Preparing for the Transition to College

Published by Wendy Nelson on

College Campus ImageIn less than six weeks, my husband and I will pack our oldest daughter up for college and drop her off.  We will not get to participate in the scheduled move-in day with all the associated busyness and fanfare of following the unloading system, meeting the new roommate and her parents, and stopping by the parent’s tent for a good cry with hugs of empathy.  As a member of the Cross Country team, our daughter will move in four days early to start training and bonding with her team before other students arrive.  Dropping her off will be just as hard, maybe harder, since her roommate won’t be there and the halls will be pretty empty.  Whatever Move-In Day experience awaits you as you send your child off to college, it’s time to start preparing for the transition to college.

Conversations to Have Before Your Child Leaves for College

  1. Spending Money – Where will it come from?  How much is needed per month?  Where will it be kept?  For our daughter, we have discussed our expectation that she get a 10-12 hour per week job on campus to earn spending money.  We will be a bit lenient on that the first semester since most of the jobs on campus are already spoken for and we want her to transition successfully into college academically, socially and with the Cross Country team.  I am planning on about $200-$250 per month for purchasing toiletries, other supplies, and extra food items, and spending money for events and activities.  Her school allows for a spending money account that is tied to her student ID so we don’t have to worry about establishing a special account.
  2. Personal Safety – Of course there is the obvious stuff like not walking on campus alone at night and locking your dorm room.  I also feel that it is important to give my daughter some tips on dealing with unwanted advances and other potential situations she could find herself in.
  3. Independence – Your relationship with your child is about to change.  He or she will have a level of independence unlike anything in the past.  When we went to orientation at my daughter’s college earlier this summer, there was a great session for parents with a Psychology professor.  He talked about the brains of 18-year-olds and the process of becoming independent.  He encouraged us to have a conversation with our college-bound kids about autonomy.  Establish a new expectation that your child will make his/her own decisions, but let him/her know that you are there if advice is needed.  Say that you will only give advice if he/she requests it.  (This one is going to be really hard for me.  I love to offer up advice without being asked!)
  4. Communication – Have a plan for communicating with your child.  Establish the minimum frequency you will expect to hear from him or her.  Also talk about different communication methods – phone calls, text, Skype, email, and snail mail.

Things to Remember to Do Before Your Child Leaves for College

  1. Send a copy of the health insurance card with him/her and make sure to explain how the plan works including network/out-of-network, co-pays, etc.  It might be good to write this down on a reference sheet.
  2. Know when dentist, doctor and other appointments are due – try to time it so recurring appointments will fall on breaks when your child will come home.  The farther in advance you schedule these, the more likely you will be able to time it right.
  3. Figure out how to deal with any prescriptions – you may want to transfer them to a local pharmacy so your child can get refills as needed.
  4. Contact your car insurance agent.  If your child is not taking a car to school, but has one at home, you will save money because your child won’t be a regular driver.  If your child is taking a car to school, make sure the agent knows this.

These are just a few important tips for preparing for your child’s transition to college.  There are many others.  If you have sent a child off to college before, please share any tips you have!