Three tips to help kids crush college
I talk to a lot of well-meaning parents who are struggling to figure out how to best prepare their kids for college. They don’t want to annoyingly overload them with life advice (point to the rolling eyes), but they also know it’s their job to give advice to their teens entering adulthood.
So what’s the sweet spot? How can you allow your student to feel the freedom they need while giving them the guidance they need?
Whether your family is just starting to talk about college or your baby is leaving this fall, I’ve found that these three tips help build a solid foundation for your college student (and I hope they help you have some good conversations!). Let’s dive into it.
Have a plan, even if it’s loose
● Remember when it was your child’s first day of school already? Those big excited (perhaps terrified) eyes. An oversized backpack bouncing off their backs. With a little guidance from you, I guess your child had a vague idea of what to expect: get to school, learn in class, eat lunch, play, learn more, and go home. And that leadership has helped them face the unknown with confidence.
Well, they may not be tiny anymore, but it’s still true: your kids need a plan. Until now, most students have planned their lives for them, so they will need your help to think about the future, considering the consequences of their decisions and planning how they will achieve their goals.
This includes decisions such as choosing a school that has its interest in studies (that you can afford without loans), choosing a major and understanding what further study, internships or potential careers look like, and encouraging them to try new things and be socially involved.
Of course, this is only the beginning. So try to have check-ins with your student along the way to make sure their plan is still serving whatever their purpose.
Teach them how to manage money
● This is one of the most important things you can do to help your children succeed. Why? Well, the average student owes over $30,000 in student loans when they graduate, and over half of those students are still chained to $20,000 of that debt 20 years later.
Even if your family isn’t able to support your child financially, your child doesn’t have to drown in debt or make bad financial decisions. Start by being very clear from the start about how (or if) you will help financially and what they will be responsible for. Walk alongside them as they find scholarships, part-time jobs (looking at you Chick-fil-A), or co-op programs. And teach them how to budget the money they earn from these things.
Make sure they also understand what insurance they need, why they need it, and how to get it. And constantly warn them that everybody will try to convince them to borrow money, get the latest credit card, get a car loan, etc. Talk about the pitfalls of these things and remind them that no matter what other people do, it’s better to be the weird one that pays in full with money.
Encourage them to surround themselves with strong people.
● Entrepreneur Jim Rohn said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And he’s right. You want your student to make good friends, try new things, open their eyes to the world, and have fun. But if this phase of life is about preparing for the future, one of the most important things they can learn is how to find loved ones and build friendships.
Friendships guide you through life. And I’m not talking about the “friends” you follow on social media. I’m talking about people who know the right things and bad things and always appear. It’s so important that your child learns to balance responsibilities and develop real relationships that build them up rather than destroy them. If you have a shy child, they might need a little more help and guidance. And if your child has a bit of a wild side (God bless him), he may need some guidance on how to find good, fun and safe relationships.
Some of my best friends to date are friends I made in college. These are the people who cheered me on when I felt like giving up, helped me feel at home when I was homesick, and made me laugh so hard it hurt. . College is a stimulating and ever-changing environment, so make sure your child doesn’t underestimate the importance of strong relationships.
When your child enters college, they discover everything: new schedules, new friends, new financial responsibilities, new social experiences, new freedom. Change is stressful for them and for you. When preparing your child for college, remember to have compassion. . . and fun. It’s an exciting new step for your family, but it’s an adventure that should be the start of something amazing.
After winning $500,000 in scholarships and graduating from her dream school with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, Kristina Ellis aims to help students create their own plan for a debt-free education. She is the bestselling author of Confessions of a Scholar and How to Get a Degree Without Debt. She is a featured expert on the 2021 documentary Borrowed Future: How Student Loans Are Killing the American Dream.