As a parent of a first-time college-going student, I not only am going to miss my son, but I’m also going to miss the free tech help I get from having a digital native living at home. Whether I’m trying to hook up the internet through our TV, set up a family music account or get the virus off the computer (that they downloaded), I rely on my kids to teach me all kinds of things about technology and communication.
But as an admissions counselor who helps guide transfer students and adult learners back to the classroom, I’ve learned there are some things that parents and guardians actually can teach “kids these days” that can set them up for success in college. Among them:
Make communication a top priority. I don’t just mean calling home. Colleges start communicating with new students via their newly assigned college emails as soon as they confirm enrollment. These new email accounts can be hard for many young people to remember to check — many often don’t use email at all.
Yet email is still a medium that matters, and parents are experts at it. Consider sitting down with your students and walking through how to find where the new email account is and how to set it up on their phones. Consider showing them how to forward any other email accounts to this new one so they need to look in only one place. And have them start checking it every day.
Some students miss important communications that necessitate postponing their admission by another quarter. Several other students I know didn’t realize that their financial aid application needed attention and ended up getting less money awarded. Registration, housing, summer events, even first assignments can all be missed if students are not on top of email.
Take charge of time. My son managed to get through a busy high school career never using an online calendar, but I don’t recommend it. Now is the time to set up an online calendar to stay organized and eliminate unnecessary stress.
Every parent I know is able to multitask as well as they do because they rely on this tool. Have your student choose an online calendar (Google pairs well with Gmail accounts), and together you can pull up the school’s academic calendar and load in all the important days for the year. Now have them pull up their class schedule and add that in and block out time for sports or other commitments, time to study and part-time jobs. Once classes start, students can easily merge the college’s online course platform with their calendar so that all assignments, deadlines and finals are automatically loaded on the calendar. I encourage the students I work with to do this, and it is powerful — there’s no way to accidentally miss an assignment.
Do some homework. I don’t mean class assignments — those will come soon enough. But do some early work. There’s no reason for students to walk into class on the first day and wonder what’s going to happen. Before classes start, they can go online to find out what books their classes require and decide whether to buy or rent, track down the class syllabus, and even look up professors to find out about their expertise.
Our kids are poised to learn so many new things in college. But before they go, parents and guardians can help them start off the next four years on the right foot by sharing with them some of our “old school” skills.