College Preparation Advice
College preparation: Tips on making the transition from home life to college life easier for you and your child.
Going off to college can be an extremely traumatic experience for both parent and child. In order to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety associated with this new college environment, it's very important to prepare your child without scaring him or her.
As soon as you and your "student" have decided on and been accepted to a college, it's time to start making the transition. Start at home by giving your child more responsibility. For example, let him do the grocery shopping, go away for a weekend trip and give him the responsibility for taking care of the house. At first, this might seem like a perfect opportunity to throw a party, but he will realize that he is accountable for the condition of the house when you get home. This will be an important lesson – paying the consequences – that he will remember when there is a frat party the night before his Chemistry final.
Stress to your child the importance of good study/work habits without appearing to lecture them. Engage them in conversation, opening up to them about your own college days. Slip in a story about the really bright pre-med guy you knew that was so busy dating every Sorority girl that he flunked out. "What a fun guy he was. I wonder what he's doing now." These kinds of subliminal messages will sink in and your child won't even realize it!
While they would never admit it, most kids are afraid to leave home for the first time. Many college campuses are like little cities and the fear of not knowing where you're going or being swallowed up by the college environment can be very distressing. If the campus is within driving distance, pay several visits before school starts. "Practice" the daily routine – walking from the dorm, to the cafeteria, to the science lab, etc. To avoid embarrassment to your child, tell them you would like to get acquainted with the campus so you don't get lost when you come to visit.
Remember, that while they think they are adults, they are still our children. Assure your young adult that you are there for them; that no fear is too trivial, no question, too stupid. As a going-away gift, give your child a calling card (and hope they don't use it up calling their friends). This will show them that you are there for them.
Many parents make the mistake of giving their children a credit card when they go away to college. More likely than not, they'll reach the credit limit without having purchased any books, supplies or laundry detergent! If they are working while away at school, perhaps a small limit credit card would be appropriate with the proviso that they pay for it. Allow them one indiscretion with their spending, but after that, be firm. They will soon learn the lesson of budgeting if they are using their own money.
In the case of an only child or youngest child/single parent, try to keep upbeat and tell your child about things you are planning to do when they go away. Don't make them feel guilty that you will be left alone This is a very touchy situation as there is a fine line between keeping busy and being ecstatic that the nest is finally empty. You want your child to feel good about going away without making them feel that you "want" them to go away.
When the big day finally comes, you will probably shed more tears than your child, but rest assured they will miss you as much as you miss them. Remember all the plans you made for yourself and get busy.