What an exciting time of year!

Graduates are donned in their caps and gowns and everyone is smiling as students celebrate the end of one era and the beginning of another. But soon after the day has faded and the caps and gowns are put away, reality will sink in: New plans must be made and evaluated.

Fortunately, about 68 percent of all high school graduates will attend some form of higher education. Those who don’t go to college or join the military will face less certain prospects.

But whether a student goes to college, the military or the workforce, the question is: Are they prepared?

Many of the students entering college will face academic and financial challenges. This certainly is not the time for parents to totally let go and assume your child can handle it alone.

Some will enter college unprepared. They will need remedial courses because they aren’t ready for college-level math and English. Others may be required to enroll in a summer academic program because of low GPA and SAT scores.

On average, almost half of all high school students entering a four-year college will not graduate before five years. This may be due to the remedial classes mentioned earlier, changing majors, dropping too many classes or even changing schools.

Summer school and extra semesters can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a college degree. As parents, it’s important to be aware of your child’s grades and progress throughout college.

And academics aren’t the only concern.

Life skills, such as time management, discipline, organization and the ability to make wise choices, also will impact your child’s college experience. Parents should not assume that a child will have these skills if they have not seen them on display during the high school years.

Underdeveloped life skills can lead to poor grades, anxiety, depression, substance abuse or even expulsion.

Most college students will have a positive academic and social experience. Still, parents should stay engaged during their child’s college years. As students mature, they will begin to understand why they are in college, and they will grow into the adults you expect them to be.

Until then, stay connected with your graduate, and look forward to that next diploma – a college degree.

Macie Caldwell is owner of Macie Caldwell Consulting Services (www.maciecaldwell.org), a Charlotte firm that provides information, tools and resources to parents, students and organizations to assist in preparing students early for college.

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