The SAT’s are done, the college visits are done, the applications submitted, the acceptances received, the deposit paid. Your student is headed off to college in the fall. It’s a wonderful – and a stressful – time for everyone. The time between high school graduation in the spring and arrival at college in the fall goes by quickly and yet may seem at times interminable. There is a lot going on.
There are some things that you, and your college student, can do during the summer to make the transition to college go much more smoothly in the fall. This is the beginning of your new role as a college parent – that of a coach or mentor. Summer is a great time to try out the new role.
Understand that this is a stressful time for your student.
Although the stress of the application process and waiting for admission is over, the prospect of heading off to college now seems very real to your student. This will be a summer of tensions and emotions as your student wonders about the unknown, worries about her path, says goodbye to her close friends, and tries out her new independence. Be patient and expect a tough summer. Expect meltdowns. Expect testing of limits. Expect the temper, or the tears, or the silence, or the anger. She may take her conflicting emotions out on you. This is a necessary part of the separation process. Be patient.
Read all of the material from the school.
Start early in the summer to read all of the material that you and your student will be receiving. You probably felt the need to be organized around the application process and you will continue to need that sense of organization this summer. Make lists of paperwork your student will need. Make necessary appointments early in the summer. Fill out required forms. Start lists of things to pack. Take note of what is or is not allowed in dorm rooms. Be sure that you don’t go buy a microwave just to discover later that the letter from the school says that they aren’t allowed. Of course, your student may, and should, take care of much of this, but he may need your help to keep on top of everything. Help him get started on the right foot.
Help your student prepare what she can early in the summer.
Will your student need a health check-up? Has she made the appointment? Does she need to visit the dentist? Does she have copies of any necessary prescriptions? Does she have a bank account? Does she know how to balance her checkbook? Will she get a credit or debit card? Have you discussed with her the best way to use the card and who will be paying the bill?
Have some important conversations with your student about expectations.
The transition to college may be easier if you and your student are clear about expectations. Are you both clear about expenses? Who will pay for textbooks? Will you be giving him spending money? Have you and he agreed on spending limits? Credit card limits? Will he be taking a car to campus? Are there any restrictions about using or loaning the car? Do you have any expectations about grades? Will you expect to see them? Are there consequences if grades are poor? Should he call home each week? Will he be coming home often? Have you discussed the tough subjects: alcohol, drugs, sex? The more clear you and your college student can be before he heads off, the fewer issues may come up later.
Attend a summer orientation session if one is available.
If your student’s college offers a summer orientation experience, encourage your student to attend. Some schools require orientation. This will be an ideal opportunity for your student to connect with other new students, learn important information, get a feel for the college, and begin to feel like part of the community. If the school offers a parent orientation session, you should also try to attend. You will learn about expectations, meet other parents, meet key administrators and faculty members, and have a sense of the place where your student will be spending the next several years.
Encourage your student to begin to connect with his new colleagues.
In this age of the internet and social tools such as Facebook, MySpace, chatrooms, blogs, and Twitter, students are more connected than ever. Summer is an ideal opportunity for students to get to know other new freshmen through these tools. By the time students go to campus in the fall they have an entire circle of friends. Students will probably receive roommate information by mid summer. Your student can contact her roommate and begin to decide who will bring what and to make some plans for their room.
Be patient with your student – and with yourself.
Don’t be surprised if your student procrastinates about getting things done such as planning and packing. Things may feel overwhelming. Actually tackling the physical act of packing makes it all seem very real. Many students wait until the very last minute. Try to be patient and understand. Be patient with your student’s emotions – and with your own. Remember that this is a transition time for you as well. With some patience, and some planning, and a sense of adventure for a new chapter in both of your lives, you can both enjoy this summer.