College and Beyond: How Parents Can Support Their Children

When your teenager graduates from high school, it can be overwhelming for them and you to start thinking about their next step.

For many recent graduates, the natural next step includes going to college, which typically means partaking in a new experience. Even applying for colleges can be scary, and your teen may feel like they don’t know what they’re doing.

So, how can you help to support your soon-to-be-graduate as they prepare for college and beyond?

Let’s look at a few practical ideas you can use to guide them along the way.

Break Down Applications

Maybe your teenager has a “dream school,” or maybe their college and beyond plans include attending multiple schools for higher degrees.

Whatever the case, there will always be an application process. Most graduates end up applying to several different schools to make sure they have backup options. While many applications have the same criteria, your teen might have to do things like write essays or attach extracurricular activities for each one.

It’s okay to help your graduate with their applications. Naturally, that doesn’t mean you should use your professional skill set to complete the applications for them. However, it does mean you can give them ideas.

For example, work to motivate them and inspire them. Have conversations about their passions. Talk to them about why they want to attend a particular school.

Many times, a teen’s reluctance toward an application comes from a place of uncertainty. When you can diminish that insecurity, they’ll feel more confident in what they’re doing.

Establish a Communication Plan

It’s an excellent idea to establish some structure as your child prepares for college and beyond. Up until this point, they have likely communicated with you in some way every day. In college, that may not be the case.

So, set up expectations for communication that will help you both with the transition. You will need to be okay with the fact that they may not call you every day.

By setting up a plan, you can encourage them to explore their new surroundings, make new friends, and still have the comfort of home waiting for them when it’s their time to call. It’s a great way to strike a balance when your teen first arrives at college.

Make the Most of Your Conversations

Once your child starts college, your conversations need to count. They may not be willing to open up without a little guidance. So, it’s crucial to ask the right questions, such as:

  • How do you like living on campus?
  • How do you feel about how you’re filling your time?
  • Are you making any positive connections?

This kind of support will allow your college student to open up and show a bit more vulnerability. It’s also essential that you talk with your college student about their resources on campus.

Most college campuses across the country have mental health programs or specialists on staff if they are struggling. They can also talk to their professors or reach out for help as needed. You can go over some of those resources with them before they even leave for college.

From navigating applications to preparing for the next phase of their lives, the process of going to college is both exciting and nerve-wracking. But, you can help your child get through it by supporting them from the very start.

They are about to step out into the real world on their own for the first time. While you don’t need to hold their hand along the way, providing them with guidance for college and beyond can make a big difference in how well they adjust to the experience.

For help and support, please reach out to me today or visit my Parenting Skills page to learn more about how I can help.

All images are used for illustrative purposes only. Any person shown is used as a model only.