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Like any next big step, heading off to college is often accompanied by stress and many recurring long dinner conversations with family members about what you’re going to study and how it’s going to fit into your life plan and make you amazingly successful.

Having been through the college process myself, today I’m going to try and take the stress out of the heading-off-to-college experience for both you and your teen.

I want you to know what aspects of the college experience are worth worrying about, and what things your teen will only waste valuable brain cells and hours of sleep over.

Let’s try and save the stress-induced psychosis for a later date.

Does your teen need to know exactly what they’re going to study in their degree?

Really, really not.

If your teen is planning on doing a general degree — BA, BSc, etc — there is absolutely no point in them stressing about the exact subjects they’re going to take.

Obviously they’re going to need to enroll in something for their first year, but if they’re not sure what they want to major in yet or what direction they want the degree to take them, don’t worry about it.

They really don’t need to decide right now. I went through college with a lot of friends who decided what courses they’d take as they went along. Some changed majors completely, some changed degrees completely!

Very few teens know when they leave school exactly what they want to do.

College is a great step towards a great future, but your teen does not need to have a 10-point plan sorted by their first day.

I sure as heck didn’t.

Is your teen’s future destroyed if they don’t get straight A’s in their first semester?

A lot of teens go through a bit of a learning curve during their first semester of college.

Most universities run to a 12-week semester structure. This means most students get through eight subjects in only 24 contact weeks each year.

That is a crammed timetable.

This can take a bit of getting used to. Your teen might ease into the college lifestyle and expectations easily, but for some it takes a bit of getting used to.

If your teen finds college a bit of a shock to the system, and they don’t get the grades they were hoping for in their first semester – let me assure you – it’s NOT something to shed too many tears over. Really.

There is plenty of time for your teen to get used to the expectations of college. Plenty of time to sharpen those study skills. Plenty of time to figure out their groove.

In fact, a lot of college students find their grades steadily increase throughout their degree!

This is because they’ve sussed out the most effective way to study, and they enjoy what they’re studying more and more each semester as their subjects get more specific and relevant to what they really want to study.

Does your teen need to give up every other aspect of life to get good grades at college?

As I’ve said, college can be a bit of a jump up from high school. The content is harder and it’s taught more intensively.

Chances are, your teen will have to study quite a bit harder.

But — and this is a very important but — I really don’t think it is necessary (or wise) for your teen to give up their extracurricular activities in order to get good grades.

Burn out is a real thing.

All work and no play makes Jack an unhappy college student.

If your teen can, encourage them to keep up the sport, the music, whatever it is that keeps them sane.

The pursuit of straight A’s is NOT worth your teen losing their marbles for.

But more than that, it absolutely is possible to get fantastic grades, and have a life at the same time.

A final word on college life

Let me just finish up by saying that going to college is a unique journey (ugh, sorry for the cheese, but it’s true…) for every student.

There are going to be good days, great days, and really crap days. But things have a way of working themselves out.

The best thing your teen can do is to work hard and play hard, and remember that whatever happens, things will work out for the best.

Image Credit: foshie on Flickr

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