Advice & Features Articles

High School to College



“I’ve Gotta Be Me”

Golden Rainbow, Steve Lawrence; lyrics by Walter Marks

By Karyn Brodsky

By the end of high school, students are attempting to break the mold and distinguish themselves, especially as they package themselves for college.

Dr. Cary Israel, current Executive Advisory Board Member and consultant for Sarasota, FL-based CampusWorks and former College President of Collin College and several other schools, has watched many high school students transition to college in his lengthy career.

“At Collin College I initiated a program called ‘Destination College,’ which included a preparedness booklet, presentations by experts and open discussion for 11th and 12th grade students and their parents,” says Israel. “It was all about how to get ready for college, with speakers from the ACT and SAT centers, financial planners, financial aid guidance in Spanish and English and more.” Israel said he spoke about what to look for in a college, including large versus smaller populations, courses and majors offered, dorm types, extracurricular activities, safety, incidence of sexual assault on campus, and whether to allow the student to bring a car to campus during freshman year. (He believed the car wasn’t a good idea, as it would potentially be used to run errands for others or transport people who drank too much.)

Another thing to consider, says Israel, is whether the school offers concurrent enrollment or dual credit classes, which can help acclimate high school students to the rigors of college. He also advises, “Go spend a weekend in the dorm at the university or college. Don’t live with your best friend. Expand your horizons and your knowledge.”

Deanie Kepler, Director of Parent and Family Programs at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, works with parents at orientation to help them prepare their students for the move to college. “They are experiencing emerging adulthood, and their brains are not yet fully developed, so they need to work on decision-making and executive skills,” she says. “They have to learn to recognize the need to prepare for different demands and build new skills to handle time management, textbooks, classrooms, studying and exams.”

Kepler recommends that parents work with their kids to strengthen their independence and decision-making. Focus on time management, financial responsibilities (checking their bank account balance, using an ATM, paying with a credit or debit card), organizational skills for submitting important forms and obtaining records, personal care, including sleep, nutrition, health care and laundry, and discuss on-campus safety as well as drugs, alcohol and sex.

Discuss grades in advance; express your love, trust and belief in their abilities. In the likely event that a student receives a low college grade, encourage them to take advantage of campus resources: speak to their professor or teaching assistant, see a guidance counselor or retain the campus tutoring service or private tutor. Kepler stresses that utilizing all applicable campus resources can make the difference between a smooth or rocky transition from high school to college and can help ensure future success.

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