What Can High School Students Do to Prepare for College?

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: March 21, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

Find your perfect college degree

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Parenthood is never an easy task. Any parent will attest to the fact that the transition from childhood to adulthood presents an odd mix of critical stages.

Parents see the kids grow from being babies whose moms and dads couldn’t keep their eyes off to teenagers who are slowly showing their individual characters. Before anyone can even say “college”, the little ones have become adults with minds of their own–and are off to college!

When preparing a high school kid for college, a lot of things still need to be done. For most people, college attainment is almost always a precise determinant of an individual’s career and professional future.

As such, if you’re a parent to someone who will soon be entering college, you must already be looking for ways to make it an exciting journey for them. Here are some essential tips:

high school student getting ready for college
College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Explain what college life is like–and do it with caution.

Preparing a high school kid for college life challenges a parent to provide support beyond financing or paying for it. While it’s true that college is now more expensive than ever before and requires financial preparation, no money in any amount can make up for the parental support or guidance that does not involve a dime.

It’s common knowledge that while college freshmen tend to be totally excited about this new educational chapter in their lives, there may be feelings of loneliness, not to mention overwhelming pressure, that may overcome them. It’s only natural for them to miss their high school life and realize that college isn’t easy.

Before they know it, college has become a heavy and frustrating chore. When these problems are unattended, they can possibly result in low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and even depression.

What can you do as an incoming college kid’s parent? Sit down and have a long and meaningful talk with your high school child about college expectations. This means that as the child’s parent, you need to be well-equipped and knowledgeable enough on the subject.

Be the first person to help them gain an understanding of how college life should be dealt with. You can explain it using a two-prong approach:

Teach your child these two vital values: Budgeting and Time Management

Knowing how to budget is an all-important skill every college student must learn way before entering university. The cost of going to college in the United States varies depending on whether the academy is public or private, community college or full university. Either way, tuition fees in college definitely higher than in high school.

It is also worth mentioning that university costs have been skyrocketing, making college a challenge for those without the means to pay for it. This fact should compel incoming or current college students to be mindful of their spending. Teach your child to compute college costs, learn the best ways to save for future use, and never run out of money when it is needed.

Also, an equally important skill for college students is time management. Teach your college-bound kid to learn not only to keep it all orderly but also in balance. That being said, academic life should not negatively affect a student’s social life, family time, and even “me time.”

It is commonly observed that students tend to spend less time socializing when in college because they focus more on studying. The truth is, this actually depends on whether or not a student has mastered the art of striking a balance between working hard and working smart.

Encourage your child to never neglect time for study—because that’s what they are in university for—but make time to socialize, learn from the people around them, and have fun, as well.

Remember that people learn and deal with learning differently; extroverts, for one, are fueled when they are outside socializing. The bottom line is that in college, achieving that balance is the key.

Help your college-bound child explore the many options that college offers.

Aside from giving the emotional aspect of college preparation, you can’t ignore your kids as they take the necessary steps to effectively find the right university.

An incoming college student normally has a career in mind; be around as your child starts researching the course or major that should be anchored in and constantly pique their interests. Assist your child in meeting the exact requirements for the course of choice.

The next step is to pick the appropriate type of college by gathering information and narrowing down the list. Be with your child as they navigate through college application deadlines. Be there when they take extra steps to meet college application requirements or ace tests for scholarships.

1. Course selection

College admissions standards are often higher than high school graduation standards. They frequently need a greater degree of proven competency in mathematics and science, as well as a certain number of years of foreign-language education.

Make sure that all of your students have the chance to enroll in a college-preparatory academic program. Inform them of the courses that universities expect to see on their transcripts.

Aside from course subjects, it is critical that you encourage all students to enroll in the most challenging courses appropriate for their academic level. The Advanced Placement Program allows eager and intellectually competent high school students to study and learn at the college level.

Completing these courses successfully — and performing well on the examinations — proves to institutions that students can achieve success at the college level.

2. Standardized tests

A great result on standardized examinations also helps pupils persuade institutions that they are up to the task. Encouraging your pupils to take the PSAT/NMSQT is a good idea.

This experience allows kids to prepare for crucial college entrance examinations such as the SAT. It also connects students to Khan Academy practice materials, AP courses, and college planning resources.

3. Extracurriculars

Colleges also require students to have interests outside of their studies. Sports and other extracurricular activities demonstrate to admissions authorities that students are well-rounded and contribute to school life.

Volunteering or working part-time reflects a feeling of duty and dedication, explaining that students are prepared for the obligations of attending college.

For Parents:

Stay ahead of the game by sending your kid to the right high school.

Certainly, there is no better time to help prepare your child for entry to college than in high school. Consider sending your kid to one that does not only guarantee academic excellence for students; pick one that places importance on instilling the right values. A child’s Emotional Quotient or EQ should be taken into consideration as it is equally important as their IQ.

While in high school, encourage your child to engage in extra-curricular work, such as community service and similar activities. These are ways to cultivate responsibility and independence in your child–just exactly what he or she will need as college life nears.

A Student’s Viewpoint:

In Conclusion, Encourage the Right Mindset… And, Be Prepared!

More than anything, a parent needs to practice and instill values in their child, no matter what age. Without a doubt, preparing high school kids is crucial for them to make it to college successfully.

Your child’s experiences as a high school student will help shape the right attitude towards getting a college degree. Even better, your child will go far in life with the right mindset.

Additional Information: