5 Things Every Parent With a College-Bound Kid Should Know

The stakes are higher than ever for college students. Freshman year on campus can lead to major successes or serious failures.

In fact, it's estimated that nearly 30% of college students drop out before their sophomore year.

For many reasons, earning a college degree is a game-changer. For example, when it comes to income, on average, college graduates earn $17,500 more a year than those with high school diplomas only.

Sadly, many students reach the end of four years on campus realizing they didn't develop the right skills or relationships, they didn't stretch themselves, and they haven't set themselves up for life and career success.

The good news is, it doesn't have to be this way.

Interestingly, the most powerful lessons during college years don't take place in the classroom. They all happen in the world outside of it. 

That's what I'm sharing with you here -- 10 simple yet critical lessons that will set your child up for a bright future from day one on campus.

I hope you will share these with your child -- not just in the name of saving valuable money or time -- but also in setting them up to have the best college experience and future career they possibly can.

#1. It Doesn't Matter What College Your Child Attends

Let's get this out of the way. Whether your child attends an Ivy League university, a liberal arts college, or a state school, it really doesn't matter.

I'm sure this is the last thing you want to read after investing in SAT test prep and all those extracurricular activities your child participated in over the years leading up to college.

Here's the truth: the college admissions process has been hijacked. It has become big business. "Best Colleges" lists don't tell the whole story. Instead, they make families and students seriously (and unnecessarily) anxious.

Believe it or not, the vast majority of successful people like CEOs, athletes, entrepreneurs, or executives didn't attend colleges at the top of the rankings. Many attended colleges and universities that you've possibly never heard of. In fact, most say that this actually gave them an edge in their life.

What really matters is that your child earns their degree, maintains a positive attitude, works hard, and garners amazing experiences no matter what college is on their future resume.

Regardless of what college or university your child attends, their job is to be so good they can't be ignored. Help them use whatever college they attend to their advantage and be proud to get their education.

2. Surround Yourself With Allies On Campus

Your child has a simple choice to make. They can surround themselves with thieves or allies. Both exist on college campuses (and out in the world), and they can be the difference between success and failure.

Thieves are people who will never encourage, support, or empower your child. They won't positively challenge them. They won't inspire them. They won't hold them accountable. And they won't push your kid to be the absolute best version of themselves.

Thieves are energy vampires that zap all of your child's drive and ambition. Thieves always have drama going on. Thieves settle for mediocrity. Thieves can bring out the worst in your kid.

On the flip side are allies. Allies are those people who always encourage, support, and empower your child. They positively challenge them. They inspire them. They hold them accountable. And they do push them to be the absolute best version of themselves.

Allies will give your child energy. Allies have great things going on in their lives on campus. Allies won't accept anything but the best. Allies bring out the best in others.

For your kid, it will be as simple as thinking about the five people they spend the most time with on campus and asking this question: "Do they make me better?"

Support your child in identifying the thieves in their lives and encourage them to create boundaries.

Empower them to find their allies and keep them close. Make sure that they are an ally to others.

Remind them to not be afraid to work with the best and to surround themselves with greatness.

3. Get A Job In The Service Industry

Service industry jobs are one of the most powerful experiences that your kid can have during their college years.

Whether they work as a server at a restaurant, a front desk attendant at a hotel, or a salesperson at a retail store, this experience will provide them with a unique understanding of people and how to connect with them.

Working in the service industry, your kid will see the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the same day, they may get yelled at for something that wasn't their fault or rewarded with a large tip for awesome service.

What they will walk away with is the ability to communicate with anyone, problem-solve on the fly, and learn how to become a creative thinker. These experiences also will allow them to feel what it's really like to earn a paycheck so they never take it for granted.

These are skills that employers crave but unfortunately, the vast majority of college students graduate without developing these kinds of people skills.

Many college students run away from service industry jobs. Think twice before you allow your kid to do this. Though these jobs may not be glamorous, experiencing the service industry firsthand can set your child up for life and career success.

4. You Don't Climb A Mountain By Accident

In this age of social media from Instagram to Snapchat to Facebook to Twitter, it's important for your child to remember that success and confidence is earned.

To provide perspective, remind your kid what would happen to them if they were miraculously dropped off at the top of Mount Everest (a nearly 30,000-ft. altitude). They would take in the view for a second and then they would probably pass out, or, maybe die.

Why? Because their lungs have not earned being at that high altitude. It takes time to earn your way to the top even when it seems like others around us are already there.

This is the reason that the careers of reality stars tend not to last long. Two or three years after they win the big competition on television, they typically disappear.

Why? It's not necessarily that they're not talented or gifted. It's because they haven't done the necessary work to stay at the top of the mountain.

Before a comedian does the big television special, she has worked for years practicing her craft and performing at small comedy clubs. Before the band you love sells out a stadium, they have played at countless small venues getting their sound just right.

Confidence is earned.

Your child's time in college is a gift, a journey, to build this confidence so they can stay at the top of the mountain.

Encourage them to be willing to do the work to earn their way to the top. This requires faith, dedication, discipline, and on-going commitment. This way they won't pass out when they get to the top, but instead take in the amazing view.

It's important for your child to remember to not compare their average day on campus with another student's "highlight reel" they view on social media.

5. The Best Time To Build A Personal Brand Is Now

Open up a private web browser and Google your kid's name.

What do the search results show? Is it actually them? Is it someone who has the same name as them? Is it something that they posted on social media that one day they'll be embarrassed about? Or, does nothing come up?

The good news is that your kid can control search results by building a strong personal brand.

The first step for them is to use a free web service like about.me to create a personal website. Once they build it, they can use the link in their emails and social media profiles.

Next, go to a website like register.com and buy your child's name. It should cost you less than $15. Or, have them create a free about.me account. Nothing is worse than someone else owning your name.

Help your kid control what comes up when someone Googles their name (like future employers) so they can be proud of what people find.

 Source: Inc.

The mission of Next Steps Navigation is helping college graduates navigate the ups and downs of finding their place in the world, by finding their right next step. Recognizing the huge gap between getting a college degree and the realities of entering the workforce, we developed our coaching program to help families navigate this critical transition. We’ll meet you where you are and get you pointed in the right direction to choose a job – and a life – that you love.

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