THE BLOG
04/21/2011 11:20 am ET Updated Jun 21, 2011

They're in! Now What? Parents, Keep It Real!

Strategies for a successful college transition

The retention and graduation rates in this country scream out that American students experience significant challenges staying in and succeeding at college. According to the non-profit organization American College Testing, the national retention rate for four-year institutions is 67.6 percent at public schools and 68.7 percent at private schools. Completion rates are even starker. Just over half -- or 55.1 percent -- of students in private institutions, and 39.6 from public institutions, graduate in 5 years or less.

Many parents take an incredible leap of faith sending their children to college, spending an enormous amount of money as well as saddling their young adults with student loans in an uncertain economy.

Parents need to get real with their teens about what college really is. It's a valuable academic commitment in a world of wonderful opportunities -- and distractions.

One of the most important factors for success of college students is being real with themselves. This sounds easier than it is. In today's "bubble wrapped" society, most teens and parents do not realize how much support and monitoring they have received growing up, including parents, institutions and tutors. Too often, students used to constant support at home become overwhelmed when they arrive at college and don't reach out for support in a timely way, resulting in myriad of difficult outcomes.

Teens heading off to college need to understand what it takes for them to succeed in life -- socially, academically, and emotionally -- and how to make that happen.

How can parents start this process?

    1. Do some serious soul searching and evaluate how much monitoring and support your teen has had from you and others:
  • Are you waking them up in the morning, doing laundry, running errands, making their appointments?
  • Do you call the high school or college about information?
  • Do they have a tutor/therapist/psychiatrist/disability? Do they regularly spend time with a support team at high school?
  • Have you been making sure they meet deadlines?
  • Do you monitor/remind them often about their time and activities?
    2. Find a good time to talk:
  • State that beginning college can be a big adjustment and that you want to help them to get ready.
  • Explain that this will involve fostering their independence.
  • Ask what they feel you are still doing for them that they can do themselves.
  • Discuss recreating a support team on campus similar to the supports they are currently receiving.
  • Ask if they have any worries or concerns about transitioning to college. Whatever they express, listen, brainstorm for solutions, get information. Consult with a professional in the field now when they are still in your "orbit."
    3. Get the facts yourself. For resources on challenges at college as well as a successful transition, visit my website: www.collegewithconfidence.com