Updated: Jun 22, 2022
College preparation begins as soon as parents provide opportunities for their children to practice being independent. Read below for college readiness skills you can build with your child now.
College Readiness Skill #1: Self-Advocacy
In middle school and high school encourage your child to let others know if they have a question. Raising their hand in class (or in a virtual class) is only one way to do this. Emailing teachers, writing notes or approaching a teacher after class are all examples of self-advocacy. The method of how your child asks for help isn't as important as the 'doing.' You may want to have a conversation with your child and ask them how they prefer to self-advocate. Some students prefer to email their teachers while others who struggle with writing might prefer to arrange a meeting before/after class. If your child is in middle school or beginning to develop self-advocacy, practicing advocating for themselves at home with your family, with a relative, or family friend to help your child become accustomed to asking for what they need. My article on Edutopia offers other suggestions for parents and educators on how to create an environment where you students feel comfortable asking for help.
College Readiness Skill #2: Following a Schedule
Independently following a schedule is an important skill in college! You can practice with your child by printing out blank schedule templates and starting by asking your child to follow (or create!) a schedule for the weekend. Have them include tasks such as waking up, eating meals, doing chores, spending time with siblings or friends, doing homework, etc. Have them try to follow the schedule as best they can. This simple exercise also helps your student practice time management - another important college readiness skill.
I also recommend asking students what type of schedule they like to use. Different learners, and different brains prefer different types of schedules. For example, does your student prefer to use a daily schedule - seeing only one day at a time? Does your student prefer a weekly schedule or is seeing seven days overwhelming?
The type of schedule your student uses (and the schedule their brain prefers) is as individual as they are.
A tool I highly recommend and use often when I coach college students is www.freecollegeschedulemaker.com.
The schedules can be color coded (which is great for visual brains!) and the weekly schedule can be saved, downloaded and printed.
College Readiness Skill #3: Waking Up to an Alarm
There are alarms available for everyone so don't give up trying to find an alarm that will wake up your teenager from their slumber! Parents, encourage your teenager to set an alarm on their phone or dust off an old alarm clock and put it next to their bed. I know students who prefer the light therapy sunlight alarm clock - I've never tried it but I know students who love it.
If they say 50% of life is just showing up, it's important that your students practices waking up so they can show up! Who wakes your student up at home? Do they wake up independently even on days when they don't want to? If you are primarily responsible for morning wake up duty, start shifting that responsibility to your student as soon as you can. You may not know yet which college your student will be attending, but you can be sure that wherever they go they will need to have the skill of waking themselves up to attend class!
College Readiness Skill #4: Self-Awareness
While your student is in high school ask them open ended questions that encourage them to identify their own learning style, strengths, challenges, etc. This type of thinking is called Metacognition. Metacognition is also an executive functioning skill that helps all of us "think about how we think."
Here are some examples of metacognitive questions:
What was most challenging about that ______ for you?
What is one thing you did well last week? What is one thing you struggled with?
How do you learn best? For example, if I were teaching you how to dance would you want me to show you, do it with you, or explain it to you? Your answer is a clue to your learning style...visual learner, kinesthetic learner, auditory learner.
For more college readiness tips and advice check out my workbook, Sharing the Transition to College Workbook. Hint: the book makes a great graduation gift!