Congrats to all college-bound high school seniors — and their families! With the decision of where to go to college already made, it’s time for parents – and grandparents — to start talking about the opportunities that lie ahead. Having watched my own two children make it through college and launch their careers, and advised many clients sending kids off to college, I’d like to share with you three main things I would be sure to include in your summer conversations.
Most likely, the newly found independence of college will tempt your teen to spread his/her wings, so my advice is all about getting them off the ground the right way so they can eventually soar.
Get Involved: College offers lots of opportunities to pursue interests or step outside your comfort zone. Whether its campus clubs, student government, intramural sports or volunteering in a new community, getting involved teaches teamwork, forces us to face ideas different from our own, and offers the opportunity to develop valuable skills. Getting involved in something they care about will keep your teens feeling good and moving ahead.
Be Passionate and Practical: College is a time for intellectual exploration, but many students tend to stay in one track — either the arts and humanities or in science, math and technology. Whatever their core interests, the real world is increasingly calling for people who are versatile, who can write a persuasive letter as well as do data mining. If your child is a writer at heart, suggest taking some numbers courses like statistics, accounting, or computer science. If, on the other hand, they love tech and coding, suggest a literature or history course to help balance passions with the additional perspective they’ll need to stand out in professional pursuits post-graduation.
Get Real about Money: Do your college goer know that sleeping through just one lecture is the same as throwing away hundreds of dollars? That late credit card payments will hurt their credit score for years to come? What the real cost of tuition is once interest and student loan terms are factored in? Help your teens know their numbers, build a budget, and live within their means. With freedom comes new financial responsibilities.
The college years offer so much opportunity and excitement that it’s easy to forget the real world isn’t that far off. Help your kids get a head start by helping them make smart social, practical, and financial decisions early. The sense of responsibility they develop now will stay with them for a lifetime.