed to Understood newsletters. If you haven't been receiving anything, add email@example.com to your safe-senders list.
Name must have no more than 50 characters. Email address must be valid. Email message must have no more than 140 characters and cannot include the < > / \ special characters. Please fill out all fields and complete the reCAPTCHA to send a message.
*Please confirm you are not a robot.
Don’t worry—we saved what you wrote.
Sign up to get personalized recommendations and connect with parents and experts in our community.
Only members can view and participate in conversations.
Child’s nickname is private and only you can see it.