How to Prepare your Child for College or University

Are you curious about how to prepare your child for college? If so, you’ve come to the right place. The expectations and requirements of college students of today, is much different from previous generations. Students today are under tremendous pressure as they prepare for college. They study under a competitive education system and their expectations to learn and their workload only seem to be increasing.

We’ve put together the top 5 ways for children to prepare for college so that you have the resources to help your child prepare for a successful college education.


#1- Cognitive Training (A.K.A. “Brain Training”) To Prepare Your Child for College


By far, the most effective way to prepare your child is cognitive training exercises. It is much different from traditional studying or learning. Cognitive training aims to maintain or improve a particular aspect of cognitive functioning (e.g. attention, memory, maths abilities) through structured and guided practice carried out individually or in a group.

Rather than studying, your child would be strengthening and rewiring their brain to prepare them for college and give them a competitive advantage over their peers that have not undergone cognitive training. Cognitive training is not a “magic pill”, and students will need to work hard to get maximum benefit, but the improvement in cognitive abilities is always worth it.

So how can you get your child in cognitive training? There are a number of companies and mobile apps that offer cognitive training or “brain training” programs, but how do you know which one to choose, and how to use it effectively?

Confident Brains offer the Study Plus+ online afterschool program for students who are trying to prepare for college, and beyond. The cognitive exercises used in Study Plus+ have been scientifically proven to improve cognitive functioning. 76% of Study Plus+ students reported that they were more prepared for college. Additionally, 81% of Study Plus+ students reported having a greater capacity to memorize information. You can learn more about this student results by clicking here.

Are you interested in Study Plus+ for your child? Contact us today, and we’ll help your child get started on their cognitive training journey.

Train the Brain

A student brain training being observed by his classmates.

#2- Have Your Child Practice Time Management

As the saying goes, “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. Children often don’t learn about the importance of time management until it’s too late. Not having the correct time management skills can lead you to failure before you’ve even started college. Have your child practice time management in a way that they find engaging. Perhaps you could have them manage their own schedule for a week (including school, afterschool activities, chores, etc.) , or if they want to have a weekend hangout with a friend, they have to plan out the activities that they would like to do.

Starting the practice of time management at a young age can lead to huge advantages that will help them manage their personal and academic lives in college successfully.

If you have a teenager, or younger child, with a mobile phone, you can have them utilize free helpful time management apps like Google Calendar, Apple Calendar or similar.


#3- Teach Them To Follow Their Passions

One of the most difficult things about preparing for college is choosing what to study. Pressure from friends, family and society can influence what we choose to study. Additionally, often times students don’t take the time or go through the necessary self-reflection process to choose what they would like to pursue academically.

So how can you help your child with this? At a young age (as young as possible), foster a mindset in your child where they feel comfortable to dream big and follow their passions. As a parent, this may also take some self-reflection to allow your child to follow their dreams. However, doing so will open up the door for a wonderful relationship.

Students that choose an area of study they are genuinely interested in, have a much higher chance of success in college and future employment.


#4- Teach Them How to Take Notes

When it comes to taking notes, a little practice goes a long way. College is about becoming knowledgable in your future career, by learning from experts in that particular field. The notes that you take in class are fundamental to a student’s success, not only in academics but for their future careers, as well.

Check out this awesome post from College Info Geek on how to take better notes, where he lays out the 6 Best Note-Taking Systems.


#5- Prepare Them To Do Lots Of Reading

As you are preparing your child for college, you can expect that when they do reach college, they will be required to read a lot – probably more than you or they will think. Some college instructors will expect you to complete a reading assignment frequently. Your child will also need to be prepared to read large amounts of information to “cram” and prepare for exams.

It’s important to ensure that your child has the correct reading abilities, early on. If your child struggles with reading or learning, we do have cognitive training programs designed for students with learning difficulties. Check out this page, or contact us for more information.

Eddie – Our Symbol Relations Superstar

On the last day of his Brain Training Summer Camp, Eddie, age 9, woke up and declared to his mother, Michele, that he was going to master the next level of the Symbol Relations exercise. Michele was encouraging but cautious. She’d watched her son make big gains over the last six weeks, but she could see her son was tired, and she worried this goal might be out of his reach. She didn’t want him to be disappointed. “I said, ‘Well mate, that’s a great thing to work for. I’m really proud of you but it’s our last day.” But Eddie set off for camp determined, focused, and confident, a marked difference from pre-Arrowsmith Eddie.

He was 4 and a half and heading into kindergarten when Michele noticed that he struggled to pick up simple concepts like the alphabet. In contrast, his younger brother by two years was learning at the same rate. To help Eddie cope with school, Michele started doing lots of phonics and extra learning exercises. That worked for a while but by the time Eddie was 6 and in reception she started to think, “Yikes, we’re working really really hard and it’s coming so much easier to the other children. We’re just putting in so much effort.” Michele talked to Eddie’s teacher and decided to get him assessed. Eddie’s parents are lamb farmers in rural Australia, so they traveled three and a half hours into the nearest big city to see an educational psychologist who told them Eddie was showing early signs of dyslexia.

"Let's do this!"

Eddie Farley, age 9, arrives to Phuket, Thailand to start his cognitive training with Confident Brains.

His school was supportive but they couldn’t offer a lot of extra resources, so Michele and her husband worked really hard to learn how to help their son. “We spent the next two years doing so much extra tuition at home and at school. We would go over his maths in the morning just to give him a head’s up as to what he would be doing. He might have 10 spelling words to do and he’d get really upset about them so I’d always ask the teacher for them on Friday night so we could have the weekend to get a few more practices in. It wouldn’t really make any difference but you feel like you’re doing something. We were doing so much just to get through the regular day of school… just to get him to stay there. He was just scraping by… not even really scraping by. If we didn’t do it, we just knew the situation would be much, much worse.”

By Year 2, it got worse. As school expectations increased, Eddie’s response was to zone out and stare off into space. “He just found school very very overwhelming. I think he probably found life overwhelming full stop,” remembers Michele. “We were thinking, crikey, we don’t have any more cards up our sleeves. We couldn’t think of what else we could be doing to change this scenario. My husband would say to me – you know he goes to school until he’s 18, you’re going to have to keep this up for a while. This is going to be a tough road. We’re only still grasping those basics and life gets harder…” Michele started to wonder if they just had to accept Eddie’s limitations, but she kept hoping some answer would turn up. Cue Arrowsmith.

Eddie’s father heard about the Arrowsmith Program on a podcast. He and Michele were intrigued but didn’t know how they’d manage to access the program in rural Australia, let alone fly to Canada for six weeks. They got in touch with the Toronto school and eventually learned about the Motor Symbol Sequencing Remote Program, which was introduced in 2017. They didn’t hesitate. “Sign us up! We want a piece of this!” recalls Michele, laughing. Arrowsmith sent over the material and Eddie started one hour of work a day, six days a week with a teacher in Canada. It was hard going but they started seeing changes early on.

Reading was one of the first big improvements. “He would even struggle to use his own finger to go across the page so I would use my finger to help him track,” says Michele. “But after a few months, he said, ‘Mum, I don’t need your finger!’ And he just started reading with no finger or anything and he hasn’t used any prompts to read ever since. He can just read a book perfectly. It is amazing!”

Another Level Bites the Dust

Eddie Farley, masters another level of his Arrowsmith training with Confident Brains.

It’s taken longer to see changes in Eddie’s writing, which was illegible to everyone, including Eddie. “He’d write in one continuous stream as the ideas came into his head,” said Michele. “He’d get halfway on one word and start writing the next word so there was no possible way anybody could make sense.” Michele is noticeably relieved when she explains that now, “While it’s not textbook perfect, it’s now clear, the right size, and it just looks like writing! We can all read it!” Eddie’s also remembering spelling words and spelling rules. He doesn’t fight homework anymore. “What parent doesn’t love that?” she exclaims.

While the whole family was excited about these changes, they were also aware that Motor Symbol Sequencing was only one of the many Arrowsmith exercises that could help Eddie. They had been looking at finding a way to go to Canada for the intensive program when they heard about the opening of the Phuket Campus in Thailand, much closer to home. Once again, Eddie’s parents didn’t hesitate; they signed him up for the 2019 Brain Training Summer Camp, which focused on Symbol Relations, and planned a family vacation. Eddie was excited but nervous. From doing the remote program, he knew it was going to be hard work. Students are in the class six hours a day, five days a week.

The instructors told Michele she would probably see changes in Eddie halfway through the program. “They were right,” says Michele, with a smile on her face. She recounts how Eddie’s reading transformed. “Before, Ed would just read, he wouldn’t really enjoy the story that much.” During the camp, that shifted dramatically. “He’d start giggling through the page, and he’d go, ‘Mum, stop I just want to tell you about this part of the story’ and there’d be a funny joke or there would be something amusing and he’d want to share it with us. To hear my child really comprehending and enjoying the reading process was really really special. And then the last three weeks he just read a book nearly every night.”

Michele also noticed Eddie having much more mature conversations with the family, and navigating complex restaurant menus that would have stumped him before. One night at a restaurant, they saw another camp student and his mom. “Normally, I would talk to his friends for him and he would just stand there beside me. I would have to say, Eddie, there’s so and so, make sure you look them in the eye, say hello, maybe you could ask them about so and so…” This time, without prompting, Eddie stopped and said, “Hey, your spaghetti looks really nice. Have a nice evening tonight.” As they walked out of the restaurant, Eddie looked at Michele and said, “MOM, that’s clocks!” Michele was floored. “He was totally aware that he had a whole new ability to relate to somebody. He would have never done that before. That was just amazing. And if you want nothing else for your children, the ability to be able to communicate and have relationships – that’s the only thing that matters.”

But on his last day of camp, all that mattered for Eddie was mastering another level of Symbol Relations. After Michele said goodbye for the morning he went into overdrive. With literally minutes left to spare, he completed 5 sets of his work within mastery criteria and shot up out of his chair, arms raised in joy. As he lined up to leave the classroom for lunch, Eddie was so excited he was shaking. When Michele and his brother came into view, Eddie ran towards them, shouting out that he had mastered. They met in a teary, happy group hug. “That just shows, not only does this change areas of their brain, but it teaches them so many skills – persistence, determination – that are so important for everybody. That feeling of empowerment and achievement was nearly as good as the brain training.”

Race to the Finish Line

Eddie Farley, fights hard to master one final level of Symbol Relations on his last day of cognitive training with Confident Brains.

Reflecting back, Michele sees another benefit to her Confident Brains Arrowsmith experience. “When you have a child that has a difficulty, you’re so used to advocating for and explaining your child all the time. And that was just the most amazing thing about Robert and LJ and Matt and the staff – I didn’t have to feel like I had to do anything. It was just the most fabulous school experience and clearly, Eddie picked up on that as well. Everything couldn’t have been any more different from home and yet we felt so happy, confident, reassured. You could see all the kids felt that too. They felt supported. They were all doing something new and different. They all had a chance to start fresh in a supportive environment and that was incredible.”

Eddie went back to Australia with the confidence of a superhero and is continuing with the remote program. Michele says the changes just keep on coming. She and her husband end most days sharing a story about something Eddie did that he wouldn’t have done before; how he spoke to someone or how he understood a joke or really concentrated while doing something. Michele tears up when she explains, “They might look like subtle changes but they’re actually enormous changes. I think all parents look forward and think – how is your child going to be when they’re an adult? Will they have respectful relationships? Will they be able to find a partner and have good friends? Raise their own children and hold down a job that they love? And I really had those doubts about Ed. I really was worried that wouldn’t be possible for him. It [Arrowsmith] has totally changed Eddie’s life. I no longer sit at home and think any of these things. I can just see that his life is on a totally different path to what it was. It’s phenomenal.”


Eddie Farley masters a difficult level of Symbol Relations on his last day of his Brain Training Summer Camp and celebrates with his mother and younger brother.

Michele is often contacted by other parents who are considering Arrowsmith. Her advice: “The first thing to do is to educate yourself and understand neuroplasticity and the science behind it. When you get a good grasp of that, and you do believe in that science, then you have a clearer pathway forward.” But Michele is also frank about the reality of learning disabilities. “Your child has a disability that they can’t grow out of, they can’t change, unless you want to do something about it. Anything that gives me a direction forward, that gives me an opportunity, where the science sounds plausible, that makes common sense to me, that has many reputable different people supporting these views – why wouldn’t you give it a go?”

Michele and Eddie were very much looking forward to returning to Phuket for camp this summer, but with those plans derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, Eddie will be joining the new At-Home Cognitive Intensive Program online. According to Michele, Eddie would prefer to do the program in person but he is “excited to catch up with his Thailand teachers, which is a beautiful complement to the teaching staff and Confident Brains.”

Let’s Not Go Back to Normal 

I’m one of those people who actually enjoy change. Before I joined the Arrowsmith Program, I tried a few careers: river rafting guide, ice climbing instructor, dogsledding guide, community youth worker. And then I settled into the Peterborough Arrowsmith campus for 9 years, which also coincided with big personal changes like marriage and children. But when an opportunity to really shake things up came my way, I uprooted my family and moved them across the world to join the Confident Brains team in Phuket, Thailand. Six months later, I became the head of that team, and 1 year after that COVID-19 changed everything. 

When you’re not initiating it, change is much less appealing. We’ve all had to make huge alterations to our routines, plans, and expectations over the past few months. This level of uncertainty and anxiety about our own health, the health of our loved ones, our jobs, and the future of…well… everything is emotionally and physically taxing, to say the least. There is also the guilt of being one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to be on the frontlines, who has a home to shelter in, insurance, food, and good health in general. 

It’s been three months since we took a big leap into online learning. And for the most part, it’s working. Really working. We’re hearing from parents and students that learning at home suits many of them better, that Arrowsmith is uniquely set-up to function in a virtual environment. And in a time when many special needs students in a traditional education system are really struggling without the scaffolding of learning support, accommodations, and technology, expanding the accessibility of Arrowsmith so that students can join from anywhere in the world is a powerful change. It took a pandemic for us to make this shift. But, as many wise people have pointed out, this great global pause can be an opportunity, a chance to take stock, evaluate our priorities, and decide what we want to add back into our lives. Now that many regions are starting to cautiously open up, and we give in to the urge to “return to normal”, let’s pause for a moment longer. Maybe there are parts of normal we want to leave behind?

For many of our students, pre-Arrowsmith normal meant coping with dyslexia, or feeling slow and frustrated and not knowing why, or zoning out in class because you just couldn’t process what was happening around you. We know that it doesn’t have to be this way. The Arrowsmith Program’s ability to strengthen cognitive weaknesses can make a dramatic difference for so many people. But it means refusing to accept that this “normal” is all that’s possible. It means taking a risk to leave “normal” behind and make this investment in yourself or for your child. 

It also means being able to access the program. Last night, I had a conversation with the parents of two boys. Both parents are successful doctors and they can’t afford Arrowsmith. The cost of relocating to attend a program elsewhere is prohibitive for most of the planet, even for people who can afford it and want it. We know there is great value in all of our programs but we are aware of how much more of a difference we could make if Arrowsmith were even more accessible. 

By quickly shifting to online learning models, Arrowsmith has done more evolving in the last few months than we have in the last decade. So when we think about moving forward, I want us to go even further. Can we find ways to keep improving and iterating so that it can be accessible and affordable to even more students? Can we get it into the general school curriculum? Develop it as a phone or tablet app that maintains the important instructor connection? How do we make cognitive training even more effective? 

Let’s keep evolving and adapting. Let’s leave some of these old, “normal” expectations of what is possible behind. We owe it to our students and their families. They were amazing before the pandemic complicated life.  They have already been through and sacrificed so much to grab hold of this opportunity to change their lives for the better. Now, they are truly making the most of a situation that is difficult for everyone. They are demonstrating the resilience and adaptability that likely brought them to Arrowsmith in the first place. Let’s build on that and bring Arrowsmith to even more people. 

Ella Cahill’s Story – Finding Answers to Lifelong Learning Difficulties

If you met Ella Cahill you would probably be surprised to hear she’s suffered with learning difficulties her whole life. The sweet Australian 22-year-old makes friends easily and shines in social gatherings but she felt completely defeated when it came to reading, writing, math, and time management, even though she attended private school since kindergarten and had the help of tutors and extensive learning support. “If there was a program, my mom found it and I did it, at significant cost to my parents, but I remained slow at everything I did, especially anything timed,” says Ella. “I never submitted an assignment on time nor finished an exam within the given time frame. I felt dumb my whole school life.” But now, ten months into a full-year Arrowsmith program at Confident Brains, she says, “I feel like I’m a race car.”

Like many people with non-specific learning difficulties, Ella grew up longing for a diagnosis, like dyslexia, that would explain her troubles. When thorough testing didn’t provide any answers, other than showing that in fact, she had a high IQ, she worked harder and blamed herself. “My self-esteem in so many ways was damaged from feeling stupid and not being able to do easy tasks like simple mental maths. Then not being able to get to the bottom of why frustrated me more.” In order to receive extra time in her final exams, Ella needed yearly testing by an Educational Psychologist to show cause. However, each year her IQ increased, eventually landing a couple of points off the gifted range. “This only added to my frustration as I felt like my experience didn’t reflect this number.”

Having already repeated Year 6 and taken two years to finish Year 12, Ella hit a low after her first year of university. Despite loving her studies in landscape architecture, she couldn’t get through her course work and all the group tasks stressed her out. Her mother had been suggesting Arrowsmith for years, so when a university break aligned with a 6-Week Cognitive Intensive Program at Confident Brains, Ella flew to Phuket. She expected to finish the program and be back for the start of the new semester.

“After speaking to other students who had made life-changing gains, I realized I needed to do a year. As much as the 6-Week Program was incredible and definitely helped, I needed to work on some other areas that were only available full time.”

The Arrowsmith assessment process was one of the factors that convinced Ella to commit to a full-time program. “Whereas other programs weren’t as specific and didn’t pinpoint exactly the problems I had, the testing really covered everything, and then the program was completely tailored to my weaknesses.” The results gave Ella a huge sense of relief and hope. “This is what I’ve been dealing with all my life. This is my brain on paper. It was so comforting to get to the exact bottom of what was going on in my brain. Why I could do this, and couldn’t do this, and see how things linked up.” Armed with this new knowledge and a customized learning plan, Ella threw herself into the program.

One of her earliest improvements was becoming more organized. In the past, getting ready in the morning was hectic, and regardless of how many alarms Ella set, she was always late. A few weeks into the program, one of her housemates pointed out that mornings were smoother. “I wasn’t running around, grabbing a t-shirt, grabbing my shoes. I had my vitamins, had my shower, and just got ready and it wasn’t as difficult. I wouldn’t forget things. That was definitely a significant change.”

Ella also quickly made huge progress with her reading rate. In her final year of high school, she’d seen a behavioral optometrist, who picked up that she was reading at a Year 2 or 3 level. She was 16. “I hated reading. I would skip lines, then nothing made sense so I would re-read it. Although I’m musical, I gave up the piano because I couldn’t read the Leger lines. An E looked like a G. I would never borrow a book from the library because I was ashamed that I would just have to keep renewing it.” Six months into the program, she noticed reading was getting easier. “I can just read so quickly now, without any struggles and I have so much more confidence.”

Ella also embraced the unique setting and advantages of the Confident Brains School, which is located at the Thanyapura Sport and Wellness Centre, one of Asia’s premier training facilities. “If I had done my Arrowsmith program in Melbourne, it would have been so boring,” she says, laughing. “Being at Thanyapura and having access to all the health and sports classes, the support of great nutrition, the incredible food – it was just a dream. I did yoga and meditation classes every day. I completely immersed myself in it and it really nourished me in so many ways. To be able to do a brain training program and have the holistic combination of fitness, health, and nutrition just accelerated the process of neural growth.”

That growth showed up in less obvious ways too. When her parents visited in February, they offered to take some of her things back home with them to make her load lighter in June, when she completed the program. To her mother’s shock and delight, she quickly filtered through her belongings, figuring out what she would and wouldn’t need for the next few months. “I know I would’ve struggled with that before,” says Ella. “I remember when I had to pack to go to Phuket for a year and I was so stressed. Packing took days and often wasn’t completed before a flight.”

That packing practice came in handy in late March when it became apparent that Ella would have to return to Australia to ride out the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite short notice and anxiety-inducing news unfolding, Ella calmly accepted that her stay in Phuket was ending sooner than she hoped, and packed up quickly. “I did it within a timeframe that wouldn’t have happened before.” She’s now safe at home with her family in Melbourne, finishing up her last three months through online learning with Confident Brains and still maintaining her fitness through Thanyapura’s online classes.

Ella wasn’t expecting major gains in this last stretch of the program, but she recently made an exciting breakthrough, thanks to Google docs and Robert Lee, her perceptive teacher.

“I always struggled with writing. I could never get my ideas out. I’d been getting good marks in this Arrowsmith writing exercise, but Robert (Lee) kept on saying you’ve got to produce a bit more work. I didn’t know what else I could do. When we moved online using Google docs he could see what I was typing and how quickly I was typing. He picked up that I write one sentence, think for another two minutes, and write one sentence, instead of formulating the whole idea in my head, then writing. He really sat with me over facetime, coaching me through this writing process. Keep going, keep the ideas flowing. I was running this marathon. One day was really hard, and I was so frustrated, but I had this insane breakthrough. Now I can formulate a whole story of what I want to say in my head and just type it. It’s just this continuous flow without any pausing or lag. That was just always how I’d written and I always just thought, ‘I’m slow” but it actually correlated to an area in my brain where I couldn’t hold information and manipulate it. That wouldn’t have been picked up on if we hadn’t moved to Google docs. It was really cool.”

Now that she’s reading and writing fluidly, Ella is excited to go back to university. She’s also keen to share her Confident Brains experience. “After having done the Arrowsmith program and knowing that it’s helped me so significantly and that it could help so many more people, I definitely want to talk to everyone about it!” she says, chuckling. When schools open up again, she’s planning to reach out to her former teachers and offer to give talks about the Arrowsmith Program. “It should be in every school. It should be so much more accessible. I feel there must be more people like me, who are frustrated, who get a range of grades like I did, anything from an A+ to a D. It should be available to every student, even if they don’t have problems with learning. It’s still so beneficial to train and grow your brain, to reach your full potential. I really hope that in the future, it’s in every school.”

While Ella has made concrete improvements in her writing, reading, maths and time management, the biggest and most important shift may be in the way she thinks about herself. Reflecting on what she’s learned about herself over the past 10 months, she pauses, and starts to cry.

“I just didn’t have a lot of confidence. I always questioned everything I did. Everything in school was just so tough. I just thought that I was stupid. And then to go to Arrowsmith and have the full testing, to see and understand my brain and the reasons why I struggled. It was a huge breakthrough. I feel a lot more confident in myself, not just in my ability to do maths or read. It’s so much more. I’m so grateful to have this experience and make significant changes. Otherwise, I know I would have continued to struggle for the rest of my life. I now have confidence in my own brain; I feel like I can truly live up to my IQ.”