Archive How to Get Ready for College: Tips for Parents

Guiding Your Teen Through the College Transition: A Parent's Guide

Faraz Daneshgari

Faraz Daneshgari

Table of contents:

    Preparing for college marks a significant milestone in your teen’s life. Different colleges and universities probably require their own set of guidelines on how to get ready for college. However, no matter how varied this experience is, it’s a period full of excitement, new opportunities, and significant changes.

    This transition, however, isn’t just limited to packing bags and selecting courses. It involves navigating through emotional, academic, and practical challenges. As parents, your role is to guide and support your teen through this transformative phase, ensuring they are well-equipped to embrace the adventures and overcome the hurdles of college life. Let’s explore how you can effectively assist your teen in this exciting journey.


    Understanding the Emotional Impact

    The journey to college is an emotional rollercoaster for both teens and parents, so it’s crucial to pay attention to the mental health of all family members. During this process, while your teen grapples with the excitement and anxieties of potential independence, you, as a parent, might encounter your own emotional hurdles.

    Kids going to college can sometimes trigger some kind of parent depression. The empty nest syndrome, the feeling of loneliness parents feel when their kids leave to pursue higher education or a job, is real. Understanding this emotional landscape is crucial for both you and your teen’s well-being as you navigate this new chapter. Therefore, part of your efforts should focus on how to prepare for college mentally.

    Both teens and parents can do a lot to mitigate some of the emotional troubles of leaving for college:

    For Parents

    1. Recognize and validate feelings: Understand that it’s normal to feel a mix of emotions like sadness, worry, and pride. Acknowledge these feelings rather than dismissing them.
    2. Stay connected, but not too much: Regular communication with your child, including occasional visits, if possible, is important. But also try to give them space to grow and experience college life.
    3. Focus on your own goals and interests: This transition can be an opportunity for you to explore hobbies, career goals, or other interests that you might have put aside.
    4. Trust your parenting: Don’t forget that the values and skills you’ve instilled in your child have prepared them for this stage of their life.

    For Teens

    1. Stay connected with home: Regular check-ins with family can provide comfort. Ask your teens to share their experiences and challenges with you.
    2. Embrace new experiences: College is a time for growth and exploration. Encourage your kids to engage in clubs, social events, and other campus activities.
    3. Seek support when needed: Ask your teenagers to reach out to campus resources like counseling centers if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
    4. Maintain healthy habits and manage stress: Eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest are crucial for emotional well-being.


    Teen girl calling her mom from college to share her experiences.


    Planning for College

    Parents and teens need to take the time to make hard decisions about college life. You can use this part of our guide as a “preparing for college checklist” when the time comes.


    Starting the Conversation

    Discussions about college are necessary when it comes to things to do to prepare for college. The key ingredient of the recipe of how to prepare your child for college is open conversations. Encourage your teens to express their aspirations, concerns, and preferences. This dialogue will help them feel heard and actively involve them in the planning process, making the journey to college a shared experience.


    Planning for the Application Process

    As you and your teen apply to colleges, it’s important to stay organized. The college admissions landscape can be overwhelming with all its essays, forms, and deadlines, so create a timeline for all college application tasks. This approach simplifies the process, reducing stress for both you and your teen. Remember, planning ahead means giving your child the best shot at their dream college.


    Application Process Strategies

    To make a college application stand out, it’s essential to be honest and authentic. Besides focusing on achievements, the application should shine some light on the personal stories and motivations behind them. Starting the application process early and staying organized are also crucial steps. Applicants should research and narrow down their list of colleges to apply to and plan to complete applications well before the due date. Supporting your child through this process can make it easier for them.


    Financial Planning and Support

    Discussing financial aid, exploring scholarships, and understanding the best ways to save for kids’ future are integral parts of college planning. Discuss how to pay for college openly with your teen, emphasizing the importance of budgeting. This conversation can be a practical life lesson in managing finances.

    Financial aid can significantly reduce college expenses, so research and apply for suitable options early. Encouraging your child to contribute, perhaps through part-time work, can also instill a sense of responsibility and appreciation for this investment in their future.


    Developing Skills for College Life

    Colleges require a strong combination of hard work and dedication to ensure your child’s success. This journey, however, thrives on structured and mindful guidance.


    Academic and Self-Management Skills

    Success in college doesn’t only rely on intelligence; it requires developing a comprehensive set of skills. Assertiveness, for example, is crucial in college as students will often need to stand up for themselves in various situations. Parents can assist by gradually transferring these responsibilities to their teens before they leave for college.

    Good study habits, a vital part of how to prepare for college classes, are also very important. These habits include organization, effective note-taking, and dedicated study time. Time management, an essential skill for any college student, involves balancing academic responsibilities with personal life. Parents can support this by helping students develop a balanced schedule that includes time for studies, leisure, and sleep.


    Life Beyond Academics

    Skills like budgeting and decision-making are integral for students to manage their finances and make informed choices. Parents can teach practical budgeting skills by involving their teens in family budget discussions or helping them manage their personal budget.

    Preparing for college mentally also involves developing a tolerance for ambiguity, as college life is full of uncertainties and situations that require students to adapt and think on their feet. Parents can encourage this by letting teens make small decisions and face the consequences. Encouraging creativity and innovative thinking in your teens can also be beneficial as these skills are highly valued in college and beyond.


    College students bonding and building relationships.


    Social Skills and Extracurricular Activities

    Participating in extracurricular activities and being socially active are important aspects of the college experience. Extracurricular activities provide personal growth and networking opportunities, while social media can be a tool for staying connected and building relationships. Parents can encourage their teens to explore diverse interests and join clubs or groups that align with their passions.

    Colleges also value diversity in experiences and backgrounds, so involvement in various activities, including part-time jobs or hobbies, can be advantageous. Collaboration skills are also crucial, since much of college work involves group projects and teamwork. You can help by encouraging teamwork through family projects or community involvement.


    Adjusting to a New Environment

    Adjusting to life on a college campus, particularly in dorm rooms, can be challenging in the freshman year. Here, skills like being at ease with diversity and having an open mind towards meeting people from various backgrounds are invaluable. Parents can encourage this by exposing their teens to diverse cultures and communities. Developing an ability to follow directions and adhere to campus norms is also important, as there will be many rules and guidelines to follow in a college setting.


    College Transition: University of Missouri’s Study on Parental Support

    The University of Missouri’s study utilizes Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to explore parental impact on college transition. SDT, a psychological framework, posits that fulfilling needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness is key to motivation and well-being. The study reveals that appropriate parental support enhances these needs, aiding students’ emotional and academic adjustment to college.

    Overbearing ‘helicopter parenting’, a type of parenting characterized by excessive overprotectiveness and involvement in a child’s life, negatively impacts autonomy, crucial for a successful transition. This research highlights the delicate balance of parental involvement, emphasizing its role in fostering student independence, resilience, and overall college success.


    Safer Transition to College With Safes

    As we mentioned before, your teen needs a set of skills to have a better college experience. These include time management and compliance with rules. The key to developing and maintaining these rules is instilling them from a young age. It’s a good idea to begin integrating these practices early into your parenting, so they will become ingrained more deeply in your child’s mind. One of the tools at your disposal is built-in parental controls, like Windows parental controls.

    Our parental control app, Safes, comes really handy in this process. By monitoring screen time and blocking distractions, the app can help teens develop better time management skills. This, in turn, leads to better and more productive study habits. Safes also encourages the development of positive digital habits by setting up schedules for children’s screen time, limiting social media usage, and setting a bedtime to prevent late-night scrolling. To learn more, you can start your free trial today.


    Final Words: Supporting New Beginnings

    As your teen navigates the transition to college process, remember that your support and guidance are invaluable. This journey, filled with both challenges and milestones, requires a joint effort. By fostering open communication, preparing them for academic rigor, and equipping them with essential life skills, you are setting the stage for a successful and enriching college experience. Embrace this journey together, celebrating each step as your teen moves towards a promising future.

    Faraz Daneshgari

    Faraz Daneshgari

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    1. Install the Safes Kids app on your Chromebook from Google Play. 
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