How To Guide Your College-Bound Teen Through The Coronavirus Pandemic
A lot has changed since many states ordered a shelter in place in early April of this year. Millions of students have found themselves sitting at home, wondering how this global pandemic is going to impact their future plans. While there is very little one can do about the situation we find ourselves in, there is plenty that both students and parents can do to make the best of it.
Even if you are working from home, you are saving over an hour of time since you no longer need to commute. Your child may be learning online, but they are no longer attending after school activities. You as a parent are no longer running around, shuffling kids to sports, making lunches, going shopping and running around like your hair is on fire. The world has slowed to a crawl. It’s important to use this extra time wisely and talk to your college-bound teen about their future.
Now that you are both finally home at the same time, take a moment to sit down with your child and have a conversation about college and their future plans. We move so fast through life that we often view everything as an obstacle we have to overcome. We consider applying to college like a series of challenges that need to be completed as quickly as possible. We rarely stop to actually examine what we are doing and why we are doing it.
Ask your son or daughter how they are feeling about the college application process. What has them concerned or confused? You may learn that they have a serious concern about writing their essay or filing for financial aid. Now that you are aware of it, you can use your newly found free time to explore resources such as MyKlovr’s Financial Readiness section or a YouTube video series on writing college essays. The important thing is that you conquer this obstacle together before it becomes a more significant issue.
Next, talk about the colleges they are considering applying too. Challenge your child to explain why each college is on their list. This is not meant to be negative but rather to have an open conversation about what they are looking for in a school. You can talk about the importance of things like internships, alumni networks, tuition costs, and campus size. If your kid is struggling to create a list of schools, our College Finder service will work with them to create the ideal list based on their interests, qualifications, and needs.
As we’ve covered in past blog posts, there are a number of things that you may know a lot about, but your kids will not. This is the perfect opportunity to dispense that wisdom and guide them in the right direction. For example, many of the grads I speak to tell me they were basically clueless when it comes to student loans. They had no idea how they worked or how much money they would be paying back per month after graduation. Be sure to sit down with your children and discuss these things before they start applying for loans.
The chances are that this pandemic has canceled at least one if not several college visits your student was planning to attend. Encourage them to visit the school’s website and YouTube channel and find any virtual tours they can check out. Then, visit sections on the website like student activities, student life, campus activities, and residence life to learn more about the various events they hold on campus throughout the year. Lastly, visit the school’s social media pages to get an idea of what life is like on campus. It will not deliver the full picture that a campus tour would, but at least it is something that will yield information about what it might be like to attend that school.
Lastly, you should encourage your child to use this time to do their own research once this particular conversation is over. If they haven’t done so already, I highly suggest all high school students create a LinkedIn profile. Next, use the search bar to find alumni that have graduated from that school. Then, send them a private message and ask questions about the college such as what they liked, didn’t like, what they studied, and if they would do it all over again if given a chance. You will find great value in their answers because, unlike college employees, they are not being paid by the school and have no reason to sugar coat anything.
In addition to alumni outreach, LinkedIn is perfect for connecting with working professionals. If your child has an idea of what career or industry they are interested in, they should seek out those who are already doing those jobs. Those are the people who can give you an idea of what that career is like and whether or not you will enjoy it. Encourage them to ask questions to learn more about their day to day responsibilities, what they studied in school, and what advice they have for someone just starting out.
This pandemic will be long and hard. It’s not fair that so many students have had their progress stalled, and their futures be thrown into question. Unfortunately, we can do very little but stay home and wait it out. However, what we do at home can make all the difference. Commit to having a conversation, or series of conversations, with your children about the importance of using this time wisely and preparing for the future. This way, when they look back on 2020 ten years from now, they will remember that it may have been a dark time, but it was also the start of something positive as well.
Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life, including college, entering the workforce, and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.