This spring, 3.2 million American high school seniors will walk across stages and move their tassels, symbolizing the shift into adulthood. Approximately 2.1 million will attend a college next fall, yet as many as one-third of those students won’t return for their sophomore year.
As author Alex Chediak can attest, academic challenges are only the beginning of what new college students face. An engineering and physics professor at California Baptist University in Riverside, California, Chediak is passionate about seeing students and young adults overcome these challenges and develop their God-given potential so that Jesus Christ might be magnified. This desire drove him to write Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a guidebook for Christian students.
Collegiate success begins at home, he says, and it’s often the result of a person’s character, not just academic prowess. That means parents have a daunting task in raising well-rounded kids who will thrive once they leave the nest. This reality gave rise to Chediak’s newest book, Preparing Your Teens for College (Tyndale House, 2014). Here he talks about the challenges and opportunities parents, as well as grandparents and church leaders, have in preparing teens for college.
What prompted you to write Preparing Your Teens for College and Thriving at College?
With Thriving at College, I felt compelled to give students a practical road map to making the most of their college years academically, socially, and spiritually. I see too many students go to college by accident (like I did) because they don’t know what else to do after high school. I also became concerned about our culture’s low expectations for teens. From movies to music, the message seems to be that teens are inevitably rebellious, immature, and incapable of shouldering responsibility. I’m convinced Christian teens will rise as high or as low as the expectations we have for them. We need to challenge them to see their college years as a season for launching into all that’s associated with responsible Christian adulthood, and we need to show them what that looks like.
Preparing Your Teens for College is a prequel to Thriving at College and a companion resource for parents. But it’s also for pastors, youth leaders, guidance counselors, and anyone involved in the great work of getting children of all ages ready for not just college, but the totality of their adult lives.
How is the college experience different from what it was 20 or 30 years ago? What unique challenges do today’s students face?
As recently as 1979, only half of high school graduates chose some form of college after high school. Now we’re up to about 70 percent. Why? Jobs for high school graduates are disappearing. In addition, the pay gap between those with a college degree and those without is growing. That means the training teens receive (or don’t receive) after high school will make a greater impact on their financial well-being than it would have 20 or 30 years ago. In an increasingly knowledge- and skill-based economy, preparing our teenagers to become diligent, internally motivated, lifelong learners has never been more important.