Getting into college is exciting in so many ways. Yet there’s usually very little time to prepare before your student leaves home for school.
That’s why I’ve put together a brief run-down of important things to square away with your student – before they leave the nest for their first year at college.
1. Establish some academic expectations
It’s estimated that at least 25% of students won’t make it out of their freshman year, and over 50% of all students never graduate college.
Why is this? Yes, some students just get caught up in the party scene and never make it to class. Some take their newfound freedom as an excuse to sleep all day and ignore their grades. And some are just ill-prepared for how hard college academics can be. It’s crucial that your student goes into their freshman year knowing that high school is over, and that means harder classes, tougher teachers and more work.
Working with your child to establish expectations (like a B average in all classes, for instance) through proper time management and responsibility can help them avoid some common pitfalls. Also make sure your student knows and is willing to use all the resources at their disposal.
That includes things like academic resource centers, study groups, and student tutors. College is difficult, no doubt – but if your child knows to go in that they’re going to be held to an academic standard and that there will be consequences for not meeting those standards, that understanding can light a fire under them that’ll last until May.
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2. Come to an agreement about money
Money is obviously a prevailing theme when it comes to college. Now that your student is enrolled and starting classes, your concerns might move away from how to pay for college to how your child is going to get by while there. Ideally, they’ll have saved money on their own, from a job taken over the summer or throughout high school. But they still might need more.
If you’re going to give them money throughout the year, make sure it’s an established amount within a specified timeframe. Let them know that once that money runs out, they’re on their own until the next installment. A low limit credit card is also an option, but if you go this route, make sure you put your name on the card as well so that you can monitor the balance and cut it off if necessary.
Obviously, your student will need spending money throughout the year. Working out an arrangement before they leave can help ensure you’re not receiving weekly calls begging for a handout.
3. Get in touch with the roommate
Sure, the first college roommate doesn’t always work out. But the chances of your student and their roomie establishing a friendship, or at the very least a tolerable living arrangement, will soar if they get in touch with each other before school starts.
Whether it’s by phone, email, text, or Facebook, a few brief chats over the summer can get them comfortable with each other and enable them to go into freshman year already knowing someone. And from a logistical point of view, it only makes sense to discuss who’s going to be bringing what assets to the room. Space is limited, and you don’t want to waste money or energy hauling stuff to school that you might not have to.
4. Familiarize your student with their new surroundings
If your child is attending school in a brand new town, it’s a great idea to take a day or weekend trip over there with them before school starts in order to check out the local area. Your student will feel much more comfortable if they can locate the nearest Target, coffee shop, pharmacy, burger joint, etc. before they arrive on campus.
Moving to a new town is always intimidating no matter what age you are. Throw in it is your first time away from home and family, and it can be downright terrifying. Anything you can do to make your student more at ease with their new surroundings will help them feel less stress and anxiety during a time when they’ll already have plenty to worry about.