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5 Ways Parents Can Prepare Their Students for College

May 17, 2011

High school seniors around the country will be graduating this month and preparing to leave home for the first time. College can be a huge transition for both parent and child. First-year students in particular often struggle with the responsibility of living on their own. However, there are some practical things that parents can teach their children before they begin the college experience.

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By Bobby Mann

1. Teach Your Child How to Do the Laundry

Living at home definitely has its perks. Parents take responsibility for things that many kids often take for granted. One of these responsibilities is the dreaded laundry. But a college freshman can no longer rely on his mom or dad to wash clothes for him and has to do it for himself. A parent can teach a child before he leaves for college how to wash clothes properly and how frequently it should be done. Doing the laundry is one of life's mundane tasks, but everyone has to do it, and it's better to learn now rather than later.

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2. Help Your Child Think About Career Choices

There are many majors that a first-year student can choose and the choices can be bewildering. Many high school students have been exposed to enough subjects that they know which ones they prefer and excel at. But for other students a career path may not be so clear. Parents can sit down with their children and have them list some subjects of interest and research possible career options.

Research can be done both on the Internet using sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and at local libraries, which likely have career handbooks and other resources. If a college-bound student is still undecided, he or she could wait to choose a major until the second year of enrollment. This would give some time to dig a little deeper into subjects of interest.

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3. Teach Your Child How to Prepare a Budget

For many college freshmen, the first year equals freedom from structure, freedom from parents and the freedom to choose their own paths in life. Among the many lists of things that students have the freedom to do is the ability to spend money and not think about the consequences. For some individuals, this means that a student's finances can quickly spiral out of control. Parents can stop this from happening by teaching their children how to manage money and prepare a budget. If a student learns how to live within his or her means now, it's likely that this approach will carry over into adulthood after he or she has graduated.

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4. Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Parents should encourage their child to participate in extracurricular activities in the first year of college. There are opportunities to join varsity athletics teams, community-based service organizations, academic clubs and fraternities or sororities. This will help to instill a sense of responsibility and build teamwork skills. Students also have a chance to meet people with similar interests and participation may help to further define what a student wants to do for a career. Most importantly, it gives a sense of structure, purpose and self-discipline, all of which are traits of successful adults.

5. Let Your Child Deal with Failure

Often many parents choose to hover over their children and control situations as much as possible. Most of this is due to the fear of letting their children fail. This tendency may still exist once a child has left for college. This reality is, however, that no parent can micromanage his or her child after she has left the house. The process of letting a child take responsibility for her actions should ideally begin during high school and be gradual. This will make her better prepared for life away from home, encourage her to take risks and not be afraid of the consequences. It can also lead to emotional maturity and a strong sense of self.

Read more about the reasons to apply to college undeclared.

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