5 Tips For Building Independence

How to help your high schooler begin the transition to college

5 Tips For Building Independence

5 Tips For Building Independence

Kids have missed out on an awful lot since COVID-19 began. While birthday parties and graduations have been skipped or moved online, there are some opportunities for growth that have fallen by the wayside. We’ve heard from many parents that at the top of that list are the study skills and independence that juniors and seniors will need for college. But with a new year upon us and many of us settled into a “new normal”, it’s time for high school students to start thinking about becoming college-ready.  Here are our executive functioning team’s top five tips to help your child get started:

  1. Create an Ideal Schedule: We know that nothing goes quite as planned—these days more than ever! Still, there are some things you can count on: school has a start and an end time; you’ve got to eat; there will be some homework. Make an ideal schedule for your week and include everything that’s reasonably predictable. When you do, start with the tasks that are non-negotiable, must-do’s (including sleep!). Once that exists, use it as a guide to know how much time you can afford to spend on everything else and when. In college, very little of your time is structured for you, so you’ll need to have the skills to create structure for yourself.  
  2. Plan for Long-Term Work: Most students manage their day-to-day assignments well but struggle with the larger tasks. Even before your English teacher assigns an essay or your chem teacher tells you there’s a test, you know those things are coming, so plan for them from the start. When making your ideal schedule, set aside some time each week to work on long-term assignments and review for tests. Make a habit of reviewing your notes for all of your classes at least once a week and ask your teachers any clarifying questions that come up. Build your Quizlet deck as you read your textbook or use arrow-shaped post-its to flag quotes that fit in with themes that your teacher is focusing on. After high school, your grades come almost exclusively from those long-term projects and from tests, so building strong habits now can have a significant positive impact on your transition to college.
  3. It’s More than Academics: While academics are important, they’re not all that factors into your success at college. Are there at least two reasonably healthy things you can make in a microwave or on a hot plate?  Do you know how to get an absentee ballot? Make a list of the mundane tasks that you’ll need to take ownership of after graduation and learn how to do them now. There’s bound to be someone in your dorm who ends up with all pink socks because they never learned how to sort their laundry; don’t let it be you! To help you out, our team has put together a downloadable checklist of some of the biggest life skills students should have before heading off to college. 
  4. Manage Your Own Time: If you don’t already make your own appointments and wake yourself up in the morning, now is the time to start! We know that keeping a calendar is a drag, but worse is having to call your mom from campus to find out if you have practice on the night you want to go to the writing center. It’s much easier to begin to figure out your system for managing your schedule at home while things are reasonably familiar and your parents are around to help you out if you lose track of anything.  
  5. Reflect and Take Note: Assuming you don’t already have individualized systems for all of the above, your first attempt is bound to be less than perfect, and that’s ok. Set aside regular time to reflect on what you’ve tried and how it’s working. Take note of anything you learn so that you have a record and can learn from your mistakes. Part of being independent is persisting through multiple trials and getting to know your strengths and weaknesses. 

If your high schooler could use some more ideas or needs an accountability partner as they develop systems to help them thrive in college, our executive functioning coaches are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation.

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