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  • Tara Powers-Hausmann


Updated: Mar 22, 2022

As part of Raising Resilience's focus on mindful parenting, Raising Resilience board member, Tara Powers-Hausmann of College Fit Consulting, is addressing how parents can "step back, slow down, breathe, and practice compassion" as they assess their child's readiness for college.

Read below for Tara's top five readiness skills.

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As parents, we anticipate certain milestones in our children’s lives, and attending college is often one of them. In high school, everyone--students, parents, teachers, counselors, and peers--seems focused on that goal. We think of college preparation as taking AP classes, studying for and taking the SAT/ACT, getting the best grades possible, and participating in extracurricular activities. However, in our effort to advance our child/student toward higher education, we are often missing key components of college readiness.

More often than you’d think, young adults head off to college without being ready. When that’s the case, the odds are stacked against them in terms of success in that first year. And being asked to leave college can be devastating on many levels for the student and their family.

Navigating college requires skills and a level of maturity not always achieved during high school. While some students simply lack the maturity to take on college right after high school, some are missing skills that can be learned and practiced before heading off. Here are my top five readiness skills:

1. Self-Advocacy/Communication. To best function as a college student, students must be able to ask questions of adults, make appointments, attend 1:1 meetings, and get the help they need. Getting comfortable with these skills during high school is best.

2. Confidence and Perseverance. In an ideal college situation, the student feels confident enough to try new things and take safe risks. They should know that it is ok to fail and that it is part of learning. They should be able to recover and move on after a setback.

3. Self-Awareness/Understanding. A much higher level of self-awareness and understanding is needed to function in college versus high school. We parents get used to playing this role when our kids are little but don’t tend to back off as they get older and more capable. Students need to know their limits, their sleep requirements, their capabilities and strengths, their health needs (food and exercise), and their time needs in terms of assignments and studying.

4. Study Skills. In college, the vast majority of classwork is done outside of the classroom, and the workload is heavier than in high school. It is easy to get overwhelmed if good academic skills were not developed in high school. Taking a challenging (for the individual) course load in high school can help. Mastering a system for notetaking in high school will also be very helpful in college.

5. Responsibility. In college, students are held accountable for their actions, whether it is in the classroom, in their residence hall, or in an extracurricular environment. Mistakes WILL be made in college. How the mistake is handled can make all the difference. Most people are not born with this skill; it has to be learned.

Accepting that a student isn’t quite ready for college can be a big challenge for the student and the parent(s). So much of the high-school experience is about going to college, and there is a lot of emotion tied to it all. It can feel like a failure to accept that a gap year would be helpful.

As parents, the best we can do is step back, slow down, breathe, and practice compassion.

The vast majority of students who take a gap year don’t regret it one bit. Then they head to college and soar, typically achieving higher GPAs than their peers.

Deep breath. It's going to be ok.

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