College Readiness Checklist for Parents

College Readiness Checklist for Parents

Article written by By Jeff Livingston

As May begins, high school seniors are enjoying their final weeks in school before graduation. In just a few months, they will be stepping onto college campuses for the first time and entering a new chapter.

Twenty-five percent of college students drop out in their freshman year because they are not academically, emotionally or financially prepared for college life and adulthood. Whether students like it or not, college takes planning and preparation. Fortunately, there are things that parents can do to make sure that their child is ready for what will be one of the biggest transitions of his or her life.

Here’s a college readiness checklist to make sure your high school grads are prepared for what’s waiting for them on campus. (Teachers, you may wish to pass this on to your students’ parents.)

Arrange for them to speak formally to a recent college grad.

No one can give your child better advice than a family friend who has recently completed college and found a career in their chosen field. Encourage your child to speak with them about what it takes to be successful in college and what, if anything, they may have done differently. Have your child follow up on the meeting by writing a formal thank you note.

Teach them the ins-and-outs of their college finances.

Students are more likely to take college seriously if they understand how their college finances work. To show them the importance of making the most out of their education on a day-in, day-out basis, go beyond yearly tuition totals and review the cost breakdown of each individual class. Also show them the benefit that finishing in four years will have on their long-term financial future.

Have them start building their network — now.

Some of the most important connections your child can make in college are ones that begin before they even set foot on campus. Encourage them to speak with their future roommate, other high school classmates who are attending the same college, and student officers in the clubs your child may be interested in joining. Sites like will allow your child to connect with future classmates who may share similar interests. And when your child arrives at school, urge them to be aggressive about participating in activities and meeting new people.

Give them opportunities to practice critical thinking.

For instance, you could give them the opinion section of a major newspaper and ask them to take an opposing viewpoint to an article, even one they agree with. Doing college-level work requires more than just taking what you read at face value and memorizing a bunch of facts — students should practice thinking critically about what they see, hear and read.

Help them learn to manage their time.

Encourage them to use a digital calendar to keep track of appointments and deadlines. Many students arrive at college not knowing how to manage their time effectively. Digital calendars, such as Google Calendar or Apple’s iCal, can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet, allowing students to stay on top of their schedule no matter where they are.

Make sure they get to know their faculty advisor.

Making big decisions like picking a major or following a career path can be daunting, causing students to put them off as long as possible. Faculty advisors, provided to students by most colleges, can help take the fear out of the process. Make sure your child develops a relationship with their faculty advisor as early as possible to ensure their choices are well informed.

Show them how to use social media beyond photos on Facebook.

College-age students are among the most active users of social media, but how many are aware of the ways it can benefit them academically and professionally? Have your child talk with recent grads who have used social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to help build their academic network and market themselves as professionals. Additionally, sites like can help students get a feel for their school’s culture before stepping foot on campus.

Equip them with the right technology.To succeed in college, students need technology that works with the latest tools and systems being used in the classroom. Only a few years ago, this simply meant buying the latest model laptop. These days, as colleges introduce more technology into the classroom, students are using a combination of devices — such as tablets, smartphones and e-readers — to stay on top of their coursework and connect with classmates. Check the school’s technology guidelines before making any major purchases.

Juniors: Dare to be Different

Juniors: Dare to be Different

As I finished my 2021 application season I thought… if I could give every family only one piece of advice about college admission and the college application process, what would that be? So here’s my advice. Ready? Be different.

Be different from the beginning. Don’t wait like so many other people until the summer after junior year or, even worse, the fall of senior year to begin the process. Starting early will alleviate much of the stress that you might be witnessing in senior friends who are crunching to create lists, visit schools, write essays, and complete applications.

Be different in how you prepare your college list. Don’t assume a college is a great fit until you’ve done your due diligence. Stretch yourself to consider colleges beyond the “usual suspects.” Colleges read all the applications from each high school together. That means they are comparing students from the same high school with the same measuring stick. the understanding is that you’ve all had the same opportunity to take the same classes over your high school career. If hundreds of students are applying to a college from your high school and the rigor of your coursework and your test scores don’t measure up to the competition, it’s obviously going to be more challenging to be accepted. However, if you are one of a handful of students applying to a certain college, your credentials will still be compared, but your leadership or special talents may carry more weight.

Be different in the activities you choose. Don’t join the Spanish club if the only reason you want to be there is to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Follow your interests, not your friends. Find something, almost anything, that matters to you – something you care about. It could be tutoring, the environment, Boy Scouts, dance, writing a blog, starting your own business, etc, but participate for the right reasons. Your activities should tell a story about who you are and what you care about. Make them meaningful.

Be different in what you choose to write about. Your essay is your best opportunity to self to set yourself apart in the application. It is the one area where you maintain total control. It can be a powerful tool, so use it wisely. Don’t write what you think college admissions officers want to read; write what you want them to know about you. Brainstorming your essay topic is a soul-searching process. Stay away from cliche topics that anyone could write and identify something that is uniquely you!

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC

When and How to Praise Your Teen

When and How to Praise Your Teen

Parenting adolescents is frequently a delicate balancing act – don’t be too strict, nor too lenient; be involved, but not overinvolved; encourage your teen to participate in activities, but don’t over-schedule them; monitor their activities, but don’t snoop. We have basically learned from research that there can be too much of a good thing! This is true with our praise, as well. Experts say we should build our children’s self-esteem, but research shows that we can go overboard if we praise them too much.

Problems with Overpraise

Creating doubt. We may think our kids are awesome, but when we overpraise, our teens actually start to doubt us. Teens are quite observant and they quickly notice if their parents are the only ones who think they are remarkable. When mom and dad are praising them, but no one else is, or when your praise feels insincere, teens start to doubt the objectivity of their parents, which creates a trust problem in the relationship. Teens become insecure because they don’t believe your positive words, and they find it difficult to tell the difference between when they have really done something great or not.

Creating avoidance. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, teens eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate, or lie to get praise. Perhaps more importantly, they blame others and make excuses to avoid difficulties. Overpraising creates teens that are not resilient enough to handle challenges or rejection.

Creating superiority. Studies show that parents who believe their children are special and deserve special treatment create teens who are demanding and believe they are superior to others.

Creating fear of risk. Research has also shown that when parents shower children with compliments to try to boost their self-esteem, it actually sends the message that the child must continue to meet very high standards. Teens can feel pressure to always be amazing, and this perception actually discourages them from trying new things or taking risks. They become afraid to fail.

What to Praise

The true purpose of praise is to encourage our children to continue positive behaviors that produce good outcomes. As a result, experts suggest we praise our teens for areas which they have control, and avoid praising their traits or abilities.

  • What parents should praise their teens for:
    • trying hard or making a strong effort,
    • setting and obtaining a goal,
    • persistence when facing a challenge,
    • having a good attitude,
    • respectful behavior,
    • trying something new or taking a risk,
    • learning from a mistake,
    • following through on a commitment or promise,
    • not giving up when it looks like they might fail,
    • showing focus or discipline,
    • demonstrating compassion, generosity, kindness, or love,
    • taking responsibility, and
    • solving a problem or making a difficult decision.
  • What parents should NOT praise their teens for:
    • intelligence,
    • physical attractiveness, and
    • innate talents, such as athletic or artistic gifts.


How to Build Self-Esteem

A child with a healthy self-esteem values himself as a person, trusts his feelings and abilities, believes he is capable of doing things well, and is able to work toward his goals. This is what we want our praise to do in our children. Here are some tips when you are dishing out your praise:

Praise the process. When we praise our children for their effort, we are helping them to build confidence. When we praise our teens for every minor thing they do, or focus on things not under their control, we actually strip them of confidence. So don’t focus on the result; instead point out how impressed you are with HOW they accomplished the outcome.

Be specific. When we are specific, our praise sounds sincere and also helps teens understand what behaviors they should repeat. “Good job” gives them no feedback on what they should do in the future to get the same outcome and also communicates that you’re more impressed with the result than in how they achieved it.

Ask a related question. “How did you figure out how to do that?” When you ask your teen an open-ended question, you give them an opportunity to realize what they have accomplished on their own. We need to raise children who can feel satisfaction with their own selves because not everyone is going to shower them with praise for everything they do.

Recall previous success. When you see your child struggling with something, remind them of past successes they have had. “I know you’re feeling frustrated with your English project now, but I remember last year you felt the same way about your Science project and you got an A. I feel confident that you can do this well.” This type of comment not only praises them for a past success, but also expresses belief in their abilities.

Final thoughts…

Teens develop self-esteem and confidence by overcoming challenges and experiencing success. So, first, we must give our teens the opportunity to be successful (which means that we cannot rescue our kids every time they face a difficulty), and then we must help them see how they contributed to their own success (identify the skills and hard work they used to accomplish the result). Experts say that the quality of our praise is way more important than the quantity. Make sure your praise is genuine, sincere, focused on their effort, and encourages positive behavior.

Is Your Student College-Ready?

Is Your Student College-Ready?

One of the biggest adjustments for new college students is the newfound freedom. College students have an increase in personal responsibility and a lot less external structure. There are no set study times, no required meal times, no one to tell them when to sleep or get them up, an increase in their academic workload, a greater need to multi-task and balance and a myriad of new social opportunities and challenges. The following are skills that will help you develop your own internal structure and be successful in college:


Prepare a weekly schedule that includes time in class, studying, activities, work, meals, study, and time with friends. Being a college student is like having a full-time job. Several hours of studying and preparation are expected for each class.


Regular exercise, adequate rest, good nutrition, prayer and/or meditation are all suggested ways of engaging in self-care that reduces stress. Finding ways to increase coping resources will help students decrease the stressors that life will throw your way.

Even some of the best high school students have not always developed good study skills. Knowing how to read a text book, take notes in class, use the library and take multiple choice tests are all areas that will help you be more successful in the classroom.

It is important to have experience in independently handling money, balancing a checkbook, using an ATM, reading a bank statement and learning to make responsible decisions about living on a budget.


Speak up for yourself in an assertive manner that is not aggressive or passively allowing others to take advantage of you. Assertiveness skills are helpful in roommate communication, study groups, teams and conflict resolution. They also involve learning and practicing healthy boundaries.


Develop bedtimes based on physical need and health. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet can improve mood, athletic and classroom performance, and coping strategies for stress. Exercise, relaxation, and good hygiene are also important aspects of self-care.


Staying safe means learning to advocate for your well-being. It means making smart and low-risk choices and planning for the “what ifs” in life.


A big part of advocating for yourself is knowing when to ask for help. The college years are a time for learning new information, new life skills and a new way of relating with our world. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength and integrity, not an admission of failure.


Every community has rules and policies and our college campus is no different. Our rules and policies apply to safety and fostering a positive community where all students are respectful of themselves, others and the environment.


Learning to incorporate personal values and ethics into every aspect of life is a significant part of personal growth during the college experience. Part of the path of integrity is learning how to hang in there and stay committed to goals even when situations are challenging.

Parent Action: Sophomore Year

Parent Action: Sophomore Year

As your child settles into the high school experience, it’s a great time for them to take on new challenges. It’s also not too early to explore colleges, college majors, and career goals. Use the list below to make 10th grade count.

  • Make sure your child meets with the school counselor. Your sophomore should schedule a meeting to talk about college and career options and to make sure he or she is taking the most appropriate classes.
  • Encourage your child to set goals for the school year. Working toward specific goals helps your high schooler stay motivated and focused.
  • Make a plan to check in regularly about schoolwork. If you keep up with your child’s tests, papers, and homework assignments, you can celebrate successes and head off problems as a team.
  • Talk about extracurricular activities. Getting involved in clubs and other groups is a great way for your child to identify interests and feel more engaged in school.
  • Help your 10th-grader get ready to take the PSAT, if their school offers it to sophomores. Taking the test this fall can help your child prepare for the SAT or ACT and get on track for college. Sophomores can also use their score reports to figure out which academic areas they need to work on.
  • If your child was not offered the PSAT as a 10th-grader, they may be offered the PSAT 10 in February or March. They are the same test, just offered at different times of the year.
  • Review PSAT 10 or PSAT results together. Log in to the student score reporting portal with your child to learn what she or he is doing well and which skills your child should work on to get ready for college and career.
  • Start thinking about ways to pay for college. Most families get help paying for college costs.
  • Discuss next year’s classes. Make sure your child will be challenging him- or herself and taking the courses college admission officers expect to see. Learn more about the high school classes that colleges look for.
  • Make a college wish list together. Talk with your 10th-grader about qualities he or she may want in a college in terms of location, size, majors offered, and so on. Check out How to Find a College That Fits You to learn more about deciding on college must-haves.
  • Help your child make summer plans. Summer is a great time to explore interests and learn new skills — and colleges look for students who pursue meaningful summer activities. Find out five ways your high schooler can stay motivated this summer.
  • Visit a college campus together – in person or online. It’s a great way to get your 10th-grader excited about college.
  • Get the facts about college costs.
  • Help your sophomore explore career ideas. He or she can make a list of interests, talents, and favorite activities and start matching them with occupations.
  • Come up with fun reading ideas. Look for magazines or newspapers your child may like and talk about the books you loved reading when you were in high school. If your family makes reading enjoyable, it can become a daily habit.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Adfvising, LLC

Defining the Parent’s Role in college applications

Defining the Parent’s Role in college applications

The Five Most Important Things You Can Do to Help

With increased selectivity, sky-high tuition costs, and confusion over what colleges require, the college planning process can be a stressful time for any college-bound family. But armed with a few simple tips, informed parents can replace the stress with positive opportunities to spend quality time with their teenagers.

The college planning process can actually help prepare your child for college and for life after college. Why? It is a great opportunity for students to learn to take control of their own lives by practicing skills in critical thinking, decision-making, planning, and organization. Parents and other responsible adults can play a supporting role but need to remember that this is the student’s college search; it is her life, his future. The student needs to be in charge, or she may end up not caring about what happens. So, what can parents do to help without totally taking charge and getting in the way? Here are the five most important things you can do.

1. Be Informed: This is a time when you really do have to keep up with your child’s level of maturity and skill development. How responsible is she? How much help does he need? What type of college would be best? Understanding what your child wants out of her college years is key. Be informed about classes and grades, standardized tests, college requirements, and trends in college admissions (colleges have become much more selective!)

2. Be Realistic: Understand and believe in your child’s ability, but don’t set the bar too high or too low. Compare her GPA and test scores to the average range of what colleges accept. (Keep in mind that highly selective colleges only take a fraction of students who have stellar grades and test scores). One of the worst things parents can do is take their child on college visits where they have little chance of being accepted. Do not set your child up for failure by providing unrealistic expectations. Also, be upfront about costs and what you can afford. However, you should not eliminate any school because of cost until you have fully investigated financial aid and scholarship options. Finally, make sure your child applies to a range of schools, including at least two “safety” schools that she loves and you can afford.

3. Be supportive: Along with arranging college visits, you can help keep track of application requirements, monitor deadlines, and oversee the financial aid process. You can also review and proof the applications, but be careful not to “over-edit” anything. Admissions counselors know the difference between the distinctive writing style of a 17-year old and an overzealous parent.

4. Know When to “Butt Out”: Try to keep an open mind and a tight lip at the beginning of the college search and application process. Listen, empathize, and understand that your child will probably change his mind many times during the process. Let your child make the initial contact with the colleges. When you visit campus, fade into the background and let him be in charge. Do not horrify your child by asking embarrassing questions or go into the interview with him, unless you are invited.

5. Enjoy the Process and Keep a Sense of Humor: This can be one of the best times you can spend with your teenager. Don’t ruin it by stressing out and nagging. Familiarize yourself with the campus when planning college visits and set appointments ahead of time. This way, your time on campus will run smoothly and you will avoid the frustration of getting lost and missing appointments. Also, be flexible, it’s ok to change your itinerary if things aren’t going as planned. Look for the humorous and fun parts of the process and keep telling yourself and your child that everything will work out in the end, so you can relax and enjoy the journey.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising, LLC