I remember when my son went off to college and a whole new set of worries entered my world of parenting. Partly because this was new to me as a parent, partly because of stories I had heard from friends, and partly from my own experiences when I myself went to college!
But instead of worrying, you have to trust that everything you taught them over the past 18 years will help guide them as they begin to live independently of you. And you also have to accept that some things your kids will learn the hard way…just like we did!
But if I had the chance to go back and tell my college-aged self a few key pieces of advice, here’s what I’d say. These things to know before college are based off my own lessons learned, my son’s lessons, and even some of our friends’ lessons. If I could only go back in time I would love to heed my own advice!
Are you more choked up than your child is about them leaving your nest? Give yourself some peace of mind — and some bonding time — with these 10 tips for an easy transition to college just for parents.
1. Have the ER on quick dial just in case.
I admit, cellphones weren’t a thing when I was in college, but I’d still tell myself to have the nearest 24-hour ER location programmed into my phone (or at least written down).
In the event of an emergency, it’s important for kids to know where to go and how to get there. When you’re settling into school and driving around the neighborhoods, make sure you go by the nearest hospital. The visual will help should there ever be a need to get there quickly.
2. Don’t overshare on social media.
Just like cellphones, social media didn’t even exist when I went to college. The lessons learned from oversharing are unique to these later generations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be disastrous!
The rest of the college — and world, for that matter — doesn’t need to know where your kids are hanging out and partying on a Friday night.
If kids must spread the word, tell them to share the details with close friends via text message. Remind them that you never know who can find the information about where you are and what you’re doing.
These 9 other campus safety tips are a must-know for new college students.
3. Be smart about saving money.
College debt is a more prominent issue now than when we went to school, so it’s important to teach your kids how to save money when they grocery shop and need to buy personal care items. Have them download the Coupons.com app so that when they shop, they can also save!
A college budget tends to be small, so let them know that all the work they put into saving money gives them more money to spend on fun things instead — or save for paying off any debt. These 13 student financial tips can get them on the right track, and if your financial chat is receiving an eye roll or two, let them hear those savings tips from their peers instead!
4. Don’t forget the laundry.
One thing I appreciated my parents teaching me before I went off to college was how to properly do my laundry. Sure, you can just shove everything into the machine and press start, but laundry really is an art. Show your kids how to wash the whites, keep the colors bright, and how to make sure they don’t shrink their favorite pair of jeans.
5. Have a renter’s insurance policy.
While my son was going to college and living off campus, I took out an inexpensive renter’s insurance policy. These policies are very inexpensive and really can cover a wide range of damages, including the theft of expensive items like computers.
Ask your insurance agent about any restrictions, but generally these policies cover a lot of damages for a very low cost.
6. Invest in a small safe.
A little security safe isn’t a bad idea for kids to store their expensive items and cash in. This was a really good investment that some of my friends bought for their kids so they could rest assured important items and documents wouldn’t be damaged or stolen.
The best are the ones that actually lock onto a bolted-down fixture like the bed or desk. That way any would-be thieves can’t simply take the safe with them!
7. Make sure everything fits in your dorm room before you buy it.
We bought a sofa for the off-campus housing my son was living in. I got a great deal on the sofa, except for one thing: It didn’t fit through the front door!
Note to self: Always measure the door and hallway the sofa will be going through and make sure it will fit through the door!
A personalized dorm room can make the transition away from home a bit easier. Find some budget dorm room decor inspiration and storage ideas here!
8. Invest in a super secure bike lock.
Photo by Jillian Cain
Don’t use a wimpy bike lock! If a bike chain is easy to cut, the bike will be easy to steal! So make sure you have a super thick bike chain and a super secure lock.
Kids depend on those bikes to get to class, and the last thing they want is to be in a rush to get to class and come out to find a stolen bike!
9. Find inexpensive ways to overcome homesickness.
I sat next to a woman on a flight who told me how her son could not get over being homesick! He would keep coming home on weekends, which wasn’t an easy task because they were living in two different states.
Finally, they decided to start doing video chats via Skype. He realized it wasn’t home he missed as much as it was having his mom around, and the video chats solved the problem!
10. Be smart about credit cards.
Many of my fellow parents have complained about how college kids are targeted by credit card companies to open up an account. And plenty of kids do.
But many kids don’t understand the responsibilities of owning a credit card, so they accumulate debt without having a way to pay the debt off (other than asking their parents).
I certainly got into credit card debt at a very young age and it’s not fun. I really lectured my son about avoiding these until he had an income to pay the balances off!
11. Swap out a heavy backpack for a suitcase on wheels.
I loved this idea! One of my dear friend’s daughter had a heavy load of classes that came along with a heavy load of books. She would carry these books in a backpack and she actually started to get very bad back pain. So, she purchased a small suitcase with four wheels instead. It worked like a charm!
Your turn! What wise words of wisdom would you tell your college-aged self if you could? Tell us in the comments below!