Off to College and Out of the House for Good?
Getting a child in to college takes work, research, creativity and diligence. Many parents take a deep breath of relief once their kids are off to their first semester and think their jobs are over. Think again! Now your child is a soon- to-be college graduate and should be ready to dive head first into the work force, starting their adult life. So why are they moving back home? And most importantly, should they be moving back home?
A recent Gallup Daily poll (2014) reported, “14% of adults between the ages of 24 and 34—those in post-college years when most young adults are trying to establish independence—report living at home with their parents.” Furthermore, 29% of all U.S. adults under the age of 35 report living at home. Coupled with this is the fact that students are taking longer to finish college, which delays their ability to become employed and can lead to incurring incredible debt.
Back in the day, a college degree usually meant a guaranteed full-time job which would kick off a young person’s career.
Today, there is no guarantee of a job and students must do much more to turn that college degree into an income producing job and career.
Getting the degree is just the first step to achieving a high gear career path and as a parent, here are some things you can do to help your student achieve his or her best while in college.
- Communicate: The best thing you can do for your young adult children is communicate expectations and also share stories you may have that can be helpful. While you don’t want to be a “helicopter parent” and hover over them, you can email or text them links to helpful and encouraging resources. For example, our son is a freshman in college and is having trouble with an accounting class so we have been sending him some websites that can explain some of the principles. When he expressed he was not doing well in the class, he asked my husband if he could call and go over the work. Thankfully my husband is a CPA and knows accounting well.
- Encourage: When students go off to college they feel independent and are learning new ways to assimilate into a new chapter of life. Encourage your child to take advantage of resources in college and encourage them to find professors and mentors who can help them. Praise them when they get through that first semester with a good GPA and when they become involved in campus activities that can broaden their experience. My son wanted to pledge a fraternity and, while I had some mixed feelings, I encouraged him to carefully evaluate which one he wanted to join. He ended up joining one that requires it’s members to maintain above a 3.0 grade point and also mandates that each member join a volunteer organization on campus.
- Connect the Dots: Show your college student how your college experiences impact your life, career, and choices. It is important for us as parents to tell our kids the “why” behind what we need to do. For example, I constantly tell my kids the importance of networking and meeting new people and how that engagement can often lead to opportunity. If you can show them how connecting the dots can lead to an internship while in college, they will understand how networking works. Help your child connect dots in ways that demonstrate successes after college.
- Make them work: I think some parents make a mistake when they tell their kids that their job is get through college with good grades. That is not enough in today’s global, competitive workforce. Students who don’t want to be living at home after college must understand the value of the dollar and how to earn it. Make them get part-time jobs and internships that can lead to jobs while they are in college.
- Consider summer school: We are looking now at classes our son can take over the summer while still having a full-time summer job. Even if he can just take one or two courses, this allows for him to stay ahead and gives him extra hours in case he needs to drop a class.
- Expose them to career-minded, driven people: If your kids won’t listen to you, they will listen to other adults. Consider getting a friend to mentor your college student. Even if it means they send your student notes or words of encouragement, having someone else to help them can be valuable.
- Don’t let them off the hook: This is harder said than done but probably the most important tip here. As parents, we must hold our kids accountable and make them do what they say they are going to do. And there need to be consequences for college students who don’t follow through. For example, our son pays for his own gas and most of his food on weekends. I insist that he work to do this and as a result, he is learning that value of the dollar and how the “burn is more than the churn” at times. It’s a great lesson and if we as parents do everything for our college students, why shouldn’t they come back and live at home? Also, we have told both of our kids that they have 4 years to finish college and that they cannot come live with us at home so they’d better have jobs after college. It’s never to early to set expectations!
While much of this may seem like common sense, it’s important as parents to make sure students have a “plan” while they are in college and use those four years to work that plan. When they get out, hopefully that plan will pay off and they can afford to rent an apartment with a few roommates as they begin their earning chapters!
Amy D. Howell is CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies, a public relations and marketing firm headquartered in Memphis, TN. She is the co-author of Women in High Gear: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, On-Rampers, and Aspiring Executives, as well as The Future Belongs to Students in High Gear, with Anne Deeter Gallaher.