With video games, HD TV, iPhones, iPads, and all the other electronic gadgetry springing up around us, it is often difficult to get your teenager to think about college. Encouraging teens and helping them prepare for college should begin at birth or even before.

So how do parents encourage their teens to prepare for college? Here are some suggestions:

College camps -

Most every college in American offers fun-laden educational summer camps for young people. Introducing them early creates comfortability of being on a college campus and being mini-college students, even for a brief week in the summer. Thus, campus won't be such a scary place.

College events -

Many people live near or within driving distance of a two- or four-year college or university. All colleges have significant events - plays, art exhibits, museums, athletic events, etc. Take your children to the college campus and take a tour. Buy them whatever the ubiquitous color might be for the local athletic team. Young people enjoy attending sporting events.

Early-college entrance -

Many colleges, particularly community colleges, offer dual-credit or dual-enrollment through the local high school. Students with good grades and recommendations from their teachers and counselors can enroll in college-level courses, some as soon as sophomores. Allowing older teens to enroll in these types of courses enhances their willingness to be introduced to college life. As hard as it is to believe, sometimes teens are bored with high school and need a challenge. Enroll them in college courses.

Planning the process -

Family home evenings are a good place to help teens plan. Help them with college prep work like a developing a table with all of their service projects and hours, the types of classes they may need to attend to go into a particular field, etc. Part of the planning process includes learning how to obtain scholarships. High school and college counselors, financial aid offices and advising teams are excellent resources.

College as conversation -

Make college a topic of conversation in your home. In our home, the question never was if our daughters were going to college. Rather, it was when and where they were going. Include your college experience. Our daughters watched me struggle through graduate school and a dissertation. While that might have potentially discouraged them, it only encouraged them because they attended the graduation and watched me walk across the stage. Nothing is more exciting than graduation and listening to exuberant families cheering on their graduates. Once you begin this conversation, you will be able to talk openly and candidly about college and what it takes to get there.

Youth conferences & camps -

Nothing encouraged our daughters more about attending the college of their choice than participating in youth conferences on college campuses. The excitement of living in the dorms for a week, swimming in the big pool, walking across campus, and being a part of a quasi-college experience propelled our teens to want to attend college. It seemed everyone who was there was going to college. When you hang out with young people like this, your children tend to gravitate that direction. Thus, our motto became: "You are the product of the company you keep."

Encouraging teens to prepare for college may be a daunting task but introducing them early to the college theme and dream will only create a comfortable path for them to follow. But begin early, because it is never too early to begin talking about and preparing for college.

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