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Know How Your Parents Can Help You! 
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The college years are a time of transition for parents and young people alike. Your parents can help you transition to postsecondary education. They can encourage you and share knowledge about college options and challenges. These steps can help to motivate you to think about and act on your college decisions.

"When I was a boy of 14, I thought my father was one of the stupidest mortals to walk the face of the earth; when I turned 21, I was amazed how much the old gentleman had learned in seven years."

Mark Twain

Successfully transitioning from high school to college, a complex process for many students, requires a structured plan and effective time management. All too often, students delay their college planning until their senior year in high school. You and your parents should participate in transition planning beginning at age 14 or in the eighth grade, as mandated by IDEA, and throughout your high school years. Your IEP transition plan is your road map through high school that will help you reach your destination of postsecondary education and eventual employment.

Support

Most parents have the same hopes and goals for their children as they have for themselves. The trouble is that the specific notion of what constitutes success or self-reliance is often very different for parents than for their offspring. Students need to know that their parents are "there for them" but are not pushing them toward a particular college or program of study to satisfy their parents own needs. They often worry about pleasing their parents rather than freely exploring their feelings and options.

The spirit with which your parents offer advice should always allow for your individual choice and build a mutually respectful parent-child relationship. While impartiality and objectivity can be very difficult to offer, if students are to become independent, they must take responsibility for their own academic goals and the consequences of their performance.

Information

Your parents may serve as a resource about "real world" experiences and possibilities. Discuss the reality of choices and decisions with them within the context of college life, independent living, and future careers.

Insight

Parents know their offspring well and may be able to assist you in recognizing your strengths, talents, and abilities. They should stress your positive points, which gives you the self-esteem and positive mental attitude needed to explore new ideas and opportunities. Your parents will encourage your interests, help you develop your skills, and identify your values.

Networking

Begin the notion of networking early. Perhaps your parents can introduce you to friends and colleagues associated with postsecondary settings and programs and to those working in career fields of interest to you. These contacts may be helpful throughout the college process and may eventually serve as an essential link to jobs after graduation.

Encouragement

Your parents can encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities and support services available on campus and in the community. Much "learning" takes place outside of the classroom environment. They can encourage you to join campus clubs and activities and participate in workshops offered throughout the year. Their job is to support you and lead you to take advantage of the rich pool of resources available at the college. They can help you deal with discouragement and stress by listening, talking, and acknowledging that what you are going through is tough. They can show you how much they care and how important your happiness and well being means to them.

Excerpted from Virginia's College Guide for Students with Disabilities (2003 Edition).