Last-minute tips for college success
Your high school graduate is about to leave the nest bound for a grand new adventure – college. Whether he or she is the first, second or fifth generation to attend, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure the transition is as seamless as possible. These steps will also help you rest easier at night.
As a parent, you’ve always been available to encourage and help your teenager. For many, college is the first time teenagers are away from home for an extended period. While heady, independence can be abused. Before your teen departs, set up realistic expectations about safety. No, you can no longer enforce a curfew, but you can arm your teenager with strategies about how to stay healthy and strong.
Encourage your teenager to get to know his or her resident assistant (R.A.) and dorm director. These staff members were hired to support residents with academic, social and safety programs. They are surrogates for you while your teenager is at college; ditto for campus security, student health services and other support staff. Feeling safe and welcome is the first step in adjusting to college life. Socializing is another aspect. Encourage your teenager’s attempts to make friends, join groups and get to know others, but reinforce that studies always come first.
Time management is a large part of college academic success. During high school, parents, teachers and counselors often help students plan and map out their activities. Some keep track of due dates and prod students to study. Not so in college.
Students are often surprised to learn there is a lot of unstructured, unscheduled time in college. That’s what our ACT bloggers and podcasters tell us. Conversely, when it’s busy in college, it’s very busy. Classes may take up only a fraction of your teenager’s time, but your son or daughter must learn to stay on track. That way, on the day two term papers come due and a group presentation is scheduled, your teen will be ready – without having Mom or Dad there to nag!
Your student will also need to master study skills. In fact, according to data from the 2008 graduating class, nearly 20 percent of high school students reported that they needed help with study skills. Nineteen percent said they needed assistance with math skills, and more than 19 percent reported they need help with reading and comprehension.
If your college student is struggling, encourage him or her to tap into as many university resources as needed right away. These services are usually included in tuition and fees, so there are no extra charges. New students shouldn’t have to go it alone. Most professors and teaching assistants are happy to spend time outside of class with students who need a little extra help. Academic advisors, tutors and writing center staff can help teach or hone other needed skills. Counselors and R.A.’s can assist with homesickness, depression, roommate problems, or other concerns. And as a parent, you can listen and help from afar.
Another unknown for many college students is what to study and what career to pursue. According to ACT research, nearly 21 percent of the 2008 graduating seniors requested assistance with educational and occupational planning. Most college career and placement centers offer group sessions or one-on-one career counseling – again, at little or no extra charge. College internships and jobs are two great ways to discover what your student likes, and equally as important, what he or she doesn’t like to do. Be patient and support your college student’s exploration of majors and career interests.
For more information about the transition to college, check out ACT’s podcast series, “What I’ve Learned Since High School” at http://www.actstudent.org/blog.
Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. She is a mom and has a master’s of education in guidance and counseling. For more college and career-planning information, visit www.act.org.