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Sending Your Child to College: Advice From a Mom Who’s Been There

Sending Your Child to College: Advice From a Mom Who’s Been There

A mom and member of our FB community shares her advice about sending your child off to college freshman year (edited for clarity and length).

It’s overwhelming. It’s emotional. There’s a lot to keep track of and think about–especially since you can’t know what you don’t know yet.

As a parent of two college kids (one newly graduated), I wanted to help by sharing the best tips and tricks that I’ve gathered (and implemented) from other parents. 

Get Help Paying for College

Reach out to your financial aid office, join the Paying For College 101 FB Group, and check out private loans at Credible

 

Help Take Care of Legal Matters

Now that your child is 18, you don’t have access to any of their medical information (even in an emergency). To receive access, you’ll all need to fill out specific paperwork.

Read here to learn more.

Make Sure You’re Insured

Dorm Insurance: Don’t assume your homeowners’ policy includes your child’s dorm or apartment. Learn what dorm insurance covers and why they need it. There are multiple companies out there and most cost around $100 for the year, have a $25 deductible, are easy to file claims with, and cover things like broken phones and stolen backpacks. We’ve personally used both of these businesses: NSSI.com and collegestudentinsurance.com.

Tuition Insurance: Tuition is obviously a huge investment. Parents don’t like to think about bad things happening but what if your student ends up with mono and has to withdraw halfway through the semester? Or, has a mental wellness crisis or some other big event/injury that derails them for a bit? The entire semester’s tuition can easily be lost–as in, you still pay for school even if they are not able to attend. Check out gradguard.com for both tuition insurance and dorm insurance.

Car Insurance:  If your student is not taking their car with them, be sure to reach out to your agent. There is often a discount if they are 100 miles or more away from your home address.

If they are taking their car, and going out of state, check with your agent to see if they’re covered and what updates you need to make.

 

Shop Smart for School 

Start with a list.  Keep in mind, all of the stores within 20 miles of any college campus are going to be completely sold out of everything within hours of the first students arriving on campus for move-in day. So shop early or online (try these dorm products recommended by R2C Facebook members)! 

Also, Bed, Bath & Beyond has a “ship to store” option (so does Target, Walmart, etc.). This means you can have your purchases packed up and ready for you to pick up in your new city. With colleges that have arrangements, OCM products can be delivered directly to the student’s dorm room or picked up on campus. In addition, many colleges allow you to ship to the school mailroom over the summer—check into it.

 

Get the Right Packing and Storage Materials 

If you’re going to fly, take advantage of Southwest’s two free bags per person. Each family member can share their allotment. Pack everything in a few bags/boxes as possible. Avoid lots of loose items and small bags so things don’t get lost (and you won’t have to fish them out of the bottom of the big rolling carts available on most campuses). 

IKEA Blue bags $4.99 (Frakta) are the best! (But if you don’t have them by now, you’ll probably not be able to find them. They are a hot commodity this time of year since they hold a ton.) They also have backpack straps, are stackable, fly well, and the IKEA boot tray fits perfectly into the bottom of it if you want extra stability.

Be aware: There is no room to store big luggage in dorms. Try collapsible storage bags instead. If there’s under-bed storage space, use storage bins and pack items in them that will stay in them (like sheets and towels) so you don’t need to unpack the bins at school.

Leave clothes on the hanger and zip-tie or rubber band the tops together, then pull a trash bag over them, or, avoid the plastic, use an IKEA bag for this, too. 

Make Labels /BringTools

Print out paper labels with your student’s name, dorm, and room number. Tape onto each box, bag, or clothing bundle.

Keep a “moving kit” handy. Make sure it’s not packed in with all of the other stuff. In this magical bag, you want to include:

  •   Lysol wipes
  •   A roll of paper towels
  •   Hand soap
  •   A roll of toilet paper
  •   Grocery bags to use as trash bags   
  •   Scotch or painters tape
  •   Command hooks
  •   A pen/marker
  •   Scissors
  •   Twine (various uses!)
  •   A rubber mallet
  •   A multi-head screwdriver

You may also want to have a small fan, snacks, water, and a change of shirt. Trust me. 

Buy a pool noodle and long zip-ties at a store like Dollar Tree. Best $2.00 you’ll ever spend. Before you set up anything else in the room, attach the pool noodle to the mattress frame on the side facing the wall, then move the bed into place up against the wall. This will prevent the phone, the charger, the homework, or whatever from falling down between the bed and the wall. It’s especially important with raised or lofted beds. Besides, who wants to pull all of the stuff stored under the bed back out to find what fell? 

Be Aware: Lofted (raised) Beds Are Hard to Reach (and Can Be Dangerous)

We found a PVC pipe at Home Depot for about $.69. Luckily we had twine in our move-in bag and made a sturdy handle to grab onto as our daughter climbed up the foot of her bed.

If you’re lofting the bed, get a bed rail. Don’t roll your eyes. This is actually a very big deal and a real danger. Kids across the country have had serious, life-altering brain injuries from falls every year. Late nights, lack of sleep, alcohol, and heights do not mix!  Don’t believe me? Read this.   

Document the State of the Room

BEFORE you start cleaning, unpacking, or setting anything up, do a video walk-through (or take photos) of any damage to the room and date the video and images. This is because your student will be assessed any damage fees on move-out day. They can’t prove that something wasn’t caused by them without dated pictures or a video documenting the room condition at move-in.

 

Read This About Books

Don’t rush to buy them!

Seriously. Do not buy books ahead of time. The first semester you can easily overspend by as much as $800 if you do. Wait until after syllabus week. This is the week when students drop/change classes and when professors let your student know that they don’t, in fact, need any of the books listed (or worst-case scenario, they actually need a different book instead). 

If you do jump the gun and buy ahead of time, tell your student NOT to remove the plastic or open the book packet until the first time they need to physically look at the book. This may be weeks down the road or never. Books can’t be returned for a refund once the packaging is removed.

Most books will be available online through the class page, free PDFs, or other sites. Your student can try doing a Google search of the ISBN to find all the options available. If they need to buy a copy, they should try looking in this order: 

  • Buy used (try the school’s bulletin board/student exchange FB group)
  • Rent 
  • Buy new online
  • Buy from the school bookstore

Students can also buy access codes directly from the publisher. Their professors will tell them about this option and explain how to do it. (Access codes are for one-time use, so NEVER buy them from another student).

Save Packaging

When renting books, always save the packaging/boxes to ship them back in. Break down boxes and store them under a mattress or behind a desk.

Check Return Dates Carefully

Always have your student check the return/due date against their syllabus before renting. There’s nothing worse than realizing a book is due back before finals and getting hit with a huge late penalty if they keep it to cram for exams.

 

Have Fun

Now that you’ve read all this, go ahead and enjoy an ice cream or a beach/pool day with your child and make the most of the time between now and their freshman year. 

It’s all going to be okay. 

Exciting, new adventures are coming!

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Melissa Shoultz

Melissa Shoultz is a sometimes empty-nester, focused on helping other parents navigate the transitional (sometimes exciting and sometimes overwhelming) college years. She is a co-founder of the Flown Abroad Facebook Groups, supporting parents of both high school and college students studying abroad short-term (traditional programs), and long-term (university enrollment).
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