Parents: Teach Your College Bound Students that Their Options are Limitless

Education is much broader than what is learned within the walls of a classroom. While many students equate success to a diploma, this concept is too 'small picture' in today's educational environment. Instead, success is about finding value and seeking opportunities that build long-term skills and experience beyond grades in a transcript.

Students need help preparing for college, and parents must play a role. According to new research from the National Honor Societies, many students rely heavily on parental advice when applying for college. Help set your child up for future success by encouraging them to strive for what may seem beyond their reach: Student council president, captain of the football team or lead in the school play. Empower your child with the confidence to reach beyond what seems attainable and the mindset that the path to success is limitless.

As a child, I wasn't fully aware of how much time and effort my parents put into helping me achieve my dreams. That's why, in an effort to help students and parents nationwide prepare for college, career and lifetime success, I am working with the National Honor Society (NHS) and the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) to raise awareness of their Honor Your Future Now campaign. This campaign provides new resources to students and their parents to help build skills and experience within five proven pillars of success: Leadership, Character, Service, Scholarship and Citizenship.

Taking the first step in preparing your child for college can be overwhelming. To help you start, the National Honor Societies have identified ways you and your child can work together to get college-ready.

Create a blueprint. By writing down their goals and dreams, and creating a plan to achieve them, your student will feel a sense of ownership and accountability in how they are preparing for college. Keep in mind their blueprint may change along the way and that's okay. Incorporating college and career readiness options, scholarship and college savings opportunities, leadership development and student empowerment activities into a plan will give you a solid framework for the journey to college and career.

Instill in your child the value of learning, beyond grades. Textbooks provide a foundation for knowledge, but that's not the only way students learn valuable lessons. It's what students learn from the group project where compromise was necessary, the challenging instrument solo that required hours of practice or the Sunday spent volunteering at a local shelter that hones the skills and experience that last a lifetime. With this in mind, have your student consider how the content they are learning connects to their future goals. The National Honor Societies' research shows that college admissions officers place importance on extra- and co-curricular activity participation when reviewing applicants.

Spend time giving back. Community service activities teach the importance of investing in the community, and give students a chance to explore areas that align with their interests. There are hundreds of organizations desperately in need of volunteers, and choosing one can be overwhelming. Have your child select a cause they are interested in, and an organization that has volunteering opportunities that can utilize their skills and expertise. If your child is still stumped, consider having them create their own community service project. This could be a high school food drive for the local food bank or raising money for a natural disaster at a school basketball game. Thinking outside the box and developing a new volunteer opportunity could help your student be noticed by college admission officers and keep them genuinely engaged in the project.

Seek leadership roles. Involvement in extra- and co-curricular activities is not only beneficial when applying for college, but also helps develop important leadership skills that can be used throughout your child's life. Participation in activities beyond the classroom, like NHS and NJHS, gives students the opportunity to experience what it means to be a leader. Even for adults, stepping up to the plate to lead can be scary. Leaders are needed in every aspect of life and come in all shapes and sizes - from managing Fortune 500 companies and small nonprofits to running a country or family. Becoming a successful leader is one of the skills that can take a lifetime to master, and can only be truly taught through real-world experience. As a parent, it is up to you to embolden your child to seek leadership roles in and outside of school.

Prepare for your future now. These days, the cost and process of applying for and attending college can be overwhelming for both parents and students. I have talked to many students who say they really want to go to college, but think they are not prepared or can't afford to. My advice to them - you can't afford not to. Work with your child to research the need- and merit-based financial aid options available to them. Have them consider putting money they receive through a part-time job or gifts from family members into a savings account, or encourage them to reduce costs by earning college credit through Advanced Placement (AP) courses.

There is always a way to go to school. Prepare early for future success by placing importance on academics, participating in activities inside and outside the classroom and seeking leadership roles. By doing so, students can set themselves up for success, now and in the future.

Be there for your child. Getting to and through college can be a daunting task for many students faced with obstacles that seem insurmountable. By creating a blueprint and teaching the importance of scholarship, leadership, service, character and citizenship, parents can help their children prepare for college and beyond. Involved parents can make a lasting positive impact in their students' lives. Teach them not only to strive for their dreams, but let them know that achieving them is within reach. Most importantly, teach them their options are limitless.

Visit HonorYourFutureNow.org to gain access to information to help your student prepare now for a lifetime of success.