How To Help Your Child Transition From High School To College

Graduating from high school is a major milestone in our children’s lives, and the transition from high school to college is wrought with mixed emotions of excitement and uncertainty. Unfortunately, we can’t pack ourselves in their suitcases, so as parents and educators, it’s important to recognize and understand the factors that impact this transition and best prepare our young adults for everything that comes with this major change. We must guide children in the right direction – from choosing a college that is the “right fit” to encouraging independence and autonomy in decision-making. Dr. Allison Chase spoke to educational counselors at a recent conference about the complexities of this transition and how to best advise children. Choosing the Right College: There are a multitude of factors that play into choosing the right college. While our kids might be distracted by the sports or sunny weather, there’s way more to consider based on their emotional and social maturity. Sure, it’s okay to factor in those fun things such as football, the weather, or greek life, but there are other very important aspects to look at as well:

  • Size: Is your child comfortable around a lot of people? Will he/she thrive in large or small classes?
  • Location: Does your child like being in a big city with all the hustle and bustle? Do they prefer a rural setting? Is it important to be close to home?
  • Student Community: Is diversity something that is important to you or your child? Is the school accepting of different races, sexual orientation, etc?
  • Safety: Does the school have adamant means for protecting your child and preventing crime?
  • Support Services: How does this school foster mental wellness? Does the school offer programs to help children acclimate? Should they need it, what counseling programs do they offer?

As Dr. Allison Chase points out, navigating a world outside of the parents’ home is difficult, so you want to make sure you help your child choose a school that not only challenges them academically and has the right atmosphere and social fit, but also is the right supportive for your child’s needs. Browsing through pamphlets is not enough – dig into the core of the school to make sure it is the right fit for your child. Fostering Independence and Growth: We want nothing more than to see our children grow and succeed. No longer will they be able to rely on us for everything. Shifts in responsibility will feel unfamiliar, and personal freedom forces children to be self-reliant, so it’s important for parents and high school counselors alike to push for more independence and autonomy leading up to this major transition. How do we prepare our children for this change? Dr. Allison Chase suggests starting out by letting your children make their own agendas and priorities. Encourage them to make decisions by themselves by recognizing an issue and solving it on their own. Teach by example, and talk about what you would do in certain situations. Balancing rigorous academic work with social opportunities is difficult, so it’s important our children become self-reliant before they go. Encourage them to do things on their own and think for themselves. Don’t forget to teach them the little things like the secret to cooking their favorite dish or how to wash whites vs. darks. Finally, establish a means of communicating. Let your child know that you are always there for them without being overbearing. As hard as it may be, don’t overburden them with phone calls and letters. Instead, surprise them with a care package and wait for them to call you – because they surely will! This is both an exciting and difficult time for a child and a parent, but ultimately if you’ve given them the tools to succeed, they will.

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