The 3 Best Ways to Prepare Your Children for College

The following is a guest post written by Chris Whittington and Clare McIlwraith of The Study Gurus.

In a traditional high school, learning can become forced and mundane.  Homeschooling, on the other hand, has the amazing ability to create a lifelong love of learning.

This view will be invaluable throughout your children’s lives.  A desire to learn and explore will mean they’ll be able to do anything they set their mind to, provided they have the right tool-set.

Before many kids venture out into the big wide world, their journey will involve going to college. You will want to do everything in your power to fully prepare your children for this incredibly important step.

Starting college means a huge shift towards independence.

For many students, this will not only be the first time that they’ve lived away from home, but also the first time they’ll have to take complete responsibility for their own education.

They will no longer have your help to complete assignments, prepare for exams, and just be there for support. The work-load will be more intense and pressure will rarely let up.

There will be no room for spoon-feeding, and self-direction will be required.

Studying is a skill.

Just like sports, crafts, and music, studying can be practiced. Anyone can learn to improve. The more you ‘practice’ studying, the better you get.

If you help your children master their study skills now, before they head off to college, you will ensure they reach the success you know they’re capable of achieving.

What can you do to help?

Everyone has their own ideal way to learn. We like to call this ‘ideal way’ a study formula.

Your children’s study formula will be made up of all the different techniques and habits that help them study most effectively. Understanding their study formula will guarantee they get the most out of every study session.

Here are a few things you can do now to help your children find their study formula and develop habits that they will use at college every single day.

1.  Explore her learning style.

If your child knows the ways that she retains information most effectively, she can tailor her study to meet her own needs.

  • Does your child learn best when she has diagrams that she can memorize?
  • Does she like hearing something explained verbally?
  • Does she need to read something in a book, or write it down to commit it to memory?
  • Or does she learn best by putting something into action – by doing things?

2.  What is his preferred study environment?

  • Where does your child like to be while he studies?
  • Does he like to be surrounded by people or completely alone?
  • Does he like to use a computer or does that just lead to distraction?
  • Does listening to music help him focus?
  • Does he like taking notes in a particular type of book?

While it may not seem relevant, some of these little details make the difference between okay study and great study. Being in the right environment will help your child get into the right mental space for studying before he even starts.

3. Hone your child’s time management skills.

Photo by John Morgan

If your child has the ability to plan time effectively and manage her work load she’ll be on the fast track to getting straight A’s at college.

One of the best ways to combat procrastination and poor time management is to set time aside for study in advance. Help your child draw up a study timetable. Even if she usually makes time to do her work, the act of committing to a timetable will get your child into the habit of a study routine.

This habit will be priceless during college.

They’ll thank you on graduation day.

Forming great study habits early, by perfecting their own study formula and getting into the routine of set study times will ensure your children hit the ground running at college.

Add this to the fact that they have encouraging and supportive parents behind them, and there’s no way they won’t achieve great things!

What do you see as the best thing you’re doing now to prepare your children for college?


  1. The main thing I’m doing right now is letting them be kids and encouraging their love of learning and giving them lots of time to go deep into their interests. I am also learning who they are and how they learn best.

    I figure if my child knows themselves (from having a free and interest-led childhood) and I know them (by studying them and reading about learning etc.) then when the time comes in young adulthood we’ll be able to apply what you’re written here to learning actual study skills.

    Oh… one more thing. Modeling all three of the points you mention is very important. And helping young children develop time management skills in other areas will prepare them for the eventual need to apply themselves to serious study.

    Thanks for the great tips. University, if our children go that route, is still aways off but it’s good to have these principles in mind.

    • Hi Renee, thanks for your kind words! It sounds like you’re taking the perfect attitude towards building incredibly successful kids.

      Obviously the last thing we’d want to to do is start putting academic stress on under 10’s! The most important thing at that age is probably just time management, and helping your child create great study habits can follow in good time.
      Chris | The Study Gurus’s latest post: Reading Your Way To Better Writing

  2. These are great tips! Al mine have graduated High School now and are in college or tech school. They seemed to be well prepared although younger daughter has NEVER been good at time management! I think some of it will have to just come from maturity, LOL!
    Living the Balanced Life’s latest post: Become an active participant in your life

  3. A great way for older homeschoolers to get practice in these skills is to take a class outside the home. My oldest took an online AP Composition course for homeschoolers, and I was able to help him work through all the skills mentioned above. At first I even took dictation from him as he learned to compose essays. He eventually decided to go to high school for two years–completely his choice–and he adjusted just fine. He’s now in his first year of college clear across the country, and doing great on his own. Although he still likes me to help him edit his essays. 🙂

    • Hi Patricia! I think that’s a great idea. Especially now, with the internet giving the option of online courses, working on an outside course (with its own time pressures and standards) will help a student develop that studying X-factor.It sounds like your son really benefited from it.

      I think it’s fantastic when kids still ask their parents for help. Reading over an essay, just to see if it makes sense, may not seem like much, but it constructively shows your son that you’re rooting for him all the way!
      Chris | The Study Gurus’s latest post: Reading Your Way To Better Writing

  4. I work with college students. I see first-year students succeed and struggle each year. Those who do best know what they value and have the strength to act on their values. Such knowledge and strength form the foundation for the particular skills you mention.

    • Hi Lehall, I think you’ve just made a really important point. We try and convey to students how important it is to have reasons why they want to do well at school and beyond. Reasons that go beyond “because mom told me to” of course.

      I think this is very similar to having, as you said, values in place. A teen who values going to College is going to want to try hard at high school. A teen who is has particular career in mind (i.e. values this career) is going to give College their best shot, etc.

  5. Here in MN, homeschool kids are allowed to take part in the PSEO program and attend state and community colleges for free in their junior and senior years. Even the books are covered. I’m looking forward to my kids taking part in this program as a way to ease in while they still are at home. There is a local community college that has been courting my oldest daughter for the program since she was 11. 🙂
    Magic and Mayhem’s latest post: On the Agenda- Plan- Party- Fight- Play- Plant- ID- Clean

  6. Thanks for the reminders. My oldest will be graduating next year and is planning on attending college. Actually he will be taking dual credit classes and clep tests for his senior year (along with fun homeschool stuff, like drama). We transition our kids in 8th and 9th grade into a more studious style of homeschooling, they also take co-op classes which is good for accountability.
    My oldest still struggles with time management, but he’s working on it.

  7. I just heard Susan Wise Bauer give an excellent talk on this issue last month at a conference. Here’s the link from her site to her handouts. My oldest child is only 8, so this is not a road I’ve walked down myself, but I was extremely impressed with her material.
    Anne’s latest post: Get Out of Your Reading Rut

  8. Rebecca C. says:

    Agreed 100% on the importance of study skills! I went to public school, and breezed through most of my classes. Never had to study to do well on tests. Then I hit college, and while I could still breeze through many of the classes, some classes have really tough tests. It has been a real struggle to teach myself how to study.

    And I’m the one in the family who is good at studying and getting projects done! My little sister is a sophomore in college and she is AWFUL at time management. I don’t believe she has gotten a single essay done on time, as of yet. They usually get turned in several days to several weeks late. For example, the very last day of finals was the 29th of last month. She had an essay due the week of finals and didn’t get it in until yesterday. I keep telling her that not all of her professors will be so nice about accepting late papers!

  9. Love this post – I am always hungry for homeschooling posts about teens! Thanks. To add my little bit to your question, “What are you doing to prepare your kids for college?”
    My 15 year old is reading through all the classics right now! She has chosen a few of the lists consolidated by the New York Times and other places to create a list of the top 100 books. This will give her a firm foundation. We are also doing lots of writing. She has published one article and one more article will be coming out this fall. I wanted her to write from her heart. After talking to one of the admissions counselors at a college of her choice, we decided to enroll her in some math courses this fall at the University in our town. The college counselor said they really appreciate outside math courses. It made sense to me.
    Thanks again!‘s latest post: Images and Thoughts around Independence Day

  10. This is well known that cash can make people autonomous. But what to do when somebody doesn’t have money? The only one way is to try to get the credit loans and just car loan.

  11. I think this thinking is a great way to condition and prep the kids for an overall good studying habit. And having to encourage and coax them to do this in an early age is healthy.
    Bryan’s latest post: Let the Good Times Roll! Crazy Happenings During Enrollment

  12. Great guidelines. Parents can play big role in preparing their children for college. College education is a very different from high school education. Parents should learn their children how to develop effective study skills to get good marks and good grades.

  13. Hey I am for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It really helpful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something again and aid others such as you helped me.

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