A Parents Guide: Preparing Yourself and Your Child for College
August 11th, 2023
When your child is accepted to a college or university it is a great accomplishment that should be recognized and celebrated. It is a big step in life where they will gain freedom, responsibility, and begin to write their own story. While this is an experience that many teenagers look forward to, it may present challenges. Before move in day arrives, read through our tips to help prepare yourself and your child for a smooth transition and a great college experience.
- Starting the conversation about college when your child is younger allows them to think about different options and have conversations about their future. While college is not for everyone, maybe they would like to explore a trade school and get right into the workforce after high school. If they would like to pursue college, together you can research prospective colleges, what they offer and their requirements to be accepted. By doing this you should encourage them to set short-and long-term goals, which will benefit them later in life.
- Having goals to work towards during their high school years will encourage academic excellence, development, and involvement in programs within the community. This will teach your child to get out of their comfort zone to continue growing, which is important to instill at a younger age.
- Starting early also gives the parents an idea of where their child may want to attend so they can begin planning financially. Begin to explain to them the importance of grades for a better chance at scholarships. Also, it is important to begin explaining how student loans work and the implications of borrowing money.
Your child will be bringing their books and pencils along to college, but it is important they have a variety of basic life skills as well. It can be a difficult transition for kids to have so many responsibilities dumped on them all at once. Therefore, the more you prepare them with the following skills, the easier the transition will be.
- Time Management- The college lifestyle can bring a variety of feelings and emotions such as excitement, nervousness, eagerness, or being overwhelmed. Having many responsibilities such as academics, social life, athletics, and extra-curricular activities it can be hard to balance them all. By introducing time management by encouraging using a planner and mapping out their week it can be a useful tool to ensure they have enough time for all of their priorities. They should also prioritize their schedule to ensure the most important tasks get done.
- Laundry/Houskeeping- Moving to school means that mom and dad won't be there to do laundry anymore. Do not let your child be the kid on campus who's room smells up the whole hallway because they are not capable of doing their own laundry. Teaching them the basics of how to use the washer/dryer, sorting clothes, and how to read clothing labels will go a long way. Also, it wouldn't hurt to teach them how to clean their room and what supplies to use so their room is not a disaster.
- Cooking and Nutrition- Many college students rely on fast food, dining hall, and Ramen which isnt always the healthiest option. Take the time to teach them some basic cooking skills so they have the option to cook for themselves if they choose. Make sure to teach the importance of a balanced diet, and show them how to cook a few well-rounded meals they can make for themselves.
- Communication Skills- Your child will be meeting new people and making first impressions of themselves. Communication is a skill that is practiced in courses and utilized to work in groups, presentations, social, and professional lives. Encourage them to get out of their comfort zone and talk to new people or practice public speaking as it will serve them well for years to come.
- Budgeting and Finances- Teaching about managing finances will be an essential skill for their college years. If they are an athlete or heavily involved in courses/clubs they may not have the time to work during the school year. Students in this situation rely on their summer savings to last for the school year which can be challenging. By teaching them budgeting for expenses, how to use a debit/credit card responsibly, and understanding the value of money, it can benefit them to make their money last throughout the year.
Whether it is physical or mental health, it is important to be conscious and educated about both. Physical and mental health compliment eachother in the way that if you are lacking in physical health, it can cause your mental health to decline as well. For these reasons it is important that both parent and child practice healthy physical and mental health habits, especially when going through points in life where change is present.
- Physical Health- Make sure your child is familiar and has access to their medical records and prescriptions. Be sure they know their insurance information and are aware of local medical facilities. This also goes with eating healthy, it is easy to only eat fast food in college, but it is not good for their health. Encourage them to eat healthy meals as it will help them both physically and mentally.
- Mental Health- The challenges of college students often get swept under the rug. This is a time of change and uncertainty with their future, all while everyone says it is suppose to be "the best years of your life". Poor mental health can affect a child's energy, optimism, production, socialization, and overall health. This is why it is important to voice the seriousness of mental health and ensure your child has an outlet they are comfortable with to speak to. If it is not a parent make sure they have a friend, counselor, professor, or anyone that is willing to be an outlet to help.
Discuss the topic of your child moving away from home and see if they are nervous or anxious. If they are, they may not speak of it because they do not want you to worry about them. Offer reassurance that these feelings are normal, they will have a great experience, and make plans to visit.
- Letting Go- From a parent perspective, letting your child go to college and move away for the first time can be emotional. Staying strong for your child is important, while letting them know you will miss them and they are welcome to come home whenever they need to. Recognize this is a big step in their independence and you are proud of them and support them.
- Stay Connected- Even though your child is moving to college, your bond should remain strong. Talking on the phone when they have free time, txting, sending pictures are great ways to stay updated in their exciting journey! Remember not to annoy them with a million phone calls per day as they are experiencing life on their own for the first time, but schedule phone calls when they are able to.