Managing the Transition to College



Do you have a son heading off to college or university this fall? How about in the future?

The more you know about the college search and admission process, the easier this transition will be — for your son, for you and for your entire family.

Dr. Pamela Ellis, author of What to Know Before they Go and founder of Compass College Advisory, has helped many families navigate college preparation and the transition from high school to university. She says that lack of knowledge — the “unknown” — complicates the process, causing unnecessary anxiety and stress.

She also reminds us that one of the most important questions we can ask our college-bound kids is “Why?” — as in, Why are you going to college? What do you hope to get from the experience? That question might seem extremely simplistic, but it’s crucial. Your child’s answer will help him focus his energies and find the path that’s most appropriate for him. It may also highlight a disconnect. If your expectations, hopes and dreams for your child’s college experience are radically different than your child’s, one (or both of you) is bound to be disappointed. Better to have these conversations in advance!

Pamela also encourage us to take a holistic view of college preparation. When your child is in middle school, developing social skills and taking some tentative steps toward independence (by gradually assuming more responsibility, for instance) IS college prep. Children also need to learn how to spend time alone. High school students should develop self-advocacy skills and increasing self-awareness.

Teenagers must be in charge of college planning, Pamela says. Your child may benefit from your guidance and experience, but ultimately, your child should lead. If you’re having a hard time letting go or are concerned about some of your child’s choices, Pamela suggests involving a third party, such as a teacher, coach or guidance counselor who’s already a part of your child’s life.

“Kids hear things differently from their parents than they do from a third party,” she says. “They could say the same thing that you’re saying but somehow it just sounds totally different when they say it than when you say it as a parent.”

Jennifer Fink, Janet Allison & Pamela Harris discuss college preparation

In this episode, Janet, Jen & Pamela discuss:
  • Why the summer between high school and college is particularly challenging for teens & their parents — and how to make it easier
  • Why YOU need to be confident when your son is leaving home
  • What parents of middle-schoolers need to know about college
  • How an interest inventory can help your child create a realistic post-high school plan
  • How reading for pleasure prepares kids for college and beyond
  • How to minimize stress in the college preparation process
  • Why visiting colleges too soon is a very bad idea
  • Managing college costs
  • 4 key features to ensure that a college is the right fit
  • Gap years (and why a gap year may be a particularly good idea for boys!)
  • How working with an independent college counselor can save you time & money
  • How to find a trustworthy, ethical college consultant
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

What to Know Before They Go: College Edition — Pamela’s book

Compass College Advisory — Pamela’s website. Includes lots of FREE, helpful information about college preparation

Want Your Son to Succeed in College (& Life)? Do This — classic BuildingBoys blog post

Will He Ever Grow Up?! – OnBoys episode mentioned at 26:45

AmeriCorps – gap year option mentioned at 27:30 (AmeriCorps programs are community service oriented and include a living stipend)

How to Find the Right College: 5 Key Steps to Helping Your Teen Find the Right College Without Stressing Through the Process — Pamela’s webinar, mentioned at 30:45

IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association)


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