Transition to College (or other major next step!)
Advice for Sending Your Kid Off to the Next Step
Topics for Conversations
- Communication plan. 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 familes should consider preparing legal documents. (See: Will you be able to help your college-age child in a medical emergency? Consumer Reports 7.2016 and If your Kid is 18 You Need These Documents Investopedia 1.9.2018 or Documents You Need When a Child Turns 18 Wall Street Journal, 11.2017.)
- 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 by phone.
- 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 a Meningitis B vaccination (may be recommended).
- 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.
Go to Parents’ Weekend. You may hear much more in person than you do via Skype, 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.