Your student is venturing out into the big wide world of college and as much as you would love to hop into their suitcase, they can’t take you with them. You’ve been equipping them their entire lives to move on to this next step, but it can feel overwhelming to send them off. This list of nine things can help prepare both of you for this next stage of life.
Money management can be a struggle for college students. They might be starting their first job or paying for their own ramen for the first time. Most don’t have a concerned parent to watch the front step and throw in a friendly nudge when too many Amazon packages start showing up.
There are a couple of ways that you can equip your student to track their finances in college. Prepping your student for the real world might mean opening up an Excel spreadsheet budgeting tool and plugging in realistic expenses for each month, setting up auto-pay for their monthly expenses, encouraging them to give back, or having them download a budgeting app to track their spending. Another common practice is the 50-30-20 rule, spending 50% of your money towards what you need, 30% on what you want, and saving the remaining 20%. Clearly splitting up their current spending into these categories can clear up confusion over where to spend and where to save.
It started with the intention of helping out, but you might be realizing that doing your student’s laundry for their entire lives wasn’t the best idea. Basic skills are a need, but proper care for some of their clothing is also important. This could also be a time to set up your student for good laundry habits. Their roommate will appreciate it, and they will thank you when they wake up to their freshly laundered blazer (that they did all by themselves!) and ironed slacks for that presentation. Bonus: They might appreciate a mini steamer for a graduation gift, or they might need some pointers on how to use an iron.
3. Time Management
College brings a whole slew of extra commitments and adventures that take up your student’s time. Students can take part in campus events, hall activities, club meetings, friend outings, weekend trips, cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and so many other needed activities or exciting adventures. While all of these are positive, it can be a challenge to take on all of these additional time commitments.
Helping your student learn strategies to manage their schedule in high school can only benefit them when they have things to add to their already busy plate. By equipping your student with planning resources, you can encourage good habits that continue into college. Your student might prefer a digital calendar, or writing their week out on a whiteboard, bullet journaling, or a traditional planner. Whatever their preferred method, they will thank you for the encouragement to grow in their organization skills when they have a busy week with a million to-do-list items. Bonus: Teach your student to say no to some of the extra commitments in their busy life or find the courage to say yes!
4. Personal Care
Living at home is accountability in and of itself to shower, wear clean clothes, take meds, visit the doctor, and keep a tidy room. Living away from home can cause them to slip. Even though they were engrained in daily life, habits are attached to environments, and moving to a new place can throw a wrench in established habits. While you can’t see your student every day, encouraging them to practice personal hygiene, visit Health Services if they are sick, and reminding them that counseling is a helpful tool, can go a long way!
5. Spiritual Growth
College is a time for your student to take their beliefs and make them their own. It offers an opportunity for them to glean opinions on numerous topics. This kind of learning is a gift, but encouraging your student to think through what they are learning and testing it against Scripture is crucial. One of the best ways that they can take care of their spiritual self, is daily time in the Word and in prayer. Helping them find a Bible reading plan and developing healthy prayer habits can encourage the best kind of care. Bonus: Encourage your student to stop before every test or challenging assignment to pray.
6. Food Prep
Living at home means that your student probably isn’t making dinner nine times out of ten. While your student might occasionally help with meals at home, now might be the time to start having them help you plan menus, grocery shop, and budget for food. Having some basic staple meals will help stretch dining funds. Pass on some of their favorite recipes on note cards, look up articles with simple meal tips, or make them a Pinterest board of inspiration. Bonus: Encouraging them not to shop while hungry can save them a monstrous grocery bill.
7. Car Care
Maybe your student has been taking care of their car for years, but often living at home means that a parent makes sure that it gets an oil change or that the lights on the dashboard are taken care of. Encouraging your student to pay attention to signs that they might need to take their car into the shop can save them headache or sitting on the side of the road with a minor problem that caused major damage. Help them research auto shops around campus, encourage them to change their oil every couple of months, and teach them the basics of car care; how to use jumper cables, change a tire, or add windshield wiper fluid. Bonus: Buy them a car wash gift card so that they have incentive to keep their car clean.
8. Advocate for Yourself
College doesn’t mean that students are fending for themselves. It does mean they might need to take advantage of additional tools that they didn’t have access to in high school. Professors are happy to hear from students that might be struggling with a concept or an entire class. They will work with your student to find the best way forward, whether that means meeting with the Professor or TA to explain the concept again, or visiting the Writing Center, students have tools available. Encourage your student to advocate for themselves and their learning.
9. Relationship Advice
Students are thrown into a world of new relationships, maybe entirely different from high school. They are meeting their roommates, classmates, attending a new church with a unique community, joining campus clubs, getting assigned to group projects, and possibly starting a new job. They might even meet someone that they want to date. Navigating relationships is such a sweet gift, but it often means navigating conflict. Equipping your student with practical tools and conflict resolution skills can help, but being only a phone call away is the best tool that you could offer. Encourage your student to talk with RAs or RDs when they run into a tricky situation and reassure them when navigating friendships and relationships is hard.
You have done a stellar job prepping your student for their college journey, and they will be just fine! Maybe your student is thrilled to be moving away, but it’s almost guaranteed that they will miss you once they are gone. These eight tips aren’t everything, but they can help their transition be as smooth as possible. Maybe this helped you resist the urge to hop in their suitcase, but if not, read it through a couple more times and find the ways that you can join them on their journey in practical and helpful ways.