Having a child who’s leaving for college is a time of mixed emotions for most parents. You’re proud but also worried if they’ll be okay away from home; you’re looking forward to having more time to yourself, but you’re also sad to see your pride and joy go. To help you through the process, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider and do as you get ready for the big day this Fall.
To prepare for your child leaving for college, make sure you get all the information you need from the school, sit down and pass along all the advice and guidance they’ll need from you, and be sure to take care of both you and your child’s emotional needs.
Even more advice below. If you have younger children who will be going through the college admissions process in the coming years, consider signing them up for an ACT prep course or SAT prep course with Prep Expert.
Research Your Child’s College Housing Options
Find out if on-campus housing is guaranteed, and if so, for how many years—if it isn’t, ask about rental options close to the school.
Most colleges and universities offer students on-campus housing; however, some are only able to guarantee this housing for freshman year or for freshman and sophomore years. Figure out what’s offered by your child’s school, so you can prepare for the coming years.
It’s probably best if your child lives in on-campus housing during their freshman year. This will give them an opportunity to live with other freshmen, make new friends, and participate in the many activities organized for first-year students.
You should also find out about dining options. Most schools offer meal plans, so your child can simply swipe their ID card in the dining hall to get breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Figure out how many swipes your child will need—some of the more expensive meal plans offer way more swipes than your child will need for a semester.
If your child will need to live off-campus in their first year, ask the school if it has recommendations for rental properties nearby. Also, check to see if there is a system for you to get in touch with other first-year families, so you can rent together and your child ends up with roommates from the same school.
If your child has any disabilities or special needs, now is a good time to let the school know, so proper arrangements can be made. These days, most schools have excellent resources for students with physical disabilities, who need mental health counseling, or who speak English as a second language.
Get Everything Your Child Will Need Away From Home
Now’s the time to get bedding, lamps, dorm room decorations, and the like.
Sit down with your child to make a list and then head off to Target, Wal-Mart, or wherever else you shop to get it all. Most colleges provide mattresses but no bedding, so you’ll want to buy sheets, pillows, blankets and a duvet. You’ll want to buy a lamp or two as well, as the halogen lighting in many college dorms can be pretty dingy.
And don’t forget the decorations! Carpets, throw rugs, posters of their favorite band, et cetera—these are important, too, as they’ll make your student feel a little bit more comfortable so far away from home.
Depending on your child’s college meal plan or dining options, you may also want to head to Costco or a similar store and buy foods like granola bars and cereal in bulk. While you’re there, it would be smart to pick up stuff like laundry detergent and hygienic products, too.
Have Important Conversations With Your Child Before They Leave
Pass down your advice and guidance about being safe and responsible for things like finances, drug and alcohol use, and dating.
If you’re sending your child off to school with a checking account or credit card, be sure you discuss what types of purchases are allowed and which aren’t; how to manage their money; and the possibility of getting an on- or off-campus job to supplement the money you’ve provided them.
Furthermore, be realistic about the situations your child, as a first-year student, is going to face with drugs and alcohol. The most important advice you can pass on here is to be safe and smart about how they handle this stuff. Additionally, you should encourage them to be forthright with you anytime they need to be and to let them know you’ll be there for them in a supportive and nonjudgmental way.
It’s best to take the same approach with sex and dating. You should give your child whatever advice you have in these areas, and let them know they can always talk to you about these things, should they need to.
These days, almost all colleges and universities feature education about these topics as a part of freshman orientation programs. There are also offices and administrators at the schools to continue this advice and support throughout your child’s time in college.
Pass On Practical Advice
Teach your child to do things like cooking basic meals, laundry, and ironing, and cleaning up.
High school students typically live with their parents and are quite busy with academics, sports, and extracurriculars, as well as standardized test prep and their social lives. So, it’s usually the case that there are a lot of important things you’ve been doing for them—cooking, cleaning, the laundry, et cetera.
You won’t be there at college to do all of this stuff for your child, so spend some time teaching your son how to iron that collared shirt, or your daughter how to make those pancakes that she loves so much. It’ll be a great help to them when they’re getting ready for a night out with their friends, or hungry at 3 a.m., when the dining hall’s closed.
College is likely the first time your son or daughter will be living on their own, and after college, they’re probably going to continue living away from home. So, being sure they head off to school with these basic skills will ensure they have a good foundation as they grow up and become adults living in the real world.
Take Care Of You & Your Child’s Emotional Needs
You’re going to miss each other when your child heads off to school, so spend some time together now.
Plan a fun summer trip or some special activity at home, so you and your child can spend some quality time together before they go. Maybe it’s a family trip to the mountains or the ocean, or perhaps it’s something just the two of you do together.
The important thing is that you spend some true quality time together—stay off those screens and put down that book! Sports, board games, camping, hiking—there are plenty of activities that you can do together. Get creative, and create some new memories for your child to go off to school with.
If your child is nervous or sad about leaving for school, remind them that they’ll be back in no time for Thanksgiving or Christmas. And in the age we live in, you’re truly no further than a text, email, phone call or FaceTime away.
If you’re nervous or upset about your child leaving for school, remind yourself of these things, too. Keep in mind that your son or daughter’s school likely offers a Parents’ Weekend, so that you can check in and see how your child is doing, and get that hug you and your child will probably both be looking forward to.
Remind yourself that sending your child off to school is the culmination of years of hard work and love you’ve given to prepare them for thriving on their own. You should be proud of yourself and think about the opportunities you’ll have now to do some things just for you.
Consider Signing Your Other Children Up For Classes Or Tutoring With Prep Expert
If you have other children headed to college in the coming years, consider signing them up for an SAT prep course or ACT prep course with Prep Expert.
As you know, your younger children will have to take one of these stressful and difficult exams as a part of their college application process. Prep Expert’s expert instructors, all of who have scored in the 99th percentile, will provide your son or daughter with the content knowledge and strategies they need to ace these exams.
Classes are offered year-round both in-person and online and are great options for students with packed schedules, or who live outside a metropolitan area.
For more information and tips, check out Prep Expert.