You have a new college student headed to school for the first time in late August or September. You may be feeling relieved that the college search and application process is over, but also a bit anxious about what may lie ahead. Your student is busily connecting with new friends on Facebook and saying goodbye to old friends at home. In between, your student may be shopping for cool dorm room furnishings and possibly even reading an assigned summer book.
You may wonder what you should or could be doing this summer to stay involved, while letting your student take the lead for the college process. Here is a short list to get you started. Spend some time this summer getting familiar with your student’s school, and also having some important conversations with your student. Let your student take the lead, but be armed with some information and ideas just in case you’re needed.
Your summer homework
- Visit the college website. Take time not only to read the parent page, but to browse through information about curriculum, activities, events, people. You don’t need to know it all, but it will be helpful if you can point your student toward important information if they need it. Browsing the website will also give you a feel for your student’s school.
- Spend some time here at College Parent Central. We’ve got lots of information here about all aspects of the college experience. There’s too much to absorb all at once, so bookmark the site and come back often. Register to receive updates through our free monthly newsletter.
- Spend a little time with the college catalog — either online or in hard copy. Read about majors, curriculum requirements, policies. Again, it is not important that you know it all, but you may be able to point your student in the right direction when they come home and want to change major.
- Check your insurance policies for coverage and potential changes. Are your student’s belongings at college covered by your homeowner’s insurance? Might you reduce your car insurance if your student will not be driving while away at school? Is your health insurance available in another state? Check to see whether any changes or updates are necessary.
- Find some good college parent beach reading. There are lots of books out there for college parents. (Check out our Resources Page for suggestions.) Read more than one. Get different perspectives. You’ll gather information — and be reassured that you are not alone in your feelings and concerns.
- If your student has been assigned a summer reading book, read it. Have some conversations with your student about the book. Colleges often follow up summer reading assignments in the fall with groups or seminars. Your student may even have an assignment based on the book. Reading along with your student will give you some insight into what themes they may be encountering in the fall.
- Make Family Weekend hotel reservations. If you’re planning to visit for a Family Weekend, and you haven’t already done so, make your reservations now. Local hotels often fill up fast.
- Have some important conversations with your student. Talk about budgets and financial expectations, discuss how and when you will communicate, agree on how often your student may be coming home to visit and what house rules will be when they do, talk about drinking and drugs, talk about safety, talk about grades and sharing of information. Some of these conversations may be difficult, and they probably won’t happen without intentional effort, but they can smooth the transition for your student and open the lines of communication with you. You’ll build on this communication as you stay in touch through the first semester.
- Register your student to receive FIRSTTERM, our weekly subscription e-mail newsletter for college success. We’ll offer your student reminders, tips and suggestions each week throughout the semester to help them succeed. As parents, we often work hard with our students to help them get into the college of their choice and then assume they’ll do fine once they are there. FIRSTTERM helps students learn how to succeed in college — every step of the first semester.
- Line up some activities for yourself for the fall when your student leaves. Give yourself something to look forward to. The nest may be empty, but if you keep yourself busy in the fall, it may not echo quite so much.
Preparations for the college transition are obvious for your student, but may be less obvious to you as a college parent. There are things that you can do to prepare for the experience. Remember that your job is now to coach from the sidelines, but doing some of your summer homework will help you feel involved in the process without taking over the responsibilities that belong to your student. Remember that you still have an important place in your student’s college experience. Begin now to explore what that will be.