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Life Skills for the College-Bound Teen: An Interview with Diane Kummer

October 12–16, 2015   |   Vol. 124, Week 13

Going to college can involve a lot of changes for your teen. How can you help your student make a smooth transition? This week on Homeschool Heartbeat, HSLDA high school consultant Diane Kummer joins your host, Mike Smith, with advice for helping your teen prepare for college.

“Don’t be offended if your teens question or express doubts regarding their spiritual beliefs. Instead, see these comments as God–given opportunities for honest communication.”—Diane Kummer

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Going to college can involve a lot of changes for your teen. How can you help your student make a smooth transition? This week on Homeschool Heartbeat, HSLDA high school consultant Diane Kummer joins your host, Mike Smith, with advice for helping your teen prepare for college.

Mike Smith: Today I’m joined by Diane Kummer, a high school coordinator at Home School Legal Defense Association. Diane, it’s great to have you on the program.

Diane Kummer: Thank you so much, Mike. It’s great being here with you.

Mike: Diane, when homeschooling parents think about preparing their children for college, they usually focus on academic preparation—like building a high school transcript and taking standardized tests. But there’s a lot more to college than academics. Why is other preparation necessary for young people going off to college for the first time?

Diane: Preparation for going off to college is important, Mike, because teens will begin to make decisions on their own—perhaps for the first time. But I want to reassure parents that they should not be afraid of this new season in their children’s life.

Instead, parents should take time to lay out a plan. For example, use the entire college application process to acquaint your young adults with the skills they’ll need in college, such as interacting with professors or academic advisors. Let your teens make those phone calls to admissions officers to set up interviews. Have them request letters of recommendation from instructors. Give them more and more responsibility to interact with administrative staff, such as financial aid officers. This will build their confidence in solving problems on their own.

Mike: Diane, many parents worry that their child’s faith won’t weather the spiritual challenges that come during college. What advice do you give them?

Diane: Well, first, parents should turn away from their worry and instead once again entrust their children into the Lord’s care and protection. He loves your children!

During high school, teach God’s word. Help your teens analyze current events in light of Scripture by building a biblical worldview course into their studies. Don’t be offended if your teens question or express doubts regarding their spiritual beliefs. Instead, see these comments as God–given opportunities for honest communication. When scheduling college visits, explore local churches. Check out college ministries so that your teens can quickly establish friendships with other godly young people.

Last, I’ve got a personal tip. During the college years, I mailed my children a weekly hand–written note. They loved finding something in the mail box besides junk mail! I’d include a Bible verse to encourage or a quote to inspire them. As I dropped those notes in the mail, I prayed they’d walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. I was reminded my responsibility was to pray and to encourage—but more importantly, I was reminded to place my focus on the Lord’s power to keep them and to protect them.

Mike: Diane, what financial training should parents provide their high schoolers as they prepare to send them to college for the very first time?

Diane: Mike, we have several good suggestions for curriculum on the HSLDA website that parents may use to take a structured approach to their financial teaching. Teens should be taught to maintain and reconcile a checking account and savings account, set up a simple budget that records income and expenses, and to remember the importance of giving to the Lord’s work and to other people in need.

Also, think of practical projects that will sharpen your teen’s financial skills. For example, have them research the cost of owning and maintaining a car, also the cost of securing auto insurance. Parents should be aware that credit card companies target college students. Take time to have frank discussions with your teens regarding the trap of credit card debt.

Last, college is an expensive proposition. Encourage your teen to come up with ways to mitigate those costs, such as investing his own time to research and apply for scholarships. This will provide a better idea of the expenses involved and will hopefully result in your teen having a greater appreciation for his college education.

Mike: Diane, what kind of relational preparation can parents give their teens who are going off to college?

Diane: Young adults will need to relate to professors, other students, employers (if they have part–time jobs)—also to resident assistants if they live in the dorms, or possibly to landlords if they live off campus. Teaching respect for authority, how to make an appeal, how to disagree in a gracious manner with those who have opposing views, and how to honor and respect members of the opposite sex should be teaching and training goals during the high school years.

Mike: What about the challenge of balancing their social life with their schoolwork?

Diane: Mike, now you’re talking time management—a skill that none of us ever outgrows! Set up a regular time at the beginning of the week to discuss items that appear on your teen’s calendar. Lead them in mapping out a workable schedule while ensuring that time is set aside for academic responsibilities, extra–curricular activities, personal devotions, development of a few quality friendships, and also time to serve others. Your teens will see that peace and harmony result from having their priorities in place. God is not ungracious—He won’t give them items to complete without also giving them time and strength to complete them.

Mike: Diane, college academics are very different from learning at home. What skills should homeschooling parents cover during high school to help their students succeed at college?

Diane: Most professors teach by presenting lectures. So one important skill to teach teens is note–taking. Have your teen practice this skill by taking notes during your pastor’s sermon, or perhaps while watching an educational video.

Research skills are another important area to teach your teens. Give your teens projects that involve using encyclopedias, films, atlases, dictionaries, magazines, newspapers, and, of course, the internet. Teach your teen how to take a major project or paper and divide it into smaller segments in order to pace themselves and not be overwhelmed. Probably most importantly, teach your teens to meet deadlines and complete assignments in plenty of time to compensate for any last–minute glitches that may come up.

The College Board website has wonderful free information on study skills you may want to use. Don’t try to teach all study skills in one year, but instead decide on a few study skills that you may want to introduce or concentrate on during each year of high school.

Mike: Diane, thank you so much for being on the program again this week. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Diane KummerDiane Kummer

Diane and her husband Tom homeschooled their two children from kindergarten through 12th grade using a variety of teaching options. Both of their children went on to college, and are now well into their careers. Diane joined the staff of Home School Legal Defense Association nine years ago. As an HSLDA High School Consultant, she regularly speaks nationwide at homeschool conferences and presents high school symposiums where she shares from her experiences and her imperfect (but real) homeschooling days! Diane’s writings include regular columns in the Homeschool Enrichment and Home School Court Report magazines as well as other publications, brochures on high school topics, and a monthly high school newsletter filled with helpful tips.

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