The move from high school to college is one of the most significant transitions in a child’s life. The increase in unstructured time along with new types of academic and social demands means many students will struggle their first year. Often this struggle has a ripple effect on future college success. The key to success in college is to arrive with a set of executive functioning skills, specifically time management, organization, and planning.
1. Help your child develop a time management system.
College students lacking a time management system tend to experience a great deal of stress due to juggling numerous academic requirements and vast social opportunities. Encourage your child to get in the habit of using a calendar to track and manage time this summer. Your student should record work schedules, plans with friends, plans with family, appointments, errands, and even start the habit of scheduling downtime. Technology makes this very easy and prevents a messy paper calendar full of eraser marks and eliminates the risk of a lost calendar full of important information. A great solution is Google’s easy-to-use calendar system. Many of the calendar systems (such as Apple’s iCal and Google Calendar) allow your student to sync the calendar to his or her smart phone.
Time estimation skills are a critical component of time management and many students can’t accurately assess how long various tasks take. Encourage your student to take a week to jot down how long everything takes, from getting ready in the morning to having lunch with a friend. Have her read 50 pages of academic material and see how long it takes to get through it. All of this will add up to easier scheduling – and less stress – in the fall.
2. Encourage a task list
The regular use of a to-do list is a key companion to the calendar system. Trying to remember various tasks and obligations throughout the day is exhausting and not reliable. Help your student find a method for keeping track of new tasks as they arise. Some people like to use the notes function on their smart phones, others prefer to use applications, such as Evernote. Some people like to jot things down on a notebook specifically for this purpose. As you give your child tasks to complete throughout the summer, cue her to add it to his list. At the end of the day, encourage her to transfer the list to the task/to do section of his calendar with a due date to integrate the task into her time management system.
Again, the task list and calendar combined will be a huge help when it comes time to schedule classes, study time, fun time and everything else your college freshmen hopes to enjoy in this fall.
3. Turn the chore of packing into an exercise in project planning
With the more complex workload in college, it is crucial that Free College Consulting students have the ability to plan for long term projects and break down a large task into smaller component parts. Your student can practice this process by being in charge of the packing process (with support and oversight, of course). Have her come up with a detailed plan with specifics such as contacting her new roommate to determine what is needed for the room, deciding what new items or clothes she will need, creating a shopping list including stores that she will need to visit, developing a budget, etc. Encourage her to put these items — with due dates — on the to-do list. Try to let her walk through as much of this process independently as possible, giving feedback where needed without taking over.
4. Invest in organizational systems
When your child moves into a small dorm room in a few short months, she will have to organize and file a lot of information in very little space. Starting now will make this school-year project vastly easier.
Purchase a few accordion files or a hanging file box, then, help her to identify the categories based on information she will already have and information she will receive. Examples of categories could include bills, pizza coupons, housing information, financial aid information, extracurricular sports schedules. Encourage your student to use categories that make sense to her. Make suggestions and answer questions, but step back and let your student create the system so that she will take ownership of it.
5. Seek outside help
As you probably know, sometimes kids simply hear information better when it comes from an outside source. Enlist the help of family friends or family members who are in college and ask them to talk to your child about their obstacles in school as well as successful strategies they used. It can also help to work with a professional in an intermediary role, such as a college success consultant. A college success consultant can teach these executive functioning skills and much more, while keeping your child on track throughout the semester. A small investment can pay big dividends when it comes to your son or daughter’s happiness and success in college.