Spring is the time of year when high school juniors learn about different colleges and high school seniors receive their acceptance letters. Some high school seniors will receive notice of being waitlisted, or even worse, rejected. But sometimes a rejection letter means a college is just saving a student from himself or herself.
We’re so wrapped up in the process – filling out applications, visiting campuses, talking about roommates, fine tuning the college essays – that we forget to ask ourselves one critical question: Is my child ready for college?
Fifty percent of parents get this question wrong! They send their brood off to college holding a high school diploma, a computer, and a student loan without ever really considering if college is the right choice at this time in their child’s life. I’ve spoken to thousands of high school students and written a number of books on college preparation. Sadly, almost half of the incoming freshman class will fail to graduate this year. This statistic cuts across race, ethnic, religious, and demographic lines.
Is your student really ready for college or will she crash mid-semester? Sit down with your student and ask the following questions.
1. Is your student doing college level work now? Many kids buckle down their junior and senior year of high school to do college level work. Their ability to succeed here is a strong predicator of success. If they’re not doing college level work at the end of high school, it will be difficult their freshman year in college.
2. Is your student taking the last semester off or taking a full load? The college landscape is littered with freshman who took it easy their senior year only to be crushed by their college workload. If they’re taking it easy in their senior year of high school, they may not be ready.
3. Is your student organized? College requires a huge amount of homework and reading. Unorganized students may study the wrong chapters for tests, turn in the wrong homework, and wait until 2 a.m. to start on a term paper due at 8 a.m. The ability to organize is critical to college success.
4. Is your student disciplined? Does your student have the discipline to study six hours a day before they go out that night? Do they have the discipline to start a term paper the first week of school, make early use of the writing center, show up on time for class? Students who lack the discipline to show up will fail.
5. Does your student have a major in mind? The simple fact is kids who show up on campus knowing what they want to major in tend to graduate faster. They know the preparatory classes they must take, they know where they should intern in the summer and they know the skills required for success. Not having a major or even changing your major isn’t degree threatening, but kids who know what they want out of college tend to get it.
6. Can you afford it? A loan for a college education is one of the best financial decisions you can make, if you graduate. While working through college is admirable, if you have to work just to pay for school, you need to find a cheaper college or save up for a year. Otherwise, a student could wind up with college debt but no college degree.
7. Can your student make friends easily? This may sound trivial, but kids who can make friends easily tend to stay at college, because they know people. This doesn’t mean shy kids can’t make it, but they might need to go to a school closer to home or to a college where their friends are going.
8. Is your student prepared to think like an adult? College exposes our parenting mistakes. Can our kids take responsibility for planning their day, studying instead of partying, for walking away from dangerous situations and people? Can they handle the incredible world of possibilities, problems, and setbacks that college will throw at them? Or would they fare better taking a year off to mature while studying at a community college?
9. Is your student choosing a college because it’s where their high school flame is going? That’s the single stupidest reason for picking a college. Broken hearts bring more kids home than you realize.
10. Is college the right choice? As a society we have bought into the belief that every child deserves a college education, when in reality every child deserves to learn skills that will help them succeed in the adult world. There are a lot of plumbers out there doing better than MBAs. My electrician owns five rental homes.
These are serious questions that parents and their kids need to discuss. College is the right choice for many kids, but it’s not the only way a young adult can make it in this world. Ask my electrician.