Many of this year’s high school graduates will be leaving home for a college campus in the fall. Such a departure is often bittersweet for kids and parents alike. Young men and women typically look forward to the freedom and independence that college life can provide, but those same men and women know they will miss the familiarity of home as well. Parents, too, have mixed emotions when kids head to college, as their sadness over a child leaving home is met with the pride they feel that the child they raised is setting out to make their own way in the world.
Few moments in life involve such significant change as the moment when a young man or woman first arrives on a college campus. First-year college students often don’t know what to expect once they arrive on campus, but there are steps parents can take to help their kids prepare for college life.
* Teach kids how to schedule their time. One of the things many college kids find once they arrive on campus is that their life is suddenly much less structured and their amount of downtime has increased considerably. Unlike high school, which keeps many kids in class or involved in extracurricular activities from the early morning through the late afternoon, college affords students much more free time, which is theirs to use as they see fit. Some kids dive right into on-campus activities, while others struggle to use their free time to their advantage.
Parents can teach time management skills such as how to establish a schedule so all of that free time does not go to waste. This schedule can be adjusted on a weekly basis depending on coursework or extracurricular activities. Once kids learn to manage their time effectively, including using breaks between classes to review notes from a recent lecture or upcoming class, they’re likely to get the most out of themselves academically and find they have more time to pursue extracurricular activities as well.
* Discuss finances and establish a financial arrangement. Many college freshmen struggle to manage their money. Some might never have had a job during high school while others who did work only did so to earn spending money. But many college students need more than spending money once they reach campus. Rising tuition costs have made it difficult, if not impossible, for parents to bankroll their kids’ everyday expenses. As a result, many college students find themselves forced to manage their own money for the first time in their lives. Parents can teach simple financial lessons, such as the benefits of buying groceries as opposed to dining out or ordering in each night.
College is also where many young men and women first sign up for a credit card. Parents can teach their kids the basics of managing credit, such as the benefit of paying off a balance before interest rates kick in and the negative ramifications of missing payments.
Parents who can afford to provide financial support for their children enrolled in college should reach a financial agreement with their children before they are off to college. Make sure kids know your financial support does not mean they have unlimited access to your funds, and make it known that such support will not continue if kids aren’t performing well in the classroom.
* Encourage kids to contact any roommates before the school year begins. Part of the trepidation many kids have when leaving for college concerns how they may or may not develop a relationship with their new roommate. Many schools assign roommates months in advance of the school year, giving kids ample time to make contact and make arrangements about whom is going to bring certain items, such as a television or coffee pot or even furniture if the room can fit any. Parents should encourage such contact so kids can get a feel of who they will be living with and lay the groundwork for a friendship before they even step foot on campus. The feeling of knowing someone on campus can greatly reduce the anxiety many kids feel when they arrive at school for their freshmen orientation.
The day a student leaves for college is a significant day for parents and students alike. Parents can take a number of steps to make the transition to college easier for their college–bound son or daughter.
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