How to Best Prepare a Teen for College


When it comes to preparing teenagers for college, we often worry about test scores and resumes first and fail to give enough attention to the social and lifestyle factors. Perhaps your teen can do calculus in his sleep, but can he develop a daily routine, make friends and stay safe in challenging situations?

In truth, we prepare our children for college and independence from a very young age thanks to a host of life and social skills that will serve them well. Still, the first semester at college is a learning curve. Here’s how you can help them be successful.

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Academic Prep

Without the proper academic acumen, there’s little point in applying to college in the first place. That’s why academic performance takes center stage when helping teens who are on track for college.

But it’s not just about maintaining a good GPA or getting high test scores in order to look good on a college application.

  • Independent study habits are crucial for college success. While your teen is living at home with you and attending high school, you have some influence over his homework routine. You can enforce curfews and insist that homework be completed before other activities. Your guidance can help create habits that he can continue in college.
  • Techniques for learning new or difficult material are good for your teen to have at his disposal before he desperately needs them. Writing out notes, highlighting reading material, teaching the material to another student, creating flashcards, forming a study group, asking the professor for assistance, and completing practice tests are all excellent strategies. Thanks to modern technology, students can also seek assistance online via YouTube videos or class discussion boards.

In ideal circumstances, your student’s high school teachers will share these techniques with their classes, but it’s wise for you to reinforce these skills.

Lifestyle Prep

As parents, it’s impossible to teach children everything they could ever know. They have to learn many things on their own. However, we can do everything in our power to make sure they know the basics before they go off to college, such as:

  • Doing their own laundry
  • Getting themselves up in the morning
  • Being punctual and managing their time effectively
  • Knowing how to take care of themselves if they are sick
  • Making smart financial choices
  • Knowing how to cook food, whether in a microwave or on a stove.
  • Understanding how to travel without a car, or how to take proper care of a vehicle

In addition, there are other topics that must be addressed as your teen transitions to adulthood. Many parents are unsure whether to discuss alcohol safety, for example. Underage drinking is illegal, and if you discuss it with your teen, will they think you approve? Of course, you need to make your position absolutely clear while also talking about the dangers. Alcohol poisoning, among other consequences of drinking, is a real threat. Safe sex and self-defense are other tricky topics that you nonetheless should discuss openly with your teen to promote safety.

The Best Way to Prepare

Perhaps the best way to prepare your teen for college is to give them a taste of the experience. A college prep boarding school gives high school students a sense of dormitory and campus life with more structure and guidance than they can expect at college. Consider enrolling your teen in a boarding school for their junior or senior years for a sense of the skills and independence they’ll need at college.

Another good option is to look at your state’s summer academic programs. Students typically apply to a specific curriculum, and if accepted, they spend anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks on a college campus. These programs get high schoolers away from home for an extended time and help them navigate a college campus.

Is your teen truly prepared for college?

Clare Louise

The author Clare Louise