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What should you do to make sure your child succeeds in college...?

If you're one of those parents whose children are graduating from high school and getting ready for college, you're probably sighing with relief.  No more application deadlines, rejection letters or financial aid nightmares.  But like most parents, you're probably worrying about your child's success in college.  If your child is not a stellar student, or if you just want to make your child a more competitive student, consider engaging him or her in the following activities this summer:

4-Year Plan:

College advisors typically help your child select his or her first quarter or semester classes.  However, to get a really clear picture of what to expect in college, students need to look beyond their first term and consider their entire college plan.  By putting together their comprehensive 4-year plan, they'll be sure to complete their general education, core requirements, and major requirements on time because we'll consider prerequisites, professors and availability.  We'll also determine, and include in the plan, important opportunities to improve their options for graduate school and/or employment upon graduation.  We'll include internships, club memberships, study abroad, and jobs.  Besides helping your child see the big picture (and giving you a blueprint to his/her college plan), you'll save tens of thousands of dollars because your child will graduate on time.  Many students spend an extra semester or year in college because they forgot to take a prerequisite course, delaying their entire plan another year, and increasing your financial responsibility.  By understanding their plan, students remain engaged and focused on their future success.

Merit Planner:

If your child isn't using the Merit Planner, this is a good time to get started.  Many college professors complain that students arrive as freshmen without the organizational skills they need to succeed in college.  High school teachers often give students study guides or allow them to use "cheat sheets" on exams.  In the long run, this actually handicaps the students because in college courses they will not be allowed the support of those aids.  College freshman often don't open a book during their first month in college because they aren't required to turn in daily homework assignments and only respond to impending deadlines.  By using the planner to enter due dates and block off time to complete assignments before their due dates, your child will be ahead of the game when starting college.


Spending the summer fine-tuning grammar, learning writing mechanics, and essay-writing skills will help prepare your child for his or her classes in the fall.  Merit offers a special one-on-one class for college-bound students that teaches them how to write a college-level essay and how to cite sources, avoid plagiarism, and develop research skills.  College professors at prominent institutions are disappointed that their students can't write essays.  This is the ideal time to brush up on writing skills.

Drugs, Alcohol, and Sex: This will be the last summer that you will definitely have your child at home (and living under your rules).  Take this opportunity to discuss what to expect in the college social scene.  Students who know their limits and understand what is safe and legal will be more inclined to make smarter choices when confronted with enticing opportunities to go wild.  Knowing what levels of alcohol and drugs their bodies can safely consume and how to avoid toxic or lethal mixes can potentially save your child's life. Even if you've had "the talk" with your child before, discuss birth control and sexually transmitted diseases again.  Hooking up at parties on college campuses is the rage, and that means that your child may encounter pressure to do things that he or she didn't do in high school.  Ask a college junior or senior to share with your child pitfalls and things to avoid during freshman year.  Seasoned juniors or seniors will have a wealth of advice that your child may be more inclined to listen to. 



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