How to Prepare Your Child for College

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The last few years of your child’s life at home full-time can be full of ups and downs. The teen years are tough, but as they come to a close, you’re probably still struggling with the idea that your child is ready to live on their own. It can be challenging to prepare them to live independently while still offering the guidance and structure older teens need. Not only is the degree important for the future, but going away to college offers a kind of midpoint between total autonomy and living at home, and there are several ways you can get your teen ready for the experience.

Decide How to You’re Going to Pay

Whether you’ve been putting money away for your child since infancy or only recently starting looking at how to pay for college, you may want to consider using a combination of grants, scholarships, loans and savings. Some parents feel that even if they can afford to pay their child’s way to college, their children should also make a contribution. Whatever arrangement you have in place, your child may need to borrow money to take out student loans. These might come from the federal government, from private lenders or from a combination of the two. Working with your teen to make a plan to pay for college can help convey a sense of how valuable this education can be.

Teach the Importance of Credit

It’s not uncommon for college students to be deluged with credit card offers. Even students who have a fairly good money sense can be tempted. You can better equip your teen to deal with these offers by talking about credit and interest rates from the time they are much younger. Adding kids as an authorized user on a credit card or getting them their own while they are still living at home can help them understand that what may feel like free money is far from that in reality.

Build Problem Solving Skills

It’s normal for parents to want to prevent their children from going through anything difficult, but it also doesn’t do them any favors. Hopefully, you’ve been teaching them age-appropriate problem-solving skills since they were toddlers, but even if your tendency has been more to swoop in and fix things for them, it’s not too late to help them become more autonomous in the last few years before college. These problem-solving skills will serve them well whether they need to resolve an issue with a roommate, talk to a professor about problems with an assignment or handle peer pressure.

Keep Communication Open

The transition to adulthood doesn’t happen all at once. You want your kid to be independent and resilient, but there are still times they are going to need you, and they should know that they can contact you if that’s the case. They should be prepared to talk to a professor about a missed test or a landlord about an issue with the deposit, but they should also know they should come to you if there are serious financial, health or other problems.