Throughout many American households, going to college is an expectation for children, but planning for this can be a big step for any family, especially when the expenses could bust the family’s budget. For parents of first-generation college students, the summer before your child leaves can without a doubt be both exciting and frightening.
It’s common for parents to have worries about their children being on their own for the first time. As a matter of fact, once a child leaves home for college, it can become one of the most challenging times as a parent.
Your child will have lots of freedom, and you won’t be able to see them as often.
This is completely normal and understandable; but to allow your child room to grow as an individual, he or she may have to deal with situations on their own without running to you (as a first option).
Here are some tips on how to successfully parent your college student:
Preparing for Your Child’s College Career
Begin planning your child’s financial budget: Teaching your kids how to work within a budget pays off big time in the long run. Even when they’re young, kids are ready to learn the basics and as they get older, including them in your own budget planning helps them develop good habits from the start.
Believe it or not, teaching credit is like teaching your child good manners-you need to have it, and you need to know when to use it. That being said, be sure to explain how credit affects your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to tell them how credit is measured, and what is considered a good credit score. These are the discussions that will help your child understand that credit can be used as a tool. It also gives them power over their financial decisions whether it’s applying for a student loan refinance (after college), or applying for multiple scholarships to help reduce the amount of money owed back to the government. Whatever the case maybe, planning your child’s budget will definitely benefit them down the road.
Keep in touch: A cell phone can be an amazing way to stay in contact, or it can be, as some students put it, an “electronic leash.” Most parents, in fact, find that as students start to become more absorbed in campus life, they hardly ever respond to phone calls, emails, and other means of communication. If this has happened to you as a parent, you are not alone. Keep calling, try instant messaging, and send care packages. Your student will appreciate hearing from you, even if for some reason, they don’t respond. Visiting during parent and family weekend, is also another great way to stay connected.
Gathering essential school supplies: The excitement of gathering items that your child will need for their dorm room or college apartment may cause them to forget that they still need school supplies too. Of course, the new adventure of college will be thrilling, but as a parent, you have to make sure your child’s still working towards their accomplishment. Make sure to put these items on their school supply list:
- Laptop/printer. Generally speaking, laptops have larger screens and a keyboard that lends itself to easy content creation. This means that inserting pictures, graphics, and other elements into documents will make it much easier for students to both organize and prioritize their work.
- Student planners. From exam dates to group presentations, a college student’s schedule is typically jam-packed with multiple deadlines to meet. A student planner is vital for time management and will help students stay on top of things.
- Index cards. Studying using index cards is a great way to help your child learn new material. Writing the information on an index card will help your student better retain information, and the cards are easy to take on the go in case they decide to study while walking to class.
- Flash drive. There’s nothing worse than losing a semester’s worth of work without the possibility of getting any of it back. Luckily, with the help of free cloud storage, such as Dropbox, Google doc, and One drive, a flash drive aren’t as big of a necessity as it was 10 years ago. There are, however, a few benefits of using a flash drive for college documents such as maintaining physical documents, and securing them.
- Highlighters. These are a must for future college students. Using a highlighter helps to make the most essential information in their textbook stand out.
Get them ready for independence: Preparing for college during freshman year also means preparing students to be more independent during their last year of high school. In other words, college shouldn’t be a child’s first taste of independence or being away from home.
Leaving home, however, is no easy feat; homesickness, loneliness, stress, and anxiety are all common feelings amongst first-year college students. Signing children up for summer programs that allow them to spend time away from family enjoying the outdoors, studying, or volunteering will help them become more independent. Some universities offer summer programs to give students a chance to learn more about their surroundings while they take on their initial college courses.
These are the same programs that teach students valuable lessons about co-existing with roommates they don’t know. Students also learn how to care for their basic needs. The more responsible a rising freshman becomes, the better off they are when they walk onto a college campus.
Encourage campus involvement: Getting and staying involved is one of the most important things a student can do while in college. Being involved, just doesn’t have to deal with volunteer work. In fact, campus involvement takes on many forms, from being a member of a student organization (ASB Student Body Government), to helping a professor conduct research on a project.
As a result of their involvement, they will gain knowledge, skills, and experience in leadership, problem-solving, communication, management, and group development. Being involved also encourages and advances developed on all levels that include: intellectual, spiritual, and social.
In the long run, participating in groups at school, and attending activities on campus are all important for your child’s well-being. But being involved in everything their campus has to offer can also be dangerous for students, distracting them from their studies. That’s why it’s important for your student to ask, “How much is enough?” and “How much is too much?” to understand the difference. Your student will need to find the appropriate level of involvement for him/her.
Thanks for the read! Did I miss anything crucial? What are some other things parents should know before their child heads off to college? Feel free to leave comments below.