3 Ways You Can Prepare Your High School Senior for College


Is senior year too late to prepare your teen for college? The short answer is no.

But if you want your child to be ready, here are three practical ways you can assist them in the often-challenging leap to college:

1. Make them set the alarm.

No, really. Let them be responsible for waking themselves up. Success in college is closely tied to regular class attendance, and the excuse typically offered by students to professors is “I overslept”. In fact, these words corrode credibility. Sleep regulation is critical to overall health and well-being and is an excellent indicator of a student’s dedication to their academic career AND future.

And, hey, it’s one less thing!

2. Make them read a book.

I know what you’re thinking: writing professor bias. The truth is, young adults are often not ready for the critical, intensive reading assignments that pervade nearly every college course. Professors aren’t required to cover textbook material in class, and some make no mention of outside reading assignments that will appear on quizzes and tests (which likely comprise significant parts of final grades).

My advice? Let them self-select a book and remember what it means to read for internal vs. external rewards. Also, ask them questions during and/or after their reading to (1) encourage recall in your teen and (2) to create a supportive level of accountability – someone cares enough to ask about how they are spending their time.

*I would recommend a physical copy of a book. The students who burn out most quickly in my courses and stop reading the textbook altogether are those learners who purchase e-versions. Social media will tempt – and win – every time.

3. Make them volunteer.

Will volunteering at the local animal shelter for two hours change your teen’s life? Will it make them a CEO one day? Maybe, but that’s not my point.

Students need to understand that there is a world that exists outside of them. They should encounter poverty in a tangible way. They should experience the discomfort of giving. They should be given numerous chances to apply knowledge and new information to circumstances that they can’t directly control. And the interpersonal skills they forge will prepare them for any field that awaits them.

Your teen should be allowed to choose his/her volunteer opportunity (within reason, of course), as personal choice is essential in young people completing a project and reflecting on it in a meaningful, positive way.

*I would recommend a weekly or bi-weekly one hour per week commitment. Much like the rest of us, teenagers want to see the long-term fruit of their labor vs. a feel-good quick-hit kind of service.

When your first child leaves for college, you will feel helpless. But in teaching your high school senior to take the reigns and make sound decisions, you are equipping them with not just the tools for college but life.

And, I promise, one day you will see how these steps made the letting go a little easier.

*Follow Lauren on Facebook and Twitter.

One Year Ago: To Redshirt, or Not to Redshirt

8 thoughts on “3 Ways You Can Prepare Your High School Senior for College

  1. Lauren great information. My daughter is a Senior and her school has a a requirement called Senior Exit Program that’s required. Basically they find a mentor in a career choice that hope to aspire to in the future. This summer my daughter shadowed a military public affairs officer–a wonderful experience. She even interacted with NBC during a visit and was advised of their internship program in New York. I think programs such as these are also very helpful, and I am curious if other high schools have this sort of program. Oh and the project does contain a presentation and final research paper–8 to 10 pages.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sharon. What an amazing program! I know many high schools in Virginia, California, and Georgia (the states where I have taught) do not have that type of rich, forward-thinking programming. Put it this way, it is not uncommon for students that I encounter on the college level to have escaped high school without writing a formal research paper in English courses – much less for an external mentor program! But I can appreciate what such an offering must do for the participants.

      In my piece I wanted to explore what parents can do, as they desire to be increasingly involved in their child’s college journey (certainly moreso than when I started school back in 2003). These are the BIG 3 I see the greatest need for and wouldn’t it be awesome to have young people that much more prepared? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. JD

    Good advice. No, senior year is not too late, but for those with young children it’s not too early. In fact, the reading goal starts with parents reading to infants and then letting them turn the pages of a thick page book, look at the pictures, and “read” it to themselves. Once they’re old enough, take them to the library and let them check out books on their own account and be responsible for returning them or paying fines out of their allowance. Continue to read together and model for them as a parent that you are reading books too. By the time they are seniors it will be second nature to them and you won’t have to encourage them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we should start the hashtag #readinggoals 🙂 I totally agree – now is the time to dig in and invest in reading time. I am planning a future post related to why students fall away from reading, and – at least from my experience teaching in higher ed – much of it comes back to reading incentive programs. I really believe that if students can re-learn how to read for internal fulfillment, they will embrace (and be much more likely to actually complete!) college-level reading. So grateful to know there are other advocates for upstream investment in education!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the volunteering recommendation! Volunteering can provide so many rich, real-life experiences, and gives kids a chance to see that they CAN make a difference in someone else’s life in a real way- a wonderful way to build compassion and confidence 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Aww, yes 🙂 I grew up volunteering (or maybe ‘being volunteered’ 😉 ) through church- it’s fun getting our kiddos involved already and seeing how they love it. (Random Tangent: If you’re like me and ALWAYS looking for books for the little ‘uns, Last Stop on Market Street is a nice picture book on this topic.)

        Liked by 1 person

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