Tips for Parents of Departing College Freshmen

Make the Break Easier Emotionally and Financially

It is August and sounds of wailing and weeping can already be heard at dorm rooms across the country as a new college year begins. No, it’s not the freshmen yearning for their comfy beds at home. It is their parents trying to say good-bye. As a parent, you want to be sure your new college student knows how proud you are, but you also want to provide some last minute advice before leaving. One thing you definitely need to keep in mind is that this is not about you at all.

It is about taking a major step into adulthood for your child. Here are a few tips that might just make the break easier for everyone financially and emotionally:

  • Have one last good time together: Before the stress of the school year sets in, spend some quality time with your child just having fun. Make a special day of it, recreate a favorite memory, and just talk about your hopes and dreams.
  • Get a feel for how your child wants to say good-bye: Some students enjoy the long good-bye and don’t mind if you linger and help unpack, while others can’t wait for you to leave so they can go out exploring on their own. Try to have a talk about this topic in advance to see what your student will prefer, but be open to last minute changes once the actual parting is happening.
  • Don’t over-communicate: Just because the digital world allows you to be in constant communication with your child, that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Don’t start texting the minute you get in the car, or try to catch up on every last detail. How can your child miss you if you are virtually there all the time? Leave communication for important issues. Of course you want your student to know that you are available for emergencies and spirit-lifting sessions when needed, but try to set a regular date to talk or Skype to cover the everyday items. That way, you can give your student your undivided attention and still hear all about the classes and fun activities.
  • Review the budget: You still have a house and family finances to manage outside of college world, plus the added expense of having a student in college, so your money is more limited, too. Before the big departure day, you should work out a budget with your student so he or she knows how much money is available to spend. They have to know they can’t be using student loan money, credit cards, or calling for cash all the time.
  • Use student loans judiciously: Make sure you and your student have a solid understanding of student loans before he or she steps one foot inside the hallowed halls. Discuss how much is being borrowed, how to use the proceeds, and who will be responsible for repayment in the case of dropping out or upon graduation. Student loans must be a part of the adult financial conversation you have with your child on a regular basis.

You can still provide a few extra dollars “for emergency purposes” before you go, but make sure everyone agrees on just what constitutes an emergency. Illness and school needs would qualify, while midnight pizza runs would not! Now smile, give your student a big hug, and then get in the car and leave. On the way home, be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for raising such a great kid!