How to Help Your Child Prepare for College? (RESP Explained)

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It’s no secret that post-secondary education is important not just for your child’s career, but for their personal development as well. True enough, a survey commissioned by Colleges and Institutes Canada found that 91% of adult Canadians agree that colleges help students earn the skills they need to succeed at work. Moreover, 87% of them affirm that post-secondary education helps people “get and keep good jobs.”


However, college or university life isn’t something people can enter on a whim. It takes a lot of preparation — whether financially or socially — to be up to the task. And as a parent or guardian, it’s your responsibility to get your child there.

But what can you do?

Open an RESP account

A college education isn’t cheap, and especially not in Canada. In fact, a report on The Conversation reveals that the average Canadian graduate finishes school with at least $26,000 in loans — and it’ll only get higher every year. This is why you need an RESP account. A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) account allows parents to invest and grow their money tax-free. Plus, the government adds 20% of your annual RESP contributions, with a maximum of $2,500 every year, to the account, so it helps to open one early.

The only catch is that the money can only be withdrawn for post-secondary education expenses like tuition fees and books. Still, an RESP is a great way to ensure that your child can make the most of their college experience without having to worry about paying off hefty loans for the first years of their career.

Enroll them in a preparatory program

It’s a big leap from high school to college, not just in terms of the difficulty of the coursework, but because of the new crowd and sudden independence, as well. If you think your teen needs time to transition, consider enrolling them in a college preparatory program. In these, classes are taught by college professors, follow college syllabi, and are block-scheduled so students can adjust to longer class times. The best part about it is how it’s attended by students who are also going to college, which in turn will encourage your child to make new friends.

Many higher education institutions like Bow Valley College and MacEwan University offer these programs. Check your local schools and see if they’re offering one.

Teach them some practical skills

Schools can teach your child academics, but they won’t teach them financial management and other life skills. Fortunately, you have a lot of knowledge to impart. For example, knowing how to budget can help them control their expenses, ensuring they always have money for both college essentials and leisurely activities. If their dormitory has a communal kitchen, they’re in luck. Knowing how to cook will not only teach them how to budget money, but registered dietician Anar Allidina notes that it can encourage them to eat healthier as well. After all, it’s difficult to know what goes into food you didn’t make.

Think about the things they need to know to become a responsible and independent adult, and make sure to sit down and chat with them about those things regularly.

The day you see your child off to college may seem far away, but it’s always good practice to plan ahead. This can help you estimate how much money you’re able to invest in an RESP, for example. A lot of life skills, like cooking, are also not learned in a few weeks. In truth, college preparation takes years — and the earlier you start planning, the better prepared your child will be.

For more on supporting your child throughout their academic journey, do be sure to look through our posts here on My Edu Corner.