As the summer begins to wind down, a big milestone for many families approaches. Sending your student to college is an exciting and busy time. You’ve shopped for dorm décor, picked a meal plan and met the roommate.
With so much to think about getting ready for the big move-in day, some important preparations might be overlooked. Here are a few practical tips to help your student better prepare for their introduction to college life:
- Understand the financial package. Does your student have a scholarship or financial aid? Make sure they know where the financial aid office is and encourage them to meet with their financial aid counselor at least once a semester. Many scholarships or aid packages have strict requirements to maintain and funding can change year to year.
- Establish a budget. College is expensive and the costs will go beyond tuition, fees and board. Are you willing to pay for extra expenses like textbooks, eating out or entertainment or will your student be responsible for these costs? Will you expect your student to have a job? Make sure you discuss financial expectations before your student heads off to college.
- Discuss academic expectations ahead of time. While you hope your student’s grades will be good, do you have specific expectations, such as A’s in all classes? Do you expect to see grades or know if your student fails a class? Have this discussion before the first semester grades come out.
- Brush up on FERPA. Think you will have access to your student’s grades and other academic information? Think again. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. This law guarantees that the academic records for students over 18 years old or postsecondary students of any age cannot be discussed with anyone except the student or authorized College personnel. (For more information on FERPA:
- Buy at home, pick up at school. Many stores have services that allow customers to shop and purchase dorm supplies at the local store and pick them up at a store near campus. Purchasing bulky items like rugs, furniture and storage bins at home and picking them up at school will make packing and travel much easier – and might save you a trip (or two) to the shipping store!
- A sick kit is essential. Put together a kit that includes a thermometer, cold medicine, pain medication, upset stomach medicine and a health insurance card. Your student will be thankful you did this the first time they get sick at school and don’t feel like running to the pharmacy.
- Cultivate relationships with faculty. Encourage students to build relationships with faculty members. Participate in class discussions and take advantage of office hours. Not only will this help students succeed academically, but these relationships will be important in the future when references for jobs or graduate school are needed.
- Know where to go for campus services. Make sure your student knows how to access campus services like the health center, academic assistance/tutoring office, writing center, mental health services and housing office. Set the expectation that your student will be the one to contact these departments when services are needed.
- Get involved outside the classroom. Encourage students to find activities they enjoy outside of classes. They might take up a new hobby, join a club or participate in a club sport. Getting involved in extracurricular activities can help students acclimate to campus life, make friends and build a strong resume.
- LAND THE HELICOPTER!
College is a time to let your young adult fly. As hard as it may be, give them the space to make mistakes and let them learn to be accountable for the consequences. No emailing the professor to argue a grade for them or calling the housing office to complain about a problem with the roommate. That’s the student’s job. Constant intervention on parents’ part only teaches kids they can’t do anything without help.
One last tip…amid all the chaos of move-in day, remember to enjoy the moment. And no crying until you are in the car on the way home!