10 College Tips for Parents

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10 College Tips for Parents

Raise your hand if you have a kid going to college soon! Raise your hand if you have a kid IN college!

OK. Maybe you are sitting at your computer in your kitchen, alone, raising your hand. Or maybe you are reading this on your phone in a coffee shop and you just raised your hand and everyone is looking at you. You can put your hand down now.

I have one high school graduate who completed a couple of college terms, a high school senior, and a freshman. In short: I am raising my hand with you!

My son went the community college route so I have not yet experienced the kind-of parenting where your baby moves away and off into wild, wild, west of college life. But I have A LOT of friends who have, and it appears with my senior daughter… I will be sitting in that seat within the next year. 

Over the last couple of years, I have reads COUNTLESS Facebook shares of pride and lamenting as friends have sent off their “babies” to college. Therefore, it seemed a fantastic place to go for advice for those of us who are gearing-up for this next *wonderful* phase of parenting. So here follows 10 college tips for parents BY parents!

College is a financial investment. A BIG one. Research shows that more than half of parents are worried about the financial investment of college, but many parents don’t know that there is a solution to provide peace of mind – tuition insurance! I know I didn’t know about it until Liberty Mutual reached out to me.

So this tip comes from our sponsor, Liberty Mutual – Tuition Insurance. Liberty Mutual’s newest offering is basically… peace of mind! Tuition Insurance helps protect a family’s investment if a student must withdraw from school. Students who withdraw mid-term often do so during a time of crisis or emergency, something no one wants and never expects. Tuition insurance provides reimbursement for the unforeseen – accidents, illnesses, and other covered reasons that cause a student to unexpectedly need to withdraw.

  • Many institutions offer limited or no reimbursement options regardless of circumstance. Tuition insurance helps fill this gap of the unknown.
  • Liberty Mutual Tuition Insurance is not one-size-fits-all. Their product allows students and parents to customize coverage – whether for a semester or for an entire year, and can even be tailored to include or not include extras such as room and board.
  • Unlike signing up for the FAFSA or writing a college application essay, it is easy to sign up for Liberty Mutual Tuition Insurance. Visit LibertyMutual.com to get a quote by answering just a few short questions.
  • Tuition Insurance is very affordable, and only costs 1% of the total cost of tuition.

WOW! Right?!

Liberty Mutual Tuition Insurance

Be flexible. Like, slinky-flexible.

My friend Luanne gets all the “slinky-flexible” credit. And she should know… she has two kiddos in college, and one college grad! She dropped this wisdom, “Problems arise, try to give your student the opportunity to handle the situation first.” In fact, her new most-used phrase that I suggest you tattoo on the back of the hand you use to accept/make calls  to your student with is:

Do you want my advice or do you just want me to listen?

Along those lines, Adrian Genitlcore adds: Patience. Boatloads of patience. You think they are adults now, but not quite. Their brains still have a little cooking to do.

Let them feel lonely first, not nagged.

Give college kids space, parents - 10 College Tips for Parents

Quote credit to Becky Wallace! And yes, I know this may sound a little harsh to those of us with chicks still in the nest, but listen to these truth bombs:

Good friend, Deb Beddoe shared,

One very comforting thing for me was to remember that when my parents left me at school, their only means of non-life and death emergency communication was the pay phone in the dorm hallway. Which was always in use by some girl who had a boyfriend at home. Our parents had no way of keeping up with us. And somehow, they survived it. Today we have cell phones, and constant contact with our college kids. If you are really worried, text them. Otherwise, give them the same space our parents were forced to give us. Eventually, they’re going to need something, and chances are if you haven’t constantly pestered them, they’ll call. She adds, Oh, and sometimes, that call comes at midnight– and it’s not an emergency…they just thought they’d call…and had no idea what time it was.

Debbie Nazarino wrote, “Allow room for them to make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t fix the messes. Always have open arms and ears but allow them to ‘adult’.

It can be so hard to give space and truly let go. It may be hard to trust our years of work, but it’s unanimous, folks – letting go is the right thing to do. 

Ann Landers quote perfect for parents of college studens

Plan for that dorm room situation!

There are a several great tips that deserve mention. Different families work different ways, and a couple of insightful prep strategies were shared!

My college roommate and lifelong best friend, Jen shared, “Scout out the closest retail stores to campus. Bring a tool kit with a tape measure, screwdrivers and Allen wrenches, Command hooks, acrylic tape, a small hammer for furniture assembly and zip ties. Over the door storage for bathroom cabinets is your friend. Small Tupperware containers for dining hall smuggling are essential. Bring your own cleaning supplies.” She and I coordinated supplies in “our day”… she brought the mini fridge and I supplied the answering machine. I guess somethings (mini fridge) are more timeless than others!!!

Tool kit for college student

My friend Heidi, who has a kiddo in school across the country advised, “If your child is going to college out of state order everything for their room from Amazon and have it delivered to the dorm on move in day. Many colleges work with local storage companies to store their dorm stuff over the summer. Take advantage of that! The deals also include boxes, pick up in the spring and drop off in the fall. Well worth it!”

Amy Volk and Brenda Levengood warn us not to buy TOO much stuff, which ties in closely with giving them that space. Help set them up with essentials, but allow them room to create their own systems and solve some of their own problems getting set-up.

Practically speaking, Deb Beddoe has our backs, “Don’t expect to find twin sheets (especially extra long) in stores anywhere near a college on move in day. :)”

Life Skills 101 before they go!

Heidi (from above!) (her son attended college across the country – IMAGINE!) also shared some other good stuff I hadn’t considered. She said, “Make sure they know how to make their own doctor appointments, when to go to urgent care or the ER, and where the closest one is to campus, what to bring when you go to urgent care or the ER, and how to fill a prescription. This sounds like common sense, but we had forgotten to teach this skill.”

Other parents also reminded that parents be mindful of health insurance limitations across state lines, and Tracie Cullen wisely noted, “… all the healthcare forms once they are 18! HIPAA, healthcare power of attorney etc, whether they are in same state or not!”

About that FAFSA…

I did the FAFSA myself (insert great lamenting here), but Wendy Hania rocked my world with her advice, “Your kid fills out and owns the FAFSA because they have to do it year after year… I’ve never filled one out. My kid always has. She owns it. It’s a big gift to me and helps her adulting creds. I supply supporting docs but she collects and compiles and manages and owns.

Melissa Holmes adds FAFSA gold. “We have our accountant (it’s a free request) prepare a “Federal Return Summary” (i.e. FAFSA worksheet) with each of our returns. It is only one sheet and has everything our college student needs for FAFSA on it. Makes the reapplication process only minutes (for reals!) to enter and they can totally do it on their own (or from out of state on a far away campus).”

Of course this is only the tip of the FAFSA iceberg… but remember, we are not alone *wink wink*

About those expensive college textbooks…

Regina Dunsworth (my husband’s aunt!) shared her experience,  “Consider waiting to buy the books. Some professors don’t use the book listed at the school bookstore. Also, renting the book is less expensive. Buying used when available is also a big help. The cost of textbooks blew my mind.”

Indeed! My senior is a running start student. We (and by WE I mean SHE) always research our renting and used options first. She had one professor not use a “required” book. Fortunately, the bookstore let us return for a full refund because she returned it right away, before it had been used, and within a week of class beginning.

Transfer credits

Katie Staker (teacher and close friend with 4 kids in and/or done with college) warned that credits may or may not transfer. Community college credits did not help at her son’s chosen university. She also shared something that affected them: “Community college actually hurt because entering such an intense environment with most of the basics done left only intense courses to take.”

Some community colleges and universities collaborate better than others. It’s important to add researching credits, including those AP credits!

Emotional well-being

Judy Gates opened up, “Expect some struggle, like reaaaaaal struggle. The ‘can I come home, I think I made a mistake’ kind. Not all kids will do this, but I am surprised at the number of kids I know that have (besides mine!).” (Her amazing daughter, Greer, guest posted here with her insight: 13 Dorm Room Must-Haves!)

Madge Gaynor added, “They may not be ready to fly… OR they may have been researching schools for years. Both are ok… and steps in a direction are good. Some take leaps… while others take baby steps toward the goal.”

Jobie Sanchez with two guys in college, “Be prepared for them to not like the school they chose. My son wanted to transfer two weeks into the quarter! We made him finish out the quarter and he started a new journey after Christmas break. I was livid. All the time and money spent getting him to a school he ended up not wanting to be a part of. BUT he loves his new school and it’s a WAY better fit for him. Just be prepared for things to not go as planned. They know themselves better than we do!”

Shauna Kelln shares something VERY important I have heard over and over and over, “…for many, certain mental illnesses begin to rear their ugly head in the early twenties. Be on the lookout for changes of behavior – and moods – which can be difficult to pinpoint when the child is no longer living at home. Even if it’s not certain mental illnesses, depression and anxiety is VERY prevalent on college campuses. Pay attention – you know your child best. 

After they’re gone:

Camille Damon addresses our hearts with her words of advice,It may be necessary, for a week or 2, to close the door to your son/daughter ‘s bedroom and belongings that remain at home when they leave for college. Pretend they are at a friend’s house or away at camp. The void is real… FaceTime does helps a lot.”

Alane Basco-Yu reminds us to prepare for visits home, “Communicate clearly when they come home for breaks. They will be used to coming home whenever they want, so clarify expectations: curfew/no curfew…”

Andi Perry Gowin wraps us up with this important reminder, “It is important for your student and for you to remember that they can always change their mind. The college, the degree, the living situation are all decisions that can be changed, and often they do change their mind. And that’s ok.”

Parents of college kids - let their adventure begin

Wrapping up…

OK parents. You’ve got this. And don’t forget, Liberty Mutual has tuition insurance plans that will fit your family’s needs and help protect your higher education financial investment. Between my tribe and all their shared wisdom, and Liberty Mutual’s Tuition Insurance options… I think we all have some solid footing on the exciting adventure ahead.

Do you have any advice to share? I assure you, parents with kids heading to college for the first time are nervous and HUNGRY for advice, so please… share your insight in the comments. AND questions! Folks love to be helpful, and clearly there is some fantastic experience out there to draw from… no need to reinvent the wheel, right?

And finally, if you found this post helpful… don’t hesitate to share it!

10 College Tips for Parents #collegetipsforparents #college


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