If you know more than one teenager, then I don't have to tell you that all teens are different when it comes to college planning. Equally diverse are the expectations of parents; ranging from the 'do everything for them' parent to the one who believes 'they need to figure it out for themselves'. Teens and parents sometimes naturally work together to plan for college, but what about those who don't?
A common scenario is the parent who wants their teen to be super involved, even in charge of, the planning. Some kids can take this on, but many simply can't or won't. This can quickly turn into a parent/teen dynamic filled with nagging, resentment, avoidance, and irritation; a whole list of characteristics that no parent wants to have define their child's senior year and possibly last full year at home.
When a kid isn't cooperative or proactive concerning college planning it doesn't necessarily mean they are disinterested in college or irresponsible as a rule. It's up to us, as parents, to know our kids and whether or not they are ready for college, but we shouldn't make the mistake of putting all the planning on their shoulders and thinking they aren't ready just because they fail to start that planning in a timely fashion. There are a whole lot of things going on in a teen's mind and brain development that make it harder for them than for an adult to think about the future.
And let's not forget - planning for college is an incredibly involved, multi-faceted and difficult process - even for the parent! If the parents find it that difficult, imagine what it's like for the kids!!
If you're one of those parents who would like for your teen to be move involved, here are some ideas to get them moving on it without creating conflict.
Have a conversation about the goal at hand and lay out expectations for each party
Let them know you expect them to ask for help when they need it
Designate a specific calendar to use for college planning
Lay out basic milestones on the calendar so they can get a sense of the timing of each step
Fill in the calendar with more specific due dates as you become aware of them
Schedule a weekly meeting to review progress and set goals for the upcoming week
Regularly ask them how they are feeling about their progress rather than telling them how you are feeling
Depending on your family dynamic, you may find it helpful to have your teen work with a college planner or coach instead of managing the process yourself. Some kids will listen to anybody except their parents, and some parents just don't have time to add one more responsibility to their already full to-do list.
If you're thinking about planning for college, how much will you help with the process? Let me know by commenting below!