Is My Child Ready For College?

Find out how to tell if your high school graduate is ready to take the plunge into college life.

Photo: Thinkstock

Your child is going to graduate from high school this year. Then what?

One common answer is that the next move is for your child to enroll in college and begin at the start of the next semester.

However, it’s important to remember that just as everyone is different, every education path is different as well. Before you send your child off to school, take a moment to consider whether or not he or she is ready for college.

The most obvious factor in whether a child is prepared for college or not is in the academics.

Many parents—and young students, as well—fear that any delay in continuing a young adult’s education will cause her to “fall behind.” In actuality, the opposite could be the case: if a student fresh out of high school continues on to college before she is ready, her difficulty in adjusting could reflect in her grades and performance in classes.

How Do I Know If My Child Is Ready For College Or Not?

The simplest answer here is to ask your child. If she thinks she’s ready, she’ll tell you. Or, if he thinks he could use a gap year, he might let you know. These are ideal situations, of course—your child might not know or might not want to tell you if she isn’t ready—but it’s always worth asking.

If an open dialogue doesn’t get you an answer, you can try to look for signs as to whether your child is ready. If your child is displaying excitement at the prospect of college, that’s a good indicator that he or she is ready.

If your child is showing signs of stress, it may be because of the impending college experience. Remember that stress can cause depression, so keep an eye out for signs of that as well.

A good, objective indicator of your child’s preparedness for college can come in the application phase. Is your child able to handle the application process alone? Did he fill out his FAFSA without assistance? Did she come to you for help often, or seem stressed out by the process?

If a student can’t handle the application process alone, the actual college experience will be even tougher. Make sure you let your child fill out applications without your interference as much as possible, so he or she can get a feel for what independence is like.

What Makes A Child Unprepared For College?

The most obvious factor in whether a child is prepared for college or not is in the academics. Did your child struggle through high school or pass with flying colors? Remember that college is often an academic step up, so a student that struggles in high school might not be ready for the next step.

Anxiety about leaving home can also be a factor. Going to college, especially if a child is going far from home or out of state, can be a huge life change.

It’s also important to note that high school is an extremely rigorous four-year stretch. A student just leaving might not feel that he is ready to sit in another classroom so soon. Or, she just might not be sure what she wants to study.

Alternatives and Gap Year Ideas

If you have discussed it and you feel that your child isn’t ready yet, there’s no need to worry. A year off, or “gap year,” doesn’t mean your child will fall behind. In fact, some students benefit from a gap year, and the trend is on the rise according to USA Today .

It’s important to note, though, that a gap year shouldn’t just be a time to relax and slack off. High school graduates might need some rest from the classroom, but the brain needs to keep active in order to stay sharp.

Travel can often provide educational experiences, but can be a costly choice. Other students might benefit from an educational program designed for a student on a gap year (which may also cost money). Read our full article on gap year options here.

Community service can be enriching, and some programs might even offer college credit or help with scholarships or loan payments or credits. Internships are also an option, and are a great way to help a student unsure of what to study find an interesting career path.

How Should We Prepare For College or a Gap Year?

Your child’s high school counselor (or college counselor, if your child is already accepted) is a valuable resource for exactly these kinds of scenarios. Sit down with your child or with a counselor, and brainstorm some ideas together that will be enriching and help prepare for college, whether it’s coming up in a few months, or a year from now.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Help My Child Prepare For College
How To Improve Your Teen's Study Habits
High School Academics: Planning Class Schedules
Working With Your Child's College Counselor
Standardized Tests: A Parent's Guide
College Admissions Calendar For Parents
My Child's High School Isn't Doing Any College Planning
Help! My Child Has No Plan For College

See All Parents' Guide to College Planning Articles

Quick Search: Find the College that's Right for You!

OR

Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.