Transition to the Next Destination (College or many other options!)
Advice for Sending Your Kid Off to the Next Step
Topics for Conversations
- Communication plan for students who will not be living at home. Aim for a balance between keeping in touch and allowing students to have freedom to establish a new core network. What does each party expect?
- Time and freedom. Ask questions to prompt your student’s strategies for dealing with greater independence: Will you use a calendar? Where will you study? Together, figure out how much $ each class costs and have a ballpark for how much $ is wasted for each hour of class missed.
- Privacy. Student academic and health records are not open to parents. Discuss expectations. Parents who are helping pay for school may expect to have passwords and access to online grading systems, and families should consider preparing legal documents. (See: Will you be able to help your college-age child in a medical emergency? Consumer Reports 8.2018 and If your Kid is 18 You Need These Documents Investopedia 2.2021 or Documents You Need When a Child Turns 18 Wall Street Journal, 11.2017.) Either consult your attorney or a reputable site like Mama Bear Legal Forms.
- Sex, drugs, and alcohol. Students will be confronted with all sorts of situations. Discuss safe participation, limits, realities of binge drinking and sexual assault, consent, campus resources, and alternative ways to have fun.
- Money. Who provides spending money? How will your student pay for things? Figure what kind of card: debit/ prepaid credit/ regular credit. Monthly budget? Are there ATM / bank branches close to campus that are in your network? It may or may not make a difference since most students bank online and use tools like Venmo.
- Fitting in and finding friends. How does one create a core of friends and support? (Get involved in clubs, intramural sports, or other organizations!) How to deal with homesickness?
- Mental health. Please see article below (the Tough Pre-College Talk). There are many stresses and expectations in young adulthood, and unfortunately many mental health conditions emerge in these years. Even if you don't think your child is at risk, nearly all young adults will know someone who is struggling.
When There are Difficulties
Dr. Houston Dougharty, Former VP for Student Affairs at Grinnell College, has the following advice for parents when their students call home in distress. Often, the kids simply need to get their anxieties out. Help by asking:
1. How does that make you feel?
2. What can you do about it?
3. Who there can help you with that?
Parents may have to figure out if and when to get involved. In general, students should handle academic and employment matters themselves (professors do not appreciate calls from parents!), but serious health and safety considerations call for your involvement.
- Together, check your student’s credit report.
- Identify the nearest urgent care facility.
- Set up local emergency contacts.
- See if your student’s institution has an emergency alert system that you can opt into.
- Have your student set up summer appointments for a dental cleaning, an eye exam, and a routine physical. Perhaps it is time for your student to graduate from the pediatrician.
- Consider whether the student needs vaccinations. Some institutions will require up to date Covid vaccination, and some may recommend a Meningitis B vaccination.
- Consider the implications of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) privacy laws and, if you choose, set up four legal documents in case of a crisis:
- Health Care Power of Attorney so that parent/ guardians can help make health-related decisions;
- HIPAA Authorization so that providers will share health information with parent/ guardians;
- Financial Power of Attorney so that you parent/ guardians can manage finances;
- Education Record Release so that parent/ guardians will receive educational notices, including but not exclusively related to grades or financial aid. Institutions may have their own HIPAA and FERPA-related waivers; inquire and fill out.
- Consult your attorney regarding preparation for the above, and if you use a website, be sure it is reputable. Many experts find Mama Bear Legal Forms reliable.
Visiting Your Student at College
Go to Parents’ Weekend. You may hear much more in person than you do via FaceTime, and you can assess your student’s health and situation. Since the priority should be time with your student, feel free to skip college- organized activities if you want a chance to just be together.
Other than designated holidays, discuss if and how often your student will come home or you will visit.
Transition Articles & Resources
Before Heading to College, Make Mental Health Checklist
All young adults, whether they have a history of difficulties or not, should be deliberate about prioritizing their mental health and knowing the resources available in their new environment. We recommend this NY Times article from July 2022.
A Financial Checklist for Your Newly Minted High School Graduate
Do these tasks to set up for whatever the next step will be. Any young adult needs to know basics about budgeting, banking, mobile payments, and taxes. Also includes specialized tasks for those going to college and enlisting in the military.
How to Help a Teenager Be College Ready
Encourage students to step up personal responsibility well before college. NY Times July 2018
The tough pre-college talk I wish my parents had initiated
It isn't just packing lists and academic schedules. Students need to know a few things about mental health, and know that there are resources available on college campuses.
Understand Your Educational Privacy Rights
Willard Dix offers an excellent discussion of FERPA, the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act, which protects the privacy of students and parents. There are some worst-case-scenario situations, and recommendations.
Documents You Need When a Child Turns 18
Legal configurations change when a child turns 18. Have these documents in place before leaving home. If you cannot access the article, click here for a full text download.
FERPA and Legal Documents Students Shouldn't Leave Home Without
Similar to the Wall Street Journal article above, this offers a checklist of documents and an explanation of each one.
Parenting a College Student: What to Expect
Marshall Duke of Emory University has been offering excellent advice to parents for more than 25 years. Tip: view (or at least listen to) the entire lecture linked at the bottom of the page. I especially like his advice about college drop off.
Tea and Consent
Yep, video is about that important aspect of young adult life. More entertaining with a British accent.
Health Tips Before Your Child Goes to College
Students might need to see their primary care provider, or update their immunizations before they go, and they should look ahead and consider all aspects of their health.
Will You Be Able to Help Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency?
Consumer Reports outlines true scenarios and the ways to ensure that you can help 'just in case.'
Five Things to Take With You to College
While the title makes it sound like this is a practical packing list, this article is really about setting yourself up for a successful transition.
An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep
Be intentional about prioritizing sleep at college. (Nap if necessary!)
How to Get the Most Out of College
A few highlights: have a peer relationship (rather than a consumer relationship) with your college; seize leadership roles; build social capital; open yourself to new ideas & people; get to know faculty. The last one is a biggie: having a mentor is the biggest predictor of college satisfaction.
Advice for the Transition
PDF of the information at left, plus many recommended resources.
Practical Tips for Moving to College
This handout is all about logistics. What to pack (when in doubt, don't buy it), what to do ahead of time, how best to tackle move-in, and other tips to make the moving part go smoothly.
Meningitis Vaccine Information
Many colleges recommend that students are vaccinated for meningococcal disease. Read up and make your decision.