Time seems to speed up as your child starts getting ready for college. It feels like just yesterday they started high school, and now college move-in day is just about here. Don’t panic! This college checklist for parents covers the important practical and emotional things you can do to prepare.
1. Review the Packing List
You’ll want to let your college-bound student handle the packing, but it doesn’t hurt to go through the checklist together. There are a few important things they may forget, such as:
- An umbrella/raincoat
- Winter gear
- A suit/professional outfit
- Cleaning supplies
Important records, such as enrollment, financial aid, and tuition insurance documents
2. Discuss a College Budget
Now is the time to set expectations about what you will and won’t pay for. Phone bill? Sure. In-app purchases? Definitely not. Groceries? OK. Late-night sushi feasts? Nope. It’s never too soon to teach your college student money management skills — and how indulging all their whims will set them up for financial failure today and in the future.
3. Negotiate a Grades Policy
In case you don’t already know, once your child turns 18, you no longer automatically get to see their grades. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires a student’s written permission to release grade reports, although parents may request access. If you have reason to believe that your child may struggle to keep their grades up, or if a scholarship requires a certain GPA, you can ask that your child grants you the ability to check their grades.
4. Talk About the Tough Stuff
Don’t let your child leave for their first year of college without having a few honest talks about the challenges they will encounter. Listen, don’t lecture. Talk about:
- Drugs and alcohol: Run through some scenarios. What does your child plan to do when drugs and alcohol are offered? What will they do when a friend is dangerously intoxicated? Also, does your child understand the consequences if they’re caught abusing drugs or drinking underage? And make sure they know, among the many other problems it causes, alcohol is at the center of more than one-third of all college academic problems.2
- Sexual assault and consent: Whether you have a daughter or a son, you need to talk to them about understanding consent and staying safe. RAINN has some good tips for talking to college-bound teens about sexual assault prevention.
- Mental health: Anxiety and depression are endemic on college campuses. Nineteen percent of students have been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety in the past 12 months, and 15 percent of students have been treated for depression. More than 10 percent said they had seriously considered suicide.3 Make sure your child knows that mental health is important, that help is available, and that it’s OK to talk about any stress or anxiety they feel.
5. Consider Tuition Insurance
If your child has to withdraw from school mid-term, you could lose all or most of the money you’ve invested in the semester’s tuition, room and board, and other college expenses. That’s why tuition insurance is so important. Allianz Tuition Insurance offers reimbursement for withdrawal necessitated by covered injury, illness (including pre-existing conditions), mental health concerns (including severe anxiety and depression), family emergencies and other covered reasons. You’ll need to purchase tuition insurance before the official first day of classes. Learn about the available plans.
6. Go Over Good Housekeeping
Does your child know how to…
- Do laundry — e.g. pre-treat stains, separate colors and measure detergent?
- Effectively clean a kitchen and bathroom? (This is essential even if their dorm has housekeeping services.)
- Keep records for tax purposes and file taxes?
- Regularly back up his or her digital life?
It’s never too late to learn!
7. Make Plans for Move-In Day
Will you need to rent a U-Haul? Do you know where to park outside the dorm? If your child’s college is a long drive from home, you may want to stay the night instead of turning around and driving all the way back. Reserve a place to stay, if you haven’t already; while the nearest hotels will probably be full, you may be able to find something on Airbnb or just outside of town. Don’t expect to spend the evening with your child, because he or she will be making new friends and getting adjusted.
8. Write a Heartfelt Letter
It’s impossible to express your deep feelings of love, loss, pride and sadness in the whirlwind of move-in day. Instead, take the time to write a letter, says Marshall P. Duke, professor of psychology at Emory University. You can mail it, or slip it into your child’s bag. “It will not be deleted; it will not be tossed away; it will be kept. Its message will stick. Always.”4
9. Take a Breath and Step Back
You know your child will forget something. A charging cord, a favorite shirt, an important form, toothpaste… That’s okay. Let them mess up, and let them figure it out. “Put your need to be needed second to their need to find their own way,” as Grown and Flown aptly describes it.