The graduation caps have been flung in the air and their diploma is firmly in hand — now your teen is looking ahead to college. But while they may be over the moon about this next step in their lives, it might not be as easy for their parents, especially if it’s your first child to head off to school.
From wondering what dorm room essentials are actually essentials to being anxious about your kid’s newfound independence, the leap from high school to college can be a big one. To ease your mind, here are 10 tips to keep you — and your soon-to-be student — feeling happy and excited about this new phase!
Tip #1: Tour the campus
Photo by cdrin
Chances are you or your child had a chance to visit the campus during the selection phase. But if not, or if you only spent a limited time there, why not make a summer road trip out of it? It’ll give you a chance to bond as a family, plus you’ll also get to experience firsthand the excitement your kid is feeling.
Wandering the campus should give you the lay of the land, making you more familiar (and comfortable) when you’re regaled with stories come fall. It may also ease any anxiety your child is feeling as they get more familiar with their new home.
Tip #2: Get familiar with roommates
For many college students with a roommate, it’s their first time sharing close quarters with someone else. Encourage your teen to connect with their roommate via email, text, or video chat so they feel more familiar when school starts.
If it makes sense, you may also consider connecting with the roommate’s parents to learn more about them and their upbringing. Linking up with a roommate is also an opportunity for cost savings — you can determine who is bringing what to outfit the dorm.
Tip #3: Identify the essentials & get packing
There are many checklists out there to help you figure out what’s essential for your student’s home away from home — check out our list of essentials or this list from College Board. Once you pick a list, be sure to consider the following:
- Does it make more sense to buy the item in the college town? Or are there some things you should absolutely purchase in advance?
- What items can a roommate provide?
- What’s forbidden at the school?
- Is anything in particular absolutely mandated as a requirement by the school?
Don’t forget, you’re not just outfitting their dorm — be sure to stock up on school supplies beforehand too, as on-campus supplies can be pricey.
Some dorm décor can make a cute and personalized DIY gift. From mini corkboards to floor poufs, find out how to create a homemade gift your new college student will love!
Tip #4: Plan to stay connected
College is likely the first time you won’t be seeing your kid day in and day out. Make plans to stay in touch via email, phone call, or video chat on a regular basis — you can be a great outlet for your student, plus it’ll make you feel more relaxed knowing what they’re up to.
Be sure to check the coverage area of your cellphone plan, particularly if your child is heading out of state. You may need a new carrier or plan — or even a new phone with better battery life or features.
If you find your current coverage isn’t that great near campus or your child needs a phone upgrade, right now is actually a great time to check out Verizon. You can save $100 off select devices and waive activation fees with the code COUPONS online (Exp. 7/31), plus get up to $650 when you switch and trade in your phone (Exp. 7/31). If you’re already a Verizon customer but your teen’s stuck with an old phone that’s slow to load apps or drops calls, you can also trade in and get up to $300 when you purchase one of the select phones included in the offer. (Exp. 7/31)
Tip #5: Practice anti-stress activities
College can be a stressful time: Balancing a bustling social life with schoolwork, potentially a job, and the duties of being more independent can quickly overwhelm a young person. You don’t need to have a heart-to-heart about stress before college, but it’s not a bad idea to investigate some strategies for reducing tension.
Attend a yoga class together, test out some meditation apps, or stock up their dorm supplies with a favorite soothing tea blend, candle, or bath product — subtle ideas to stay chill from the summer can be a welcome relief when school demands come calling.
Tip #6: Talk finances
It’s no secret that obtaining a college degree is a major expense. For many youths, college is their first time truly being exposed to the realities of spending and earning money, budgeting, banking, and loans.
Whether your child has a scholarship or you’re paying for their education or they’re going it alone, now’s the time to make sure their finances are in order. Set up a meeting with their bank to ensure they have all the accounts and cards they need — and if suitable, ensure you have access to send them a financial top up when needed. Be clear about who will be paying for what and set up a monthly budget to work from.
Help your newly graduated teen learn good financial skills that will stick with them through to their post-college life. Check out these 13 financial tips for college students and our simple budgeting guide to get them — and you — started on this very important conversation!
Tip #7: Prep for learning
Many college-bound students are psyched for the opportunity to branch out on their own, but of course, it’s important to remind them they’re also there to acquire an education. Most schools have students register in the summer months.
Encourage your teen to carefully consider the professors and course material so they can find things they’ll actually be engaged with come fall. You may even be able to nab the reading list for some courses in advance, so they can pick up a book or two this summer to get ahead and feel less stress once their coursework starts piling up.
Tip #8: Get insured
Once your child is out from under your roof, they may not be covered by your insurance policies. Check what your policy covers and if necessary, sign them up for their own plan — many college campuses offer discounted student health insurance programs, for example.
If they’re taking a vehicle, you’ll also likely need to revisit their car insurance. You may also want to look into theft insurance if they’re investing in equipment for their schooling. Finally, ensure your child’s emergency contact info is up to date with the school, and give them a card with emergency contact info to keep handy in their wallet or backpack.
Tip #9: Set reasonable academic expectations
The approach to learning at the college level is a big shift from high school. Even if your child consistently brought home straight As for the first 12 years of their education, recognize that many students see a drop in grades as they get used to college life.
Have an honest conversation about what they want to accomplish this year, focusing more on learning takeaways as opposed to actual grades. If they’re surprised to find what thought they wanted to study isn’t quite right once they’re at school, your talks in the summer can make them feel less trepidation about changing paths.
Tip #10: Celebrate!
Getting a high school diploma and going to college is a huge accomplishment. While it’s easy to get lost in the details of saying goodbye to one part of your child’s life as they get set for the next move, don’t forget to just relax, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate this exciting time.
Throw a farewell party and make plans to send them off in style, whether or not you’re helping them move in on day one.
Their farewell party is the perfect time to present them with an item they can take with them to remember their family and home. If you’re at a loss for some good ideas, check out our list of 20 budget and DIY graduation gift ideas.
Your turn! What have you done — or plan on doing — to make sure your child’s transition to college went as smoothly as possible? Share your tips and tricks with us in the comments below!