Friday, April 26, 2013

Is Your Child Ready for College?


I recently went to a seminar by William Stixrud, who is a well known clinical neuropsychologist in Silver Spring, Maryland.  He discussed the fact that in our area, we expect our children to go to college right after high school, but they aren’t always ready.  Here is a summary of his presentation:

Did you know that only 25% of people in our country graduate college?

Did you know that less than 50% of students who enroll in four-year colleges graduate?

Did you know that the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, which controls planning and impulsivity, doesn’t finish developing until age 25?  There is a dramatic spurt in frontal lobe maturation between ages 17 and 20.  Kids with ADHD typically have a slower developing prefrontal cortex.

Some students are just not ready for college right after high school.

Here are some predictors of college success:
  •         Motivation to do the work and achieve academic excellence. There are many distractions at college.  If getting your kid to get his work done in high school is like pulling teeth, how is he going to do it on his own in college?
  •          Experience handling schoolwork independently and corresponding with teachers for questions, extra help, and occasional requests for extensions
  •          Experience doing own laundry, making healthy meal choices, getting enough sleep, and waking up independently
  •          By 9th grade, kids should largely be running their own lives.  By senior year of high school, students should be fairly independent.  Developing independent living skills and increasing responsibility should be a big focus in high school.
  •          Ability to handle stress and effective use of at least one stress reducing routine.  Exercise is most popular and effective.  Yoga and meditation are other options.
  •          Ability to control impulses, such as partying, drugs and alcohol, and regulation of electronics.

  • What parents can do:

    ·         Allow your child to accept responsibility for her own life, and to make her own decisions.
    ·         Parents can be consultants and help when asked.
    ·         “We shouldn't work harder to help our kids than they work to help themselves.” (Stixrud)
    ·         Let kids do their own college applications and college search, with some help, as needed.
    ·         Resist being a helicopter parent – you are not doing your kid a service in the long run.
    ·         If your child is ready for college but will be more successful with support, consider hiring tutors or an academic or life coach to help.  Check out college support systems while researching colleges.

    Alternatives to college right after high school

    ·         Internship
    ·         Holding a job and taking courses at a community college
    ·         Vocational or trade school
    ·         Military

  • A lighter Course Load

    ·         Sometimes a student can be successful just by lightening the course load.  This can be achieved by taking summer courses or taking more than 4 years to graduate.
    ·         Some more difficult courses can be taken at a community college in the summer, with the support of a tutor.
    ·         Support is crucial.  Either get the help of a good school counselor or hire a coach.


    If your child has the motivation to go to college right after high school, becoming independent should be a major high school goal.  If the motivation isn’t there yet, your child may be a late bloomer and may be more successful by attending college a little later.  As you know, college is expensive.  Use your money wisely.