When is the best time to prepare your child for college?
If you are parenting young children, you have an incredible gift: time. There is still time to read. There is still time to play. There is still time to develop a healthy emotional, social, and diverse learning environment for your little person.
And, perhaps best of all, there is still time to save for college.
From the halls of higher education, I glean insights daily from those students who successfully made the leap – including what their parents did or didn’t do.
Here are 3 ways you can prepare your preschooler for college:
1. Read to them. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but the trends say it all.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 53 percent of children ages three to five were read to daily by a family member.
Source: National Education Association
The benefits of reading to your child are too extensive to list, but they include: promotion of secure relationships; imagination stimulation; literacy building; active problem-solving; and exposure to diverse people, places, and ideas. These impacts are essential for not only college success but navigating life’s many challenges.
The hard part? This investment requires time and patience. Children like to experience the same books over and over again. As they get older, they often linger and ask questions about illustrations and the meanings of new words. To put it bluntly, story time is not a drive-by activity if it is to be fruitful.
But consistently reading with your child can lead to autonomy and a love for the written word.
2. Tell them no. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home or a working parent, your child craves boundaries, and they are going to test them. How does the magically difficult “no” benefit them in college? They learn that the world is not at their disposal. They learn that sometimes external forces challenge, and this can be a good thing. And they learn to respect authority. One study even suggests that material scarcity vs. abundance can spur creativity in our children.
Most often, I see a lack of “no’s” manifest in the following ways:
- Failure to accept a grade below an A.
- Combative verbal outbursts during discussion.
- Students who lack the discipline to say “no” to college’s endless temptations (which, in due time, can evolve into addiction).
Truly, I think healthy “no’s” are our best chance in fighting the entitlement epidemic. And I believe they make preschoolers – future students – resilient in overcoming inevitable adversity.
3. Let them watch and ask questions. We parents have a beautiful opportunity to teach our children every single day. According to one UK investigation, mothers on average are asked nearly 300 questions on a daily basis. I would argue that’s a conservative estimate.
I can tell you that my most successful, well-adjusted students watched their parents/guardians and felt invited to ask questions. These non-traditional lessons they learned emerge in class presentations, expository writing, and group discussion. It doesn’t matter if their parents were professors or plumbers, early positive exposures to caregivers’ daily activities opened the door to wonder, admiration for – at least what we often perceive to be – the mundane, and pervasive encouragement to chart their own course.
It may seem counterintuitive but by letting our kids in and allowing organic teachable moments, we can equip them with what we know, which, in turn, encourages them to move beyond us in their knowledge. Research involving preschoolers specifically supports this notion that a child’s questions spur rapid cognitive development.
And, in this, parents can become the best teachers of all.
But college preparation should only be part of our larger goal in raising children. For if we raise our kids to love and give, to listen and respect, to persist and adapt, college will be but one chapter in their greater life’s story.
At least that is my hope.
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