Your children are never too young to prepare for college. Below are simple ways to raise college bound kids and build a love of learning and success.
I’m getting my kids ready for college, and they’re all under six-years-old.
I’m not sifting through college applications or signing them up for enrichment activities. Nothing like that. Instead, I cementing the idea of college as an exciting opportunity even at this young age. Stuff I won’t wish “I should’ve done” when my kids are older.
Because I don’t want to spring college onto my kids like another foreign world. I want them to be comfortable with the idea of it, to feel excited, and to excel during those years.
What am I doing to raise college bound kids?
How to raise college bound kids even at a young age:
Visit college campuses.
I’m lucky. I’m surrounded by four college campuses within driving distance, including my alma mater. Exposing campus life is one of the easiest and most fun ways to raise college bound kids. They’ll have an early introduction to campus life so that, years later, few of it will be completely new. College won’t be too intimidating. College will be a given.
What are some things you can do at a college campus?
- Attend festivals. We’ve taken our kids to book festivals. Other universities host music festivals and concerts, too.
- Visit the botanical garden. Take advantage of the biology department’s botanical garden, which provides a wild and imaginative exploration for your kids.
- Attend child-focused events. Your college campus might host a child-focused event, such as arts and crafts.
- Visit the museums. Most colleges have museums open to the public.
- Eat at the food court. As a teenager visiting campuses, I was impressed by the food court! It was something familiar and non-intimidating. I could actually see myself eating there at some point.
- Picnic on the grass. Many campuses are crawling with grassy areas, perfect for a picnic blanket and basket.
- Run on the track. See if your local campus has a track and field open to the public. Your kids will love running around the white lines.
- Look at fountains. Fountains have fascinated my eldest, and the local campuses we visit have plenty of them.
- Visit the student store. Like the food court, the student store also impressed me as a child and made campus life seem more doable. Many campuses have restaurants, retail stores, groceries, and arcades. These venues tie daily life with academics.
- Attend sporting events. We have yet to take our kids to one, but going to a sporting event like football or basketball instills team pride and is fun to watch.
- Walk around. Give yourself a tour of the campus and walk around. You’ll get plenty of exercise and give your kids the opportunity to run around.
Start a college savings fund.
College savings isn’t at the top of my priority list, but it’s one of the buckets I wanted to start from the get-go. Starting a college fund makes college seem more tangible. College bound kids will understand college is worth saving up for.
Setting aside a long-term goal bridges the present to the future. All this time, we would have been saving for college and involving our kids in the process. Plus, taking the time and money to start a savings fund reinforces the importance of college. It’s worth sacrificing and saving for.
My kids will sometimes receive money as gifts. My rule? Half goes to a savings account that they can spend should they want something that I’m not willing to buy. The other half goes straight into a college savings fund.
More important, I explain where this money goes. For instance, I’ll say, “Your uncle gave you $40 for your birthday. I’m putting half of that into your college fund.” That way, putting half of their money towards college won’t seem like such a foreign concept to them. It also instills long-term savings habits such as retirement or a down payment.
Make your kids comfortable with performing well at school.
Preparing your child for college starts with her view of education and knowledge. The better she does in school, the more likely she’ll attend college (and enjoy and reap the benefits of it). Get your kids comfortable with performing well at school.
- Make learning fun. Watch your language and tone of voice when talking about homework or school. Is school something you dread or avoid (“Yay, no school for two weeks!”), or do you nag about homework?
- Guide your child through school homework and projects. You don’t need to hover over your kid or correct every mistake. But do coach him through the assignment and be involved in his education.
- Encourage free play and curiosity. Kids are always learning especially through free play. Don’t feel pressured to enroll them in every class or over-schedule their days. Instead, provide them with new experiences and challenges. Ask engaging questions.
- Involve them in “school” early. Enroll your child in preschool when they’re at the right age. Or if not, do the same things preschool teachers would be doing with their students. Introduce them to letters and numbers. Read often. Practice self-sufficient activities. Immerse them in open-ended play, and encourage them learn to write and draw.
Make college a given expectation.
Talk about when your kids will attend college, not if.
As Lance A. Millis said in an article on collegeprep101.com:
…[M]ake college a part of their life, one of your expectations, and something they learn about, talk about and hear about throughout their young life. When it’s summer they will go swimming, when it’s Halloween they will go trick-or-treating, and when they’re finished with high school they will go to college. As the parent, you can make it that way.
Preparing your child for college at this young an age should be positive. You’re not sorting through applications, or enrolling in enrichment classes to give your kids an “upper edge.” No Tiger Moms required to get kids excited about college.
Instead, focus on framing college as something exciting instead of dread or shun. Start saving for college, and involve your kids as well. Instill a love of knowledge and a school “curriculum” so your child does well in school. And make college part of your everyday life, a given in their life story.
College prep isn’t a checklist or a manual. Instead, encourage continued learning and expose your kids to the benefits of college life. Even if they’re under six-years-old.
Get more tips on raising college bound kids:
- How to Teach Our Kids to Embrace Mistakes
- Ask the Readers: Are Good Schools Overrated?
- Homeschooling Pros and Cons: 6 Things Every Parent Needs to Consider
- Teaching Resilience and Perseverance: How to Raise Kids with Grit
- Why Technology Is Unnecessary for Your Kids (Even In These Modern Times)
Tell me in the comments: While college may be a long way for your kids right now, what ways can we incorporate the ideas of higher education into their everyday life? What are you doing to raise college bound kids?