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How to prepare children for college before they start school

How can you prepare your children for college before they even start school? If you didn't know, I have been a college professor for the last 12 years, and I see the same issues popping up over and over again in college students who are not successful.

A lot of the skills college students are missing are skills that you should start teaching your little kids so that when they get into middle school, high school, and college, and they have more freedom they do things well. And they are successful.

Start teaching life skills to your children when they are little

Three things to focus on to prepare children for college before they start school

I'm going to share three things you need to focus on to prepare your children for college before they start school:

  1. Routine and planning
  2. Independence
  3. Decision-making
Three ways to prepare children for college

The reason I focus on these three things is that these three things are really going to help your kids succeed as they increase their independence as they go through the levels of school.

Especially when they reach college.  Because what happens for a lot of kids is that when they reach college, they've never had to put their own routines in place. They've never had to do their own planning. There isn't much experience with independence and they don't know how to make decisions. And so when they get to college, there's all of this overwhelm and then they just shut down.

How routines and planning helps prepare children for college 


Routine is incredibly important in very, very young children because it gives them predictability. It helps them feel more secure because when things are predictable and they know what's going to happen, it makes their lives a lot easier for them.

Establishing routines brings a sense of security little kids need in order to thrive.

Establishing routines gives little kids a sense of security

Your routine does not have to be exactly the same every single day, but it is very helpful to have a rhythm to your day.  According to Simone Davies who wrote the Montessori Toddler, she says that it's not having a timetable, but having a rhythm to your day.

And so that means that your child wakes up. Then you do the next thing.  You aren't following the clock, but your creating routines so that your kids know what the next thing they need to do after they wake up.

Example of a routine

In our house, one of the routines that we have is that we have lunch, and then we have mama time. Mama is stories, cuddles, and talking about the morning and what we did. And then Erik has rest time. After rest time, we have more mama time. So the afternoons are usually a project. We'll do some art, something that's really fun to help ease us into independent play so that I can make dinner.

Establish a routine that gives you a flow to your day.  A rhythm of what your day is going to look like. And the reason that that's important is when kids get to college, the routine looks a lot different than it did in high school. 


Since the routine looks so different in college, it's important that you teach your child how to plan.

When your child is in high school, they are in school 7-8 hours, Monday through Friday.  In college, they might have a class two days a week, or maybe they're only in class a couple of hours a day, four of five days a week.

College doesn't do a really good job of teaching what is expected of students when they come in. So most students are going to spend about two and a half hours a week inside of class for each class they take. However, it's expected that college students are going to spend usually two to three hours outside of class for every hour they put in.

When your child doesn't know how to plan they will fail in college. They will think with just going to class is enough. They fail to plan for the extra time required for each class.  Or they put too much on their plate.

Your children need support from you, even in college. As parents, you need to sit there alongside them and show them how to plan their day.  How to calculate how much time it will take them for each class, plus how much time they need to get work done and study.  Then they will know how much time they have for work.  

How to teach your child planning to prepare them for college

You need to teach your child how to plan their day.  Even at a young age, you can do this. For instance, with Erik, we have this little magnetic board. This board shows what our routine looks like. Here's the next thing you want or need to do.  If we want to change things around, we can give him choices.

Teaching your children how to plan is so important

I don't want you to helicopter because that doesn't help either. We'll about independence in a second, but show them how to do planning. 

As your children get older, you need to teach them how to plan their day.  In middle school, they can use a planner. Show them how to use it and how to plan out their day.

Teach them how to plan out their week.  In Bookkeeper Training School, one of the first things I have our bookkeepers do is have them do an exercise where they have to allocate their 168 hours every week. And we did a podcast episode about this a few episodes ago where I walk you through how to do this.

I do the same exercise with my college students.  A lot of time they realize they have so much unallocated time.  So now they have to figure out what to do during that time.

The best thing you can teach your child is how to take care of themselves

How fostering independence helps prepare children for college

The second thing you need to teach your child is independence. As a mom of littles, it's really hard to make the transition between doing everything for them and giving them some freedom and independence.

Children naturally get to a point where they want to do things for themselves.  You as a parent need to put structures in place so that you can foster that independence in your child. 

For example with Erik, he can get the peanut butter out of the cabinet. He can get himself a plastic knife, and reach the bread.  And he'll make himself a little sandwich.  Now mind you we're in the room so that if he does need help we can help. But we try to stand back and let him have some freedom to do it on his own.

It's incredibly important to give your kids the independence to do things on their own.

Have your children do chores around the house and then as they get older give them more responsibility and give them more independence.

And then, when they are old enough,  have them get a job, even if it's just a summer job.

How getting a job fosters independence, routines, and planning 

Allow your children to get a job.  This will teach them how to manage their schedule and learn about people and customer service. It allows them to make some money and learn how to manage that money.

By having a job, your child will learn all about routines, planning, scheduling, and being independent.  And this will be so beneficial for them in the long run.

And honestly, they will do better in school because with having a job, they will see the importance of gaining new skills, get better grades and focus more in school.

Ways to foster independence in children

Think about other ways you can foster independence in your children. Can your kids make dinner? Do laundry? Have basic survival skills? 

You need to make sure that your kids have the life skills that they need.  Teach them how to manage money, cook, do laundry, clean, vacuum properly. Make sure they know what cleaners to use when and what things not to mix together.  Teach them to understand how to use basic tools. Teach them how to handle conflict so that they don't shut down.

The best thing you can do is help teach your child how to take care of themselves. Figure out what are the critical skills that your kids are going to need,  and make sure they know them.  

How decision-making helps prepare children for college

It's critically important that you teach your kids how to make good decisions.  Teach them how to assess what's important and what they need to focus on when they feel overwhelmed.

Get your kids involved in routine decision-making

Your children need to know how to make decisions and how to set priorities.

When your child is little you can have them pick which two shirts they want to wear.  If they want to go outside to play or play inside.  Having them make little decisions right now helps them get some control.

Get your kids involved in meal planning, family vacation planning. If they have a choice of where they get to go to school, let them help with the decision making process.

Think about how you can get your kids involved in just routine decision-making because the more decisions they make as they are growing up, the easier it will be for them to make good decisions when they get to college.

If you're not allowing your kids to make some higher level, impactful decisions, when they get to college and they have to make good choices, they're not going to do it.

Give your kids a chance to make decisions while it's easy. And while they're not going to do something that is going to impact the rest of their lives.

What determines if children will be successful in college

When I look at the kids that are really successful in college, they are really good at these three things. They're really good at planning and putting together their routines.  They don't stress out. They have an entire routine and it works for them week to week. They are independent and have good solid decision-making skills.

So start implementing routines and planning, independence, and solid decision-making with your kids while they are really, really young. And you'll be setting them up for success for the rest of their lives.

Please share in the comments what you are doing to foster these three things in your children.

3 ways to prepare your children for college before they start school

​Disclosure: We professionally create this podcast that receives compensation from companies that we talk about. So you must assume that any link you click is an affiliate link. Kristin and Ingram Digital Media only have affiliate relationships with companies that we believe in wholeheartedly. We are independently owned, and all of our opinions are​ our own.


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