Managing Student Expectations in the Transition from High School to College
High school seniors have a lot of expectations about what life will be like once they move on from their parents’ homes. When I prepared to leave for college, I hunkered down in my room to make a list of all the things I’d “need” for my new life, including a fully furnished student apartment. I presented this list, with its forty or fifty thousand dollar budget, to my mother who after laughing so hard I thought she’d hurt herself said, “Kid, that’s not how it works.”
While high school graduation can be one of the most exciting times in a young person’s life, young people for the most part don’t know what awaits them in this next stage of their development. Teens are finally becoming adults, able to set the rules for themselves and make their way in the world. One way to help them do so without making mistakes from which it is difficult to recover, is to talk about common issues this time of life brings. Here are a few that might be good topics of discussion.
College Does Not Guarantee a Job
Going to a university in no way guarantees that a young person will get a job. College is a time to try new things and have new experiences, and to develop critical problem solving skills. Some young people choose the party path. Encourage your young person instead to consider study abroad and getting involved with activities on and off campus. Don’t put pressure on students for straight As. Unless the young person is certain s/he wants to go to grad school, no one will ask what his/her grades were. Encourage students to use these years to do things they will likely never have a chance to do again. These experiences will pique the interest of potential employers.
Everything is Expensive and Home is Not a Bank
If as a parent you’ve been handing out money without teaching your children about budgeting, you’ve done them a grave disservice. Teach your children about budgeting, living within their means, and having an emergency fund. Encourage them to call home often, but not just for money.
Be Savvy about Student Loans
Be clear-headed about student loans. Remind young people that student loans must be repaid and do not generally discharge with bankruptcy. Encourage your child to choose a school s/he can afford. Know what kind of jobs are available for someone with the degree your loved one is planning to earn and figure out whether or not starting salaries make student loan repayment possible. Parents, be wary of parental loans. You have to pay those back too!
Learn to Write and Communicate Face to Face
While college is a time to learn new things and dabble in classes that might be a stretch, from art history to world religions, employers will expect that new hires will have some important skills. No matter what a person’s degree is in, s/he will be expected to be able to write well and communicate effectively both in small groups and to give presentations. No potential employee can rely on text or short, Twitter-like messages in most workplace settings. Cultivate writing and communication skills. Use a study abroad opportunity to learn a second language. Intercultural competence is a great skill to possess in a global economy.
Enjoy Yourself, but Ask for Help if You Need It
The pressure in college is tremendous. Discourage the use of medications like Ritalin or Adderall as study aids. Encourage your student to show up for classes. Teach students to ask for help. If they don’t get the concepts presented immediately, suggest they go to the professor’s office hours that week. If the stress and transition to university life is too much, the chaplain’s office or counseling center will set an appointment. Professors and tutors are available for all academic issues and chaplain’s offices or counseling services can assist if depression, anxiety or other personal issues develop. Remember, the university wants your loved one to succeed as much as you do, so teach your student where to go for help.