May 16, 2011
If your child has time available (and most teens do), encourage community service in the summer. It’s great for them to find a cause they care about and it may give them some ideas regarding what they may want in future employment. Volunteering is also a “must have” for college applications.
Here are some volunteer sites to search for opportunities:
Project Just Because (Hopkinton); Salvation Army Soup Kitchen (Framingham 508.875.3341); Mass Soup kitchens; Habitat for Humanity; Baypathhumane (Hopkinton – animal shelter, 17 years and older); BostonCares; thevolunteerfamily; dosomethinggood (website very appealing to teens); idealist.org; volunteermatch.
Your child may also consider a longer term commitment and sign up for a training program to volunteer at a hospital, nursing home, the Samaritans, etc.
There are many areas that are very important to your child’s success at college and I recommend setting up a family meeting (or more than one) before he or she sets off on their adventure. It’s a good idea to start off by letting your child know that although college is a time to experiment and try new things, you trust them to make good decisions. You will want to offer your advice and expectations in the following areas:
- Academics. Help them figure out a reasonable study plan and discuss any grade expectations that come along with any scholarships. Share your personal academic expectations as well.
- Finances. Be clear regarding who will pay for what. Expenses can really add up quickly if your child frequently leaves campus to eat. Many schools now let students use their university swipe card for local restaurants and shops, however this can make it difficult to keep costs under control. You may want to limit those cards for books/campus necessities.
Note that while credit card companies may set up on campus and offer students a gift to sign up, these are not usually the best terms. If your student plans to get a card (only one!), they should consider using it only for textbooks, gas and necessities to build up credit – not for going out to eat and other social events.
- Communication. Agree on how (phone, skype, e-mail, text, etc.) and how often you will communicate. I strongly recommend setting up a once a week call (Sundays often work well). Also, as tempting as it will be to be in touch multiple times per day, it is important to encourage your student to find support systems at school. Of course, they should know that you are always there for them when they really need/want to talk with you to share special or difficult news, but gaining independence is an important part of the first year experience. (Check out skype.com – a free service for a video call with a web camera. It really makes a difference to see your child as you speak to them.)
- Healthy Habits. Well, it may not make any difference, but it’s worth a try to talk to your child this summer about how he or she eats/drinks, how much sleep they get and the concept of regular exercise. They will be able to tell the difference in how they feel, look and possibly perform at school, so it’s worth discussing.
- Social Life. This can be a tough topic to discuss, but it’s critical. Topics such as peer pressure, binge drinking, abuse of prescription and recreational drugs and date rape should all be addressed. (Visit www.parade.com/teendrinking for an eye-opening article on current trends.) A good rule of thumb is for your child to avoid making any major changes in their habits during the first month of school.
Hopefully, your child is working hard to finish strong on finals and find a job, internship, or community service this summer. (Look back on my April and May newsletters for more specifics.)
Plan to visit some colleges this summer with the idea that you will want to return in the fall when students are on campus. Look for my July and August newsletters for help with writing essays and filling out the common application. Next month, your child will be the senior!
For students with learning challenges:
Book review (helpful for many students): Learning Outside the Lines, by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole
These two students began college at Landmark College with significant learning disabilities/ADHD and then graduated at the top of their class from Brown University. (Yes, that Brown University).
This is a good read for students and parents with ADD/ Learning Disabilities as the two authors describe their dismal school years prior to receiving appropriate educational help in college.
Also helpful is a lengthy section for students on note taking, studying, writing, overall time management, etc. This is a good book to buy for your child so they can mark it up and take it with them to school. Well worth the $14 for practical advice and hopeful encouragement for those for whom school does not come easily.
Please feel free to forward these notes to others with high school students. To be added to the list for the future, just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.