Preparing teens for college is a crucial endeavor for parents and caregivers. It sets the foundation for college-bound teens focusing on academic and personal success goals in higher education. Parents who want to start preparing teens for college can take a proactive approach with guidance based on their years in high school. By implementing strategic guidance and support throughout the high school journey, parents can help their children navigate the complexities of college admissions, academic rigor, and personal development, ensuring they are well-equipped for the challenges ahead.


There’s not much need for rigorous preparation as a high school freshman. Unless your child already has strong feelings towards getting into a coveted school, freshman year is mainly a time for exploring career path options and creating healthy school habits.

Establish Good Study Habits

Parents can assist their freshman-aged students in developing good study habits by providing guidance and support in various ways:

  • Create an Optimal Study Environment. Guide your teen in discovering where they study best, whether it’s at home, a library, or elsewhere, to enhance their focus and productivity.
  • Try Organizational Systems. Help your teen set up a system using planners or digital tools to track assignments and deadlines.
  • Teach Time Management Skills. Teach your teen to manage their time effectively by creating a schedule for studying, activities, and relaxation.
  • Review Completion and Timeliness of Work. Stress the importance of finishing assignments and turning them in on time.
  • Discuss Note-Taking Skills. Encourage your teen to practice note-taking and find the method that works best for them.

Create Foundations for Good Mental Health

Parents can support good mental health by fostering open communication and creating a supportive environment at home. They can also encourage healthy habits such as regular exercise and sufficient sleep, while emphasizing the importance of seeking help when needed. Additionally, modeling positive coping strategies and managing stress effectively can help instill emotional resilience.

Help Them Find School Activities to Join

Help your teen find well-fitting extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and groups. Encourage the exploration of different interests and passions. Think about your child’s strengths, preferences, and personality. And talk with them about potential activities, and attend informational sessions or open houses together.  This can allow them to try out various activities before committing. Also, seeking recommendations from teachers, mentors, or other parents can provide valuable insights into extracurricular options.

Take Notes on Their Achievements and Participation

Keeping track of a teen’s activities and achievements as they occur can streamline the development of college materials. Having a comprehensive record ensures there are plenty of meaningful experiences to draw from when crafting applications, essays, and resumes. Moreover, it alleviates the challenge of trying to recall details later, making sure nothing significant is overlooked.


Parents can prepare their teens for college in their sophomore year by encouraging continued success. Therefore, allowing teens to delve deeper into academic pursuits while exploring various extracurricular activities. It’s a time for continued emphasis on academic success, with an increased focus on building a strong GPA and refining study habits. Additionally, sophomores may begin to narrow down their interests and passions. Parents can support this exploration by encouraging their teens to pursue activities they are genuinely passionate about and guiding time management to balance academics and extracurriculars effectively.

Guide Exploring Career Options & Potential Majors More Deeply

Encouraging open discussions, researching career options, and attending career fairs can help your teen make informed decisions about potential majors and future careers.

Encourage Them to Meet With Their Counselor

Encouraging a meeting with the school counselor during the sophomore year is important for gaining additional insights. A counselor can provide valuable up-to-date guidance on academic planning, extracurricular involvement, and college preparation.

Consider Test Prep

Towards the end of the sophomore year, considering testing preparation for junior year tests can make a big impact. Firstly, some students may require more time to study effectively or may experience testing anxiety. Starting preparation early allows for adequate time to address these challenges. It can also help with getting familiar with the test format, content, and timing. This way students can develop a strategic study plan tailored to their needs. By getting ahead and familiarizing themselves with the test, students can identify areas of weakness early. This can greatly aid in determining the optimal time to begin test preparation, maximizing their chances of success.

Keep the Summers Active

Parents supporting an active summer after sophomore year and during the summers until graduation can positively impact college preparation. Encouraging teens to engage in activities such as part-time jobs and additional extracurricular activities during these summers provides them with valuable experiences. It provides an opportunity to help them develop more skills and explore potential passions. These experiences can enhance their college applications by demonstrating responsibility, time management, and a commitment to personal growth. Additionally, participating in diverse activities fosters well-roundedness and allows teens to discover new interests that may influence their academic and career paths.


In junior year, parents can anticipate their teens intensifying their focus on college preparation. This includes dedicated time for test preparation, honing a clear vision for their college goals, and beginning to prepare submission materials such as resumes and essays. It’s a critical period for refining academic achievements and extracurricular involvements to align with their desired college path.

Consider Advanced Placement Classes

Parents can assist with preparing teens for college by supporting their decision to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes that often become available during junior year. You can help navigate the course selection process, provide encouragement and resources for studying, and offer guidance on managing the workload effectively.

Testing Preparation

Parents can support their teens in preparing for tests like the SAT/ ACT,  by offering guidance and study resources. You can help create a study schedule, provide access to test prep materials, and encourage practice exams. Additionally, parents can offer emotional support and reassurance, alleviating potential testing anxiety during the preparation for these important assessments.

Narrow Down Majors and College Options

Parents can also help teens narrow down career paths, major options, and potential colleges. By initiating conversations about their teen’s passions, strengths, and aspirations, parents can provide valuable guidance and support. Encouraging exploration through internships, volunteer opportunities, or career assessments can help teens gain clarity about their interests and goals. Also, parents can assist in researching colleges and universities that offer programs aligned with their teen’s career aspirations. You can help ensure they make informed decisions about their higher education journey.

Amp Up Mental Health Awareness

Amidst the challenges and pressures common during this time, parents can support their teens by amplifying mental health awareness. By fostering open communication, providing support, and implementing proactive strategies, parents can help nurture their teen’s emotional well-being. Building up awareness and healthy habits makes a great impact in preparing teens for college life and adulthood.

  • Educate About Mental Health. Provide information about mental health conditions, symptoms, and available resources to increase understanding and reduce stigma.
  • Encourage Self-Care Practices. Promote healthy habits such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and relaxation techniques to manage stress and enhance well-being.
  • Foster Positive Relationships. Encourage teens to cultivate supportive friendships and maintain connections with family to foster a strong support network.

Develop Independence

It’s crucial for parents to begin allowing their teens more independence during this time as it fosters growth, and autonomy. Thus, preparing them for college life. By gradually relinquishing control and offering opportunities for independence, parents empower their teens to develop important life skills and decision-making abilities.

  • Encourage Decision-Making. Involve teens in family decisions and discussions, allowing them to express their opinions and contribute to the decision-making process.
  • Assign Responsibilities. Delegate age-appropriate tasks and chores to teens, giving them a sense of ownership and accountability within the household.
  • Allow Freedom within Boundaries. Establish clear boundaries and guidelines while granting teens increasing freedom to make choices and manage their own schedules.
  • Foster Financial Independence. Introduce teens to concepts of budgeting, saving, and financial responsibility by providing opportunities for them to earn money through part-time jobs or allowance systems.


During senior year, parents can expect to play a strong support role for their teens. They will be devoting intensive effort toward their college aspirations, this involves completing and refining application materials, submitting applications, and maintaining good academic performance. Additionally, it’s a crucial time for finalizing college choices and ensuring all necessary steps are taken to secure admission to their desired institutions.

Support Submitting Applications

During senior year, parents can support their children through the college application process by providing guidance, encouragement, and practical assistance in developing application materials. This includes helping with essay brainstorming and editing, organizing necessary documents, ensuring deadlines are met, and offering emotional support during what can be a stressful time.

Consider Financial Aid

In addition to assisting with college applications, parents can also play a pivotal role in helping their children navigate the complexities of financial aid. This involves educating them about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, gathering required financial documents, and ensuring timely submission. Moreover, parents can actively research scholarship opportunities, assist with applications, and encourage their children to explore various avenues for financial assistance to alleviate the burden of college expenses.

Making the Final Decision

Preparing teens for college can be a long process that culminates with the final decision. Parents can best support their teen when making the final decision on which college to attend by encouraging open communication, actively listening to their teen’s preferences and concerns, and offering guidance without imposing their own opinions. This involves helping teens weigh factors such as academic programs, campus culture, location, financial considerations, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Ultimately, parents should empower their teen to make the decision that aligns with their goals and aspirations, while providing unconditional support throughout the decision-making process.

Promote More Independence

Implementing even more independence during senior year is crucial as it prepares teens for the transition to adulthood and fosters self-reliance and confidence.

  • Encourage Decision-Making. Allow teens to take the lead in making important decisions about their future, such as college choice or career plans.
  • Foster Time Management Skills. Support teens in managing their own schedules and deadlines for college applications, exams, and other responsibilities.
  • Promote Self-Advocacy. Encourage teens to communicate independently with teachers, counselors, and college admissions offices regarding their academic and extracurricular achievements.
  • Encourage Life Skills Development. Support teens in acquiring essential life skills such as cooking, laundry, and basic household management to prepare them for independent living.


As parents navigate the journey of preparing their teens for college, it’s essential to recognize the importance of fostering independence, nurturing mental health awareness, and providing unwavering support. From exploring career paths to submitting college applications and ultimately making the final decision on where to attend, parents play a pivotal role in guiding their teens toward success. By empowering them to take ownership of their academic and personal growth, encouraging open communication, and facilitating opportunities for growth and exploration, parents can equip their teens with the skills and confidence needed to thrive in college and beyond. With a foundation built on independence, resilience, and support, teens can embark on this exciting chapter of their lives with clarity, purpose, and readiness for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Sources: Child Mind Institute, Harvard Division of Continuing Education, Boys and Girls Clubs of America