I wanted him to know that he could adapt to new environments, academic requirements, social expectations and living independently at a pace that worked well for him. I didn't want to hold him back and tell him he couldn't step out of his comfort zone and I also didn't want to pretend this transition would be smooth and easy because he'd done well in high school.
What you can do in high school to help transition successfully to college
- Understand your learning profile: Does your teen understand his strengths and challenges? Does he know what strategies work for him? My son knew which tasks were hard for him (organizing his materials and calendar, working on group projects) and which were relatively easy (researching and writing on topics of interest). He learned what helped (checking in with teachers and having a laptop for all written work) and what didn't (too many complicated organizational systems). Your teen needs to know where they shine, what's tough for them and how to access effective strategies.
- Acknowledge the supports and services that have helped you be successful: Does your teen know how others have helped her? Is she aware of how others might structure her work or offer prompts/check-ins to make sure work gets completed? It's time to pull back the curtain and be explicit about what types of help have worked during high school. She needs to see the "big picture" so that she knows what types of structure and support might be helpful in a work or college setting.
- Learn how to self-advocate: Is your teen able to express his needs in a way that others can understand? Can he let peers and adults know what types of accommodations are required (like someone else taking notes) so that he can fully participate in a group, class or work environment? My son would tell his lab partners that it was hard for him to handle the materials because of fine motor control. He'd offer to take notes on his laptop and write up reports.
- Try out different coping strategies to manage your frustration and anxiety: If your teen feels anxious or has a low frustration tolerance, it's going to be hard to do anything else. Teens need calming strategies to help them manage the frustrations, anxieties and glitches that come their way. Some teens work well with an individual therapist. Others benefit from a problem solving focused group of peers. Some like to use distractions (reading or games) and others enjoy yoga or meditation.
- Generalize skills: If your teen has spent a lot of time in small group learning environments, it's time to take those skills on the road. You won't know how your son or daughter will do in a work/college setting without being in a new environment. Some students do this with internships or jobs with job coaching or mentoring. Others take part in school clubs which provide a group of peers who are interested in the same subject, but usually offer a less structured environment. And if your teens are thinking about living away at college, they need a "live away" experience before you send them off after high school.
Looking forward to life after high school
You're not alone!