By Sundar Kadayam
High school graduation is over and graduation party clean-up is complete – now it’s time to start getting your son or daughter ready for their first year of college! Yes, this early. Fall will arrive before you know it, and avoiding the rush later means your student will enjoy the confidence that good preparation brings!
While getting your child ready for college, several basic skills need to be taught. If he or she has never done a load of laundry, make sure one or two is completed under your watchful eye. You’ll no doubt hear some complaining about this, but it is important to teach your child about separating darks and lights, bleaching whites, and setting water temperatures and levels. Show your student the basics of ironing as well, and don’t forget to stow a wrinkle releaser spray in a box for those inevitable times when an iron won’t be handy.
The “money talk” is one of the most important ways to prepare your child for the real world. Sit down and talk about whether to use a credit or debit card. Make sure your student understands the discussion and the final decision. Credit card companies will be strewn across campus offering freebies to students who sign up for a card. Explain how easily a person can fall into debt and the long-term consequences of that debt Consider purchasing a meal plan, at least for the first year. Then decide whether your student can handle an allowance for the entire semester or if money should be dole d out monthly.
Numerous options exist for your student’s cell phone. If he or she already has one, you may need to upgrade the plan. If your child does not have a cell phone, look at coverage options in your hometown and at the college; it may be worthwhile to wait and get a phone near the college. Make sure your student understands how many minutes and text messages can be used each month.
Some students are more prepared for being away from home than others. Don’t forget emotional preparation while getting your child ready for college. Address any anxiety he or she feels about leaving home, old friends and you. Come up with solutions before you leave your student in the dorm room. Consider planning monthly trips home, or encouraging the student to join a social or religious organization. Sometimes the best thing to do is limit the amount of time the student can visit home – a good way to encourage independence and a new life.
No one wants to fall ill in a strange place. Make sure all medications – whether for allergies, asthma or other aliments – are filled and packed. Also, review the steps of filling a prescription and getting a new prescription if necessary. Consider taking your child for a physical before college begins. Your physician will bring the student up to date on shots and ensure he or she is physically fit. Check your health plan to see if it covers a child at college or if you need to purchase a campus/student health plan.
This process can start during the last month before classes begin. Consult the college’s website to learn what it suggests packing, and what is prohibited on campus. The school knows the dorm rooms better than you or your student, so consult its checklist before you start shopping. Likely your student will want to pack too much. If this happens, offer to send additional items – like yearbooks or stereo systems – in a month or so. Often, a student will realize the dorm room is too small for everything. Remind your student to be careful with laptops, wallets and other easily stolen items. Theft happens at even the best schools.
All parents have imagined what it will be like to say goodbye to their new college freshman and then drive away without him or her, but nothing prepares them for the actual moment that it happens. Understand that it will be an emotional day, and try to view the day from your point of view and your child’s point of view: one of those major life events that takes some adjustment for all involved.
Savor this summer with your child. Don’t try to cram all of life’s lessons into the next three months, but look for teachable moments when they appear. Your student is starting an exciting new journey; enjoy this time and how much he or she has already accomplished!
About the Author: Sundar Kadayam, Founder and CEO of Zakta, is the author of this article about getting your child ready for college.