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The big change from high school to college.

For most students, making the transition from high school to college is a gradual process, often taking the entire freshman year -- or longer. "College is a lot more than writing papers and studying for exams," maintains academic therapist Bruce Holzband of Edu-Clinic, Houston, Tex., an educational diagnostic and treatment center. "It's also about getting used to sharing a cubicle with another person when you've always had a room of your own; dealing with a night owl when you're an early riser; sharing a bathroom with 20 other people who leave toothpaste in the sink; balancing the budget; and, more seriously, it's about managing to change the oil in your car, pick up your dry cleaning, hang out with your friends, and still get the 12-page economics paper done by Friday." Handling independence, adapting to a new set of social rules, developing friendships, and registering for classes all factor into the equation.

"Some kids simply aren't ready for college -- academically, socially, or emotionally," adds psychologist Myron Friedman. "They may need another year at home before the transition, either working or taking a few courses at a community college."

How can you tell if children are ready for college? Holzband and Friedman suggest asking yourself the following questions: * Can they cope with everyday responsibilities (food, clothing, transportation) independently? * How do they handle money? Do they know how to budget? * How do they plan for a long-term assignment in high school? * Do they know how to negotiate to resolve conflict? * How do they deal with authority? * How easily are they influenced by peers? * What is their degree of involvement in the college selection process? Are they making the choices? If not, who is making those choices? * Do they have academic goals? * How comfortable are they with decision-making? * How much tolerance for frustration do they have? How accommodating and flexible are they? * How well do they handle being away from home or other transition experiences? * As they have been given more responsibility with advancing age, how have they dealt with it? * Do they admit mistakes and learn from them?

Friedman points out that the parent-child relationship is evolving constantly. "Parents bide their time during the senior year of high school. The child barely checks in for dinner twice a week and there's a sense that he's independent, already capable of handling problems on his own." That may not be the case, though. "What parents don't realize is that there's a big difference between handling problems when Mom and Dad are upstairs -- and handling them from 2,000 miles away."

That creates a dilemma for most parents. "The natural desire is to solve problems for your child, to advocate for him. It takes restraint to let a young adult work through the college bureaucracy and the new social setting by himself, but it's the only way he'll eventually make it on his own." A long-term approach -- gradually relinquishing responsibility and allowing a child the opportunity to do the things he or she will need to do when on his or her own -- makes the transition easier.

Most important, send a message that you trust your kids to solve problems on their own, but that you always are available in a pinch. There will be days, even months, when they glide through college life on a wave of confidence. There will be others when anxiety prevails. Throughout their college years, children are going to move in and out of their parents' lives. Separation is a gradual process that requires patience, acceptance, and understanding in large doses.
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Title Annotation:advice for parents on determining whether their children are ready to make the transition to college life
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 1, 1997
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