Preparing Your HS Freshman for College Success: 5 Essentials

If you’ve got a high school freshman dreaming of college life, it’s time to get them prepped and pumped for the journey ahead. The road to college can be both exciting and challenging, but with the right support and preparation, your child can navigate it with confidence. In this blog post, we’ll talk through the top five things a parent can do to help their student be well-prepared for the college experience.

1. Foster Academic Excellence:

First things first, let’s talk about grades. The first step to college readiness begins within the walls of the classroom. Encourage your child to take their studies seriously and excel academically. Developing good study habits, time management skills, and a thirst for knowledge early on will set them up for success in higher education. I can’t tell you how often I met with freshmen who said that they struggled because they didn’t know how to manage their time or hadn’t learned how to study in high school.

It’s not about being a total bookworm but finding that sweet spot between fun and focus. Motivate your student to explore various subjects and find their passions. A strong academic foundation will boost college applications and instills discipline for the rigor of college classes.

2. Build Effective Communication:

Here, I am referring to strong communication with your student AND helping your student to develop communication skills that are invaluable in college and beyond.

It’s important that you, the parent foster open dialogue so that you can understand your high school student’s challenges and help to guide them through. Note that I didn’t say solve their problems for them; instead help them to learn the right questions to ask and where they can find resources that will help them reach a positive solution.

Encourage your high school freshman to actively engage in discussions and to engage with their teachers and counselors. Effective communication goes beyond speaking; it also involves active listening and the ability to collaborate with others. These experiences will help them develop empathy, leadership skills, and a strong sense of teamwork that colleges and employers are looking for. A recent LinkedIn survey found that 92% of employers say that soft skills like communication are critical to hiring.

3. Explore Extracurricular Activities:

Colleges want academically accomplished students but also those who have a genuine passion for extracurricular pursuits. Encourage your child to explore various interests outside the classroom, such as sports, arts, community service, or entrepreneurship. Encourage your student to be adventurous and try a lot of things freshman year. They will inevitably narrow their focus and have a few activities that are really important to them by the time that they graduate. Within these few, encourage them to seek out opportunities for leadership and service.  

4. Start College Planning Early:

College planning can be overwhelming- especially if you wait until the spring of your student’s junior year to star. Work together with your student to research colleges, scholarships, and financial aid options.

  • Start attending college fairs, exploring online resources, and scheduling visits to potential campuses now. I recommend starting at schools that are nearby so that your student can get a sense of the types of campuses and institutions that interest them. As they learn more, you can visit the schools that are actually on their list of potential colleges. Keep track of college interest, visits (and future applications) with the downloadable Complete College Advising College Comparison Spreadsheet.
  • It’s crucial to understand the admission requirements and prerequisites for the colleges of interest. This can be a real motivator for your freshman, who may not realize that their first year of high school will count more heavily toward their admission and scholarships than their senior year will.
  • Engage with school counselors and seek advice from college advisors who can provide valuable insights into the application process.
  • I cannot stress this one enough, talk about your family’s finances and what that means for your ability to help them pay for college.

5. Emotional and Mental Well-being Matter:

Preparing for college isn’t just about academics and extracurricular activities; emotional and mental well-being are equally important. Be a supportive and understanding parent, and create an open environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their concerns and aspirations. Teach them stress-management techniques and the importance of a healthy work-life balance. Remember that a happy and emotionally balanced student is more likely to succeed in their academic pursuits.


As a parent, you play a crucial role in preparing your high school freshman for the exciting journey of college life. By fostering academic excellence, cultivating effective communication skills, encouraging exploration of extracurricular activities, starting college planning early, and nurturing emotional well-being, you provide your child with a solid foundation for success.

Remember, each student’s journey is unique, so be patient, supportive, and celebrate their accomplishments along the way. With your guidance, they will be well-prepared to embrace all the opportunities and challenges that college life has to offer. Here’s to a bright and successful future for your college-bound student!

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