Sure, you can get your teen a shiny laptop, a heap of dorm room necessities, and the other basics on the “what to bring to orientation” checklist, but that will only get them so far. Here are five ways parents can really help set their kids up for success in college.
Teach them about money. “Explain to them how to be responsible for it and tell them not to use it willy-nilly,” Maria Furtado, of Colleges That Change Lives, says. “Also, teach them to recognize that it’s OK to use it to have fun, too.” A budgeting app, such as Mint, can be useful.
Demonstrate strong friendships. “Showing your children how to support friends — and be supported by friends — is a really great thing for kids to see,” Furtado says. Knowing how to be a good friend will make it easier for your teen to build a friend group of their own.
Develop their work ethic. An internship or other employment where they’re supervised by other adults is valuable, psychotherapist Sean Grover says. “It helps them develop confidence and learn how to be treated like adults.” A gap year away from your watchful eye or a study abroad program can also be very beneficial.
Recognize it’s not your job to fix everything. “Sometimes (a parent’s) job is just to listen to how mean that professor was— next week, that professor might be the best professor ever,” Furtado says. Give your students the space to work through their own struggles, and support them.
Write them a genuine letter. “You don’t delete a letter,” says Marshall Duke, a psychology professor at Emory University. Going off to college is a very powerful moment, he says, and it lends itself to a big message on paper. “Talk about the big things, like the kind of person you’d like them to be, or that you’re proud to be their parent,” he suggests. “Don’t waste it with, ‘Make your bed every day.’ ”