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Preparing Your Children for College

Most parents want their children to do better in life than they did. One of the best ways to ensure economic security for our kids is to prepare them for college. The Bureau of Labor Statistics bears this out – the higher your educational attainment, the better your chances of being employed.

Since college is a desired destination for most, how can parents best ensure that their children are ready for the challenge?

According to NCU Psychology Professor R. Bruce McNellie, PhD, parents must cultivate skills associated with college-readiness, and that preparation begins early, “It essentially starts from birth, and continues throughout their lives.”

Be a learning role model
When it comes to adopting ideal behavior, a child’s greatest teacher are their parents. And, parents are most effective when they stay involved in their children’s learning process by modeling the desired behavior themselves.
“The very best way to encourage children is to model a higher commitment to higher education,” explains McNellie. “If you want kids to be successful in school, read to them and listen to them read to you. This has been shown to be connected to success in school, but it also shows the importance parents place on learning.”

Offer tools and time
Having books in the home also helps model learning. Limiting television and game playing in favor of reading or studying together helps imprint the significance of education. When a family participates in learning, children see it as a regular activity.

Add variety
Dr. McNellie also says trying new things can help make life-long learning fun, “Parents can model this by reading in the home, taking children to new places and encouraging them to try new things. They can also talk about college and professional life.”

Adjust attitudes
Learning isn’t always easy. It can become anxious for both parents and students as children get closer to college, or if young kids feel too pressured to succeed.

To manage anxiety, Dr. McNellie suggests adjusting attitudes to see learning as a natural process. “It is not a race to see who finishes first. Information acquisition in college is more important that in high school, so preparing students to enjoy learning is an important preparation process and this is a lifelong attitude.”

Teaching children to embrace education is an ongoing endeavor. By making time, and offering the tools and encouragement, involved parents can ensure that their children have greater opportunities to be successful.

About R. Bruce McNellie, PhD

Dr. McNellie earned his Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a PhD in Psychology from Northcentral University. He worked for 33 years with the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services, retiring in 2004. Today, he is an Adjunct Faculty Professor for Northcentral University’s Department of Psychology and The School of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University. He also serves as the director for a non-profit, human services organization, Project Belize, which has provided much needed medical care to citizens in Belize since 1988.