For many years I’ve sat with stunned parents who asked, "What went wrong with my kid in college?" Their son or daughter left home upbeat and full of hope, only to return from freshman year overwhelmed, anxious or depressed. Yet they had excelled in high school.
The leap to college is loaded with challenges for teenagers. Take a look at the many "firsts" teenagers confront freshmen year:
First time...living on their own.
First time...managing their own budget.
First time...setting their own schedule.
First time...structuring their studies alone.
First time...living in a new city or town.
First time...without parental supervision.
Add to those challenges academic pressures and social problems, and it’s not difficult to understand why some college freshman crash and burn.
Preparing Your Teenager for College: An Eight Point Checklist
The best way to help your kids prepare for college is to start preparing them before they leave home. Believe it or not, many teenagers arrive at college totally unprepared for independent living, not knowing how to do simple tasks such as laundry, cooking or managing their finances.
To help prepare your teenager, consider the following:
1. Summer Camp
A few weeks at summer camp is a excellent way to help teens explore independence and sharpen their social skills.
2. Summer Jobs
Teens love to make their own money. Summer jobs boost self-esteem and are a great way to inspire teenagers to set financial goals.
Internships always inspire new levels of maturity in teenagers. Look for internships that appeal to your kid's interests, with an eye on their future career.
4. Study Abroad
Living in a different country and speaking a different language is a challenge. But if your teenager can manage that, college will be a breeze.
5. Bank Accounts
Rather than handing cash to your teenager, open a savings account and deposit allowance or paychecks into it. Teach basic accounting skills in high school, and your kids will be well prepared to manage their money in college.
6. College Prep Courses
What better what to prepare for college than sampling college academics and social life?
7. Household Chores
Pass on healthy habit to your kids by encouraging them to do their own laundry, cook meals and exercise regularly. Teenagers will take those healthy habits to college.
8. Teen Therapy Groups
If your kid is shy, withdrawn or struggling socially in high school, college will quickly become unmanageable. Teen therapy groups are the best way to strengthen social skills and build social confidence.
How College Support Groups Can Help Freshmen Year
For nearly twenty-five years I’ve led college support groups for students in the New York City area. Every week college students file into my office to share their struggles and fears.
As they develop positive relationships with their fellow students, sighs of relief abound. Finally they feel understood. Finally they have a community. Finally they have a place to share their anxieties, and get help from their peers.
Nearly all student health centers offer college support groups. However, some students resist contacting their college student health center for help and will prefer a private college support groups off campus.
3 Ways College Support Groups Can Help
1. College Support Groups Strengthen Social Skills
Isolation is the enemy of positive adjustment. College support groups help students develop the confidence they need to feel more comfortable in social situations, and learn to be more assertive and expressive.
2. College Support Groups Encourage Independence
Sometimes struggling students turn to their parents for support. Though parents can offer long-distance relief, when college students remain too emotionally dependent on their parents, they suffer gaps in their maturity. College support groups help student to develop the confidence to stand on their own and become self-reliant.
3. College Support Group Provide a Positive Peer Community
Drug and alcohol abuse in college is well documented. In an effort to feel socially accepted, student sometimes engage in destructive behaviors. College support groups provide students with a positive peer community so they can resist negative peer pressure.