The Big Send-Off

Tips For Moving Your Child to College

BY MIMI GREENWOOD KNIGHT

Over the past 18 years, you’ve helped study for 432 spelling tests, prepared 2,160 nutritious school lunches, and planned and executed a plethora of parties. You’ve driven carpool, chaperoned dances, policed weekend curfews, shopped for formals and tuxedos, edited college entrance essays, and prayed a million and one prayers for your child. Now comes your biggest challenge, sending them off to college. 

Let these 10 tips help:

  1. If your child will be living in a dorm, help them streamline the things they’ll take. If they’re flying to school, consider shipping the essentials. Then let them get settled and tell you what to send additionally. 
  2. If you’re traveling to college by car, plastic stackable- storage drawers are handy for packing, then stacking under a dorm bed or in the closet to hold toiletries and school supplies. When they come home for summer, everything can stay packed. 
  3. Coordinate with roommates and decide who’ll bring one. Your child might bring the dorm fridge while the roommate brings a microwave. Don’t send anything irreplaceable, though. Items can easily be broken or borrowed in a shared space and not returned. 
  4. Whether for a dorm room or apartment, don’t forget a good mattress cover since they may be sleeping on a heavily utilized mattress. 
  5. Speak with your child about their expectations and apprehensions about college. Even the most confident and high-achieving high school student can lose confidence, doubt their abilities, and question their social likability when faced with the uncertainties of college. Let your child know some anxiety and self-doubt is normal. 
  6. If they didn’t need to apply themselves much to succeed in high school, they need to understand college can require more effort. And it can take time to adjust. If their grades aren’t stellar right out of the shoot, it doesn’t mean they’re a failure at college. Their first semester (or year) is about learning to be a college student, not nailing a 4.0.
  7. Ask your child to consider how much time is healthy/reasonable to spend on social media now. Remind them that social media isn’t reality but a carefully curated impression of someone’s life that may appear perfect or “better” than theirs but probably isn’t. 
  8. College will be fun but also stressful. Doing anything new is scary. Just because those around them may look confident and well-adjusted, doesn’t mean they’re not stressed.
  9. Talk to them about the importance of communication between roommates and discussing any problems (messiness, loud music, taking their things) in a direct, respectful way, rather than allowing resentment to fester. Teach them to use “I” statements such as, “I’m worried someone will steal my laptop if you keep leaving our door unlocked.” 
  10. Lastly, make sure your child knows there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It’s their academic advisor’s job to help them. Most colleges also offer mental health counseling, and dorms have RAs (resident assistants). These people are at their disposal, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going to them for help. 

What About You?

With all the attention focused on preparing your child for college, have you taken any time to consider how you’ll adjust without them? If you still have other kids at home, they can help take the sting out of missing your college child. Use this as a time to offer younger siblings some attention, something they may have missed while you were focused on senior year, prom, graduation, and the long college selection and application process. 

This is also a great time to dive into a deep clean of your college child’s room. Be mindful not to throw away mementos that may be important to them, but it’s a good feeling to get one room in the house clean and have it stay that way — at least until that first visit home. 

Consider some things you’ve been wanting to do for yourself. Attend more sporting events and school festivities with your other kids. Join or start a book club or Bible study. Sign up for a pottery class. Take up gardening or knitting. Some parents adjust quicker than others to a child leaving the nest. Give yourself time to acclimate and remember — Thanksgiving break will be here before you know it.