Dear Parents of High Schoolers
I teach about 2000 undergraduates each year, and I'm a Mom of college and high school age kids. As a result, there are a few things I need to tell the other parents who are preparing their kids for college.
It's great that you put your kid into AP classes in high school. It really will help your child have better study habits in college. It's also great that you put your kid into extracurricular activities. Bonus points if you allowed your kid to fall flat on his or her face along the way, because they got overwhelmed and/or weren't the best at something. Fear of failing for the first time is a big reason (ironically) that many students fail in college.
There are a few more things I REALLY need you to do to stave off the tears and breakdowns that I see in my office each semester, though.
1) Make them solve their own problems. If they screw up, then by all means you can let them bounce ideas off of you, but make them be the one who makes the phone calls or schedules the meetings to resolve the issue. Other than being a resource, please step aside, because you won't be there in college, and they need the skills to survive that.
2) Make them wake themselves up to get to school on time. Step out of this process entirely by their senior year, because you won't be getting them to class in college, and too many of them just don't seem to make it on their own.
3) Teach them how to cook and eat basic, balanced meals. Yes there are meal plans, but college students tend to want to eat at 2 a.m. when the cafeteria is closed. If you don't teach them to cook and eat healthy food, they'll live off of pizza and do poorly in all areas of their lives. Proper nutrition is vital, but they won't do it if they don't know how.
4) Set up a bank account for them, help them develop a budget, and let them manage some of their own expenses. I can't tell you how many students spend all of their money at the beginning of school, and then they can't afford their books. (But they don't want to admit that to their parents, so they just don't do the readings for the tests.)
5) Force them to interact as adults with adults they don't know. In our online world, the ability to make small talk with other adults is neither modeled nor practiced for most young people. This makes it nearly impossible for them to succeed not only in school, but in their job searches and their careers. Get them to volunteer on a committee with adults other than you. If they can learn to make eye contact and shake hands well - bonus points!
There are hundreds of articles out there about preparing your young person for the academic rigors of college. As a result, I don't see many students failing because they just aren't smart enough for school. (Face it - we wouldn't admit them if they weren't smart enough!) But I see lots of failure based on inadequate preparation for adulthood. As one parent to another, and as a university instructor concerned for my future students, please take advantage of the Spring semester to help your high schoolers move into adulthood before throwing them into the deep end of the pool that is college.