Douglas Bond is an author of 25 books, a teacher at a Christian high school, and a tour guide. He asked me some questions about Preparing Your Teens for College, and I’m posting a portion of our interaction here with his permission (with a generalized answer about my kids).
What prompted you to write your newest release, Preparing Your Teens for College? Were you seeing specific problems and issues among young people coming from Christian homes at the university you teach at? What were some of those?
More people than ever are going to college today, as we’re fast becoming a skill- and knowledge-based economy. Between 1973 and 2007, 63 million jobs were added to the U.S. economy, while the number of jobs held by people with only a high school degree fell by about two million. Not only is there a growing need for a post-secondary credential of some sort, the earnings premium for those who hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree over those who don’t continues to grow each year. It pays to have a college degree—literally.
The problem is that too many students who go to college don’t succeed. Only 56 percent of those who begin at a four-year college graduate in six years. And only 29 percent of those who begin at a two-year college graduate in three years. As recently as 2010 (the last year for which data is available) the majority of 25-34 year olds did not have an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. Add to this the massive expense of higher education and the fact that many who don’t complete their degrees have taken on student debt. This is contributing to the lack of social mobility that many are experiencing.
So what makes a difference? More than anything, it’s the training they receive in their homes before they leave those homes. Academic and professional success flow from character and maturity. And as Christians we know that character and maturity flow from a God-mastered life, from the heart of a person who has bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a person views every sphere of their life—academics, recreation, spiritual disciplines—as an expression of their worship (Rom. 12:1). It’s all about putting the glory of God’s grace on display—loving God with our whole being, and loving our neighbors as ourselves (which includes developing expertise in specific fields so that we’re competent and employable, able to feed our families and support our churches).
Your own children are pretty young and not exactly ready to take the SAT and apply to college. When you leave your university classroom and office behind in the evening and head home, what are things you’re doing now with your younger children to prepare them for college? Can you give us tease into just how parents can and ought to be preparing their teens for college?
Teaching them to love learning—to actually enjoy the exercise of their mental faculties, as they gain mastery over subjects they didn’t previously understand. And similarly, I want them to see that while learning can be difficult, it can be done. Kids are prone to give up on a task they can’t figure out in 20 seconds. What I want them to learn in those moments is to push themselves through that initial difficulty—to assess and categorize the task, to develop strategies, to call upon fundamentals previously learned, to ask for a hint instead of an answer. When they succeed, I remind them that it can be done. I pray that all my children experience the thrill of learning.
It’s not that I anticipate God will gift them equally in every subject. That rarely happens. It’s that continuous learning, and joy in learning, will make them excel in wherever their God-given passions and talents lie. And that in turn will generate vocational and avocational success.
Preparing Your Teens for College is for parents, it sounds like from the title. What would you say to a young person who was brought to faith in Christ in high school but they don’t come from a Christian home, don’t have parents who would read or understand this book, and, though a real believer in Jesus and the gospel of grace, are wholly unprepared for college?
I’d encourage him or her to pick up a copy of Thriving at College. In that book I tell students how they can make their college years a launching pad into all that’s associated with responsible Christian adulthood. Thriving at College explores topics such as growing spiritually, embracing responsibility, loving God with all your mind, growing in character and maturity, striving for academic excellence, balancing work and recreation, finding your calling, establishing godly friendships, handling the transition from high school to college, time management, financial discipline, and honoring parents while pursuing functional/economic independence.
There are other books on the market on this subject; how is yours unique?
I’m not aware of another distinctively Christian book for parenting teens with a view towards preparing them for the academic and professional challenges that come with the increasingly crucial (and increasingly expensive) college years. I covered the gamut of issues that parents need to consider as they train their teens—character, faith, relationships, finances, academics, and the college decision itself (including an assessment of two-year options and skilled trades). There’s also an Appendix on how parents can plan and save for college.
I’m thankful to Doug for these stimulating questions.