These precious weeks between high school graduation and starting college are full of excitement, for sure, but they can also be full of worry—Is my kid ready for college? Not just ready for the parts about being away from home and doing laundry, but is she really ready for the challenges and opportunities that await?
There are so many things as a parents you can focus on during the last couple of months, but here are four questions to ask yourself (and your kid) before you pack up the car and move them into their freshman room.
Do they have good sleep habits? Can they wake themselves up without assistance? Can they maintain a consistent sleep schedule? Sounds like a strange way to demonstrate that a student is college ready, but I have had students in my office tell me—usually after they have missed several classes or a major assignment—that they are not used to getting themselves up in the morning and they don’t know how to go to bed at a decent time and use all those tricks we parents used before the invention of cell phones to get up.
Good sleep and waking habits are the foundation to everything else. Students who get enough sleep (8-10 hours a night) are less likely to experience high levels of stress (which often leads to illness) and they are more likely to have the brainpower it takes to learn.
Are they ready to work hard? Can they dig in and put the time and effort needed to succeed in college? Can they do what it takes to manage multiple priorities? No matter where they have been for high school and where they are going to college, they will need to make a considerable time and effort investment to succeed.
Even if your kid reports that his first-year classes aren’t too difficult, getting into the practice of scheduling additional time to complete out-of-class readings and assignments, papers and projects, and studying (even when a test is not looming on the horizon) will set your kid on the right foot when it eventually (and it will eventually) get much harder.
Are they willing to seek help? Do they know what the resources on campus are? Do they know when to use them? I have told students and their parents for years that all successful students use campus resources during their college careers. Tutoring, for example, is not just for those who are failing a class. It is for all students who want to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to succeed on an assignments. None of us manage our lives without the help of mechanics, doctors, plumbers, and financial planners—just to name a few!
The sooner they can use the resources, such as going to tutoring or meeting with an academic coach, the better. They don’t have to—and really shouldn’t—wait to use these support services until the situation is dire. Your kid will want to find out what the university or college offers, when and how often it is offered, and how to schedule an appointment.
Are they curious? Do they have a sense of wonder? Are they willing to try new things? Perhaps the most rewarding part of being a parent is the opportunity to watch your kid develop an interest and often then a skill in certain areas.
Now is the time to continue to encourage that curiosity and sense of wonder. Yes, you will have conversations—if you have not already—about the practical matters of choosing a degree and setting on a path toward a career, but remember to nurture the joy of exploration in the journey. This may mean—gasp!—taking a class outside the major or signing up for a club, organization, group, or activity that is completely new to them.
You may have many more questions about kid’s college readiness before the first semester starts, but these are four that can get you prepared to have the constructive conversations that you will want to have before they step on campus.