The Parent and Stepparent Guide to Preparing Kids for College: Part 3

This is Part 3 in a 3-part series on how to prepare your kids or stepkids for college. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. 

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

As an academic advisor, I regularly meet with students who aren’t doing well in college because they aren’t motivated by their program of study. I can tell right away that this is the case when I start asking them about their classes. Generally, they seem lost, and they don’t care about their classes. Sometimes, they are following a particular path because their parents wanted them to follow that path, even though they aren’t interested in it.

On the other hand, I also meet with students who love their program of study. These students are on a mission to graduate and either join the workforce or transfer to a 4-year university. Sometimes, I meet with students who are returning to college after being in the workforce. They tell me that when they were younger, they didn’t know what they wanted to do. Now they know, and they are anxious to get started. Some express regret. “I wish I had done this sooner. Now I’m behind.” My response to these students is that every experience has contributed to who they are as a person and to figuring out what they want to do. Regardless, all of these students have one thing in common: their passion fuels them and guides them on their journey. This leads to my third tip.

Tip #3: Encourage kids to find and follow their passion.

How can I practice this?

Share your story

Share your story of how you figured out your passion and what you wanted to do. There are many different paths to get somewhere, and that’s why it’s important for kids to hear from a variety of people. Start a discussion with your kids or stepkids, and also encourage them to talk to others about their educational path and job experience. They may not listen to you, especially if they are teenagers and they think they know everything, but they may listen to others’ stories.

Be supportive of the path they choose

No matter which path your kids choose, encourage them! I advise students who want to go into welding, manufacturing, automotive, and construction management programs. Guess what? Employers try to hire these students before they even get their Associate’s degree. They can get a good-paying job, and put themselves through a 4-year college. Contrast that with students who have finished their Bachelor’s degree and can’t find a job in their field. Or students who pursue a degree, but clearly their heart isn’t into it, and they end up withdrawing from classes. If your kids or stepkids show a passion for a trade, support them in their decision.

You may find out that your kids or stepkids don’t want to go to college. That’s fine – let them work for a year or two and figure out what they want to do. Often, that time is critical to help kids find their passion.

Overall, you need to remember to trust your kids or stepkids to learn from their life lessons. Once again, there are many different paths to reach a destination, so be supportive of the path they choose, even if it is not the one you would choose.