Congratulations to all college-bound high school seniors and the families that supported them all along the way! With the decision of where to go to college already made, it’s time for parents — and grandparents — to start talking about the opportunities that lie ahead.
Having watched my own two children make it through college and launch their careers, and advised many clients sending kids off to college, I’d like to share with you three main things I would be sure to include in your summer conversations. Most likely, the newly found independence of college will tempt your teen to spread his/her wings, so my advice is all about getting them off the ground the right way so they can eventually soar.
Get Involved:College offers many, many opportunities to pursue interests or step outside one’s comfort zone. Whether it’s campus clubs, student government, intramural sports or volunteering in a new community, getting involved teaches teamwork, forces you to face ideas different from your own, and offers the opportunity to develop valuable leadership skills. Getting involved will help your teens get ahead.
Passion Plus Practicality: College is a time for intellectual exploration, and many students find inspiration in either the arts and humanities or in more technical fields. Whatever their core interests, the real world is increasingly calling for people who are versatile; who can write a persuasive letter as well as computer code.
If your child is a writer at heart, suggest taking some numbers courses such as statistics, accounting or computer science. If they love to code, suggest a literature or history course to help balance passions with the additional tools they’ll need to stand out in professional pursuits after graduation.
Know Your Numbers: Do your college-bound kids know that hitting the snooze button and sleeping through just one lecture is the same as throwing away hundreds of dollars? That one late credit card payment will hurt their credit score for years to come? What the real cost of tuition is once interest and student loan terms are factored in?
Help your teens know their numbers, build a budget, and live within their means. With freedom come new financial responsibilities.
The college years offer so much opportunity and excitement that it’s easy to forget the real world isn’t that far off. Help your kids get a head start by helping them make smart social, practical and financial decisions early. The sense of responsibility they develop now will stay with them for a lifetime.
Bridget Burgess is a Certified Financial Planner™ and a client advisor at Laird Norton Wealth Management. With more than 30 years of experience in the securities and financial advisory sectors, Burgess strives to bring clarity and assurance to her clients’ financial lives.
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