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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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College Readiness Checklist for Parents

Jeff Livingston

Senior Vice President, College & Career Readiness at McGraw-Hill Education.

As May begins, high school seniors are enjoying their final weeks in school before graduation. In just a few months, they will be stepping onto college campuses for the first time and entering a new chapter.

Twenty-five percent of college students drop out in their freshman year because they are not academically, emotionally or financially prepared for college life and adulthood. Whether students like it or not, college takes planning and preparation. Fortunately, there are things that parents can do to make sure that their child is ready for what will be one of the biggest transitions of his or her life.

Here's a college readiness checklist to make sure your high school grads are prepared for what's waiting for them on campus. (Teachers, you may wish to pass this on to your students' parents.)

Arrange for them to speak formally to a recent college grad.

No one can give your child better advice than a family friend who has recently completed college and found a career in their chosen field. Encourage your child to speak with them about what it takes to be successful in college and what, if anything, they may have done differently. Have your child follow up on the meeting by writing a formal thank you note.

Teach them the ins-and-outs of their college finances.

Students are more likely to take college seriously if they understand how their college finances work. To show them the importance of making the most out of their education on a day-in, day-out basis, go beyond yearly tuition totals and review the cost breakdown of each individual class. Also show them the benefit that finishing in four years will have on their long-term financial future.

Have them start building their network -- now.

Some of the most important connections your child can make in college are ones that begin before they even set foot on campus. Encourage them to speak with their future roommate, other high school classmates who are attending the same college, and student officers in the clubs your child may be interested in joining. Sites like Unigo.com will allow your child to connect with future classmates who may share similar interests. And when your child arrives at school, urge them to be aggressive about participating in activities and meeting new people.

Give them opportunities to practice critical thinking.

For instance, you could give them the opinion section of a major newspaper and ask them to take an opposing viewpoint to an article, even one they agree with. Doing college-level work requires more than just taking what you read at face value and memorizing a bunch of facts -- students should practice thinking critically about what they see, hear and read.

Help them learn to manage their time.

Encourage them to use a digital calendar to keep track of appointments and deadlines. Many students arrive at college not knowing how to manage their time effectively. Digital calendars, such as Google Calendar or Apple's iCal, can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet, allowing students to stay on top of their schedule no matter where they are.

Make sure they get to know their faculty advisor.

Making big decisions like picking a major or following a career path can be daunting, causing students to put them off as long as possible. Faculty advisors, provided to students by most colleges, can help take the fear out of the process. Make sure your child develops a relationship with their faculty advisor as early as possible to ensure their choices are well informed.

Show them how to use social media beyond photos on Facebook.

College-age students are among the most active users of social media, but how many are aware of the ways it can benefit them academically and professionally? Have your child talk with recent grads who have used social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to help build their academic network and market themselves as professionals. Additionally, sites like Unigo.com can help students get a feel for their school's culture before stepping foot on campus.

Equip them with the right technology.

To succeed in college, students need technology that works with the latest tools and systems being used in the classroom. Only a few years ago, this simply meant buying the latest model laptop. These days, as colleges introduce more technology into the classroom, students are using a combination of devices -- such as tablets, smartphones and e-readers -- to stay on top of their coursework and connect with classmates. Check the school's technology guidelines before making any major purchases.

Jeff Livingston

Senior Vice President, College & Career Readiness at McGraw-Hill Education.
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