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A frequent question from parents of teens: How do you know whether your kid is ready for college?
Obviously bright kids should go to college.
However in order to “make it” at college a teenager must be able to function independently and responsibly in two domains: academic and personal.
Academically a college student must be SCHOLASTICALLY RESPONSIBLE — able to meet deadlines, concentrate in class, write down assignments, take part in discussions, find what is needed in the library or on the Internet, ask about and monitor his or her progress. College students must be TIME COMPETENT and able to plan and budget their time to fulfill all academic responsibilities. And of course they must be able to do all this ON THEIR OWN.
A College student must also know how to be an EFFICIENT student. Sitting and staring at a book for hours won’t cut it.
There are books on the market that deal with study skills needed in college like time management, strategies for active learning, taking notes, preparing for exams, and learning from mistakes as well as how to get help. Colleges teem with resources to help students who are floundering but most freshman students don’t realize they need help, let alone that help is available.
College students also need to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. They go abruptly from high school, where somebody tells them what to do most of the time, to a milieu where nobody does. Students must do mundane but necessary life tasks on their own like eating and getting enough sleep, doing laundry before they run out of clothes, managing money, etc. This takes maturity and stability because the college student will be confronted with many choices and freedoms.
Unfortunately one group of teens at high risk of doing poorly at college are those who are bright, who can get good grades in high school without much effort, and don’t assume much responsibility around the house.
Parental indulgence, especially when showered on teens, does not help a child. As a matter of fact, it hinders the child and interferes with the development of personal responsibility.
If you have been an indulger — doing things for your teen that he or she can perfectly well do — kick the habit! have you. Give your kid warning. This is the deal: you will teach your teen how to do these things but you will NOT do personal chores any more. I actually told my teen-age son he would have trouble finding a girl friend if he was a house slob — I guess it worked because he even learned how to be a great cook.
Be sure your teen can also assume personal responsibility in MONEY MATTERS. Open a checking and savings account for your children in high school and teach them how to manage both. Add that if they handle these accounts responsibly you will consider a credit card (with a strict limit, of course) so they can practice using credit responsibly.
Be sure your teen makes an early appointment with the high school college counselor to talk about college options and how to prepare an application and write a personal statement. Many kids today don’t start early enough so they have to rush through a very important process.
Start talking about colleges taking into consideration what you can afford as well as where the teen is likely to be accepted. After your child has worked responsibly with the counselor and come up with a list of colleges that you can afford, let the teen decide which ones to apply to. A gift of autonomy is actually better than a new car when you are ready to go off to college.
I favor going-away-to-college rather than community college for the teenager who can do the work and whose family can afford it because learning to live independently and meeting many different people are both such valuable experiences.
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