10 Ways to Set Your Student Up for Success: A Guide for Parents

Brought to You By Joan Kuhl, President & Founder of Why Millennials Matter 

It’s no secret that college can be a difficult transition for young adults. For many, it’s when they begin to navigate the new challenges and opportunities that accompany adulthood! There is a lot to figure out: how to effectively manage time, how to make new friends, how to determine a career path…even how to live on their own for the first time! As their parent, you can help set them up for success by being a trusted guide, a source of inspiration and wisdom, and their #1 supporter. Follow these steps to ensure student success!

student success


1. Assist them in getting – and staying – organized.

Help your student stay organized by teaching positive habits before the school year even starts. Provide them with basic organizational supplies (i.e. planners, folders, etc.) and encourage them to keep their workspace organized and clutter-free. Sit with them and list out goals and priorities for the year. Having an idea of what they want to accomplish will help them stay focused and have a productive year.

2. Encourage them to socialize.

This may seem to be the last thing a parent would need to emphasize, but it’s important for a few reasons. First, it is so important for students to have a sense of balance when they’re on campus. Academically, each semester can get hectic so it’s important that students take time to relax and build relationships.

Second, it’s important for students to join clubs and participate in activities with other students in the same field of study or who share similar interests. They should surround themselves with people that inspire and empower them – whether it’s friends they’ve made in class or a professor at the top of their field. College is the place to find mentors and have conversations that will help them feel positive about their future. It’s important that your student feels supported by the people around them.

3. Teach them to beat procrastination.

Procrastination is a bad habit that nearly all college students struggle with. Teach your students good habits early on – like doing their homework right after school or studying for a test several days in advance. Remind them that finishing their work early not only cuts out a LOT of stress, it also allows them more time to do what they want to without a due date hanging over their head. Offer ideas for better time management, but really empower them to organize themselves. As their schedule gets more and more booked, they’ll get more and more skilled at balancing it all. These types of skills are key for getting hired after college.

4. Let them know they are in your thoughts.

Sure, you can text your student throughout the week to remind them to eat properly and sleep regularly….but why not send a thoughtful care package instead? Get creative! Send healthy snacks, basic first aid and medicine, and even a note. It will help them stay on a healthy track, but giving them the resources to do so – rather than demanding they do so. It is important that they learn how take care of themselves and live a healthy life while managing new responsibilities.

5. Build your relationship in new ways.

College is more difficult and competitive than it has ever been. As their parent, it is your job to be the #1 cheerleader.  The demands for each class, the pressure to stand out, the need to get involved … it can be overwhelming. It is crucial that they know you are there to support them and pick them up when they fall down… no matter what! There will definitely be mistakes, but it is how they choose to address them and grow from them that will make you most proud. Let them learn on their own, but remain the support system you’ve always been.

6. Focus on “failing forward.”

In college, failure happens to almost everyone. Teach your student that doing their very best and taking pride in their work is more important than avoiding failure altogether. Don’t let them feel crippled by a mistake, but to gain experience, demonstrate accountability, and learn to move forward from it instead.  You want them to focus on reflecting on and learning from each challenge to see how they personally can overcome it for the future.

*For a great article about Failing Forward, click here.

7. Be a role model for curiosity and courage.

College is a time for your student to explore their passions and learn all they can about the world. You can teach your students curiosity and courage by exhibiting it in your everyday actions and behaviors. In addition to trying new activities together, you can ask questions, speak up, and be curious about the world around you. This can range from politics to global events – anything to encourage them to think more broadly and learn to express their opinions in a safe environment.  If they see you are also making the effort to stay relevant and grow, then it will boost their confidence and independence.

8. Set time to dream big with them.

College presents infinite opportunities. There are so many classes to take, student groups to explore, and internship or volunteer projects to apply for! Encourage your student to go for whatever it is that their heart tells them to do. Dream big alongside them. Grab the magazines, scissors, and glue sticks, and set time to make vision boards for the year with each other. Discuss what interests them and what they want to achieve and learn. It’s important to express to them why college matters and explore how they can make a difference in the world.

9. Give them space to figure things out.

Avoid becoming a helicopter parent. Giving your student the space to learn and  grow will only help them mature as a person. Provide support and encouragement, but let them explore on their own as well. Give them time and space to figure out what they need to succeed.

10. Be “in the know” of campus resources.

College campuses are chock-full of useful resources. The problem is that many students don’t know or don’t take advantage! Our study showed that students are too casual about their career prep strategy – only 25% of juniors and seniors had ever worked with their career center! Encourage your student to make an appointment with their advisor, check in with their professors during office hours, or to stop by the career center for a resume review. Don’t do the work on their behalf, but be aware of what is available and give them the nudge they need to make use of the resources around them.


Education changes the world. It’s important that your student appreciates how valuable their education can be and learns how to take advantage as much as possible. With your support, there is nothing they can’t do!







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