High School Transition to College: A Parent’s Guide

African-American son talking to his mother while sitting on a couch

High School Transition to College: A Parent’s Guide

Published May 30, 2023

African-American son talking to his mother while sitting on a couch

I remember the initial relief I felt after we placed the college deposit for our daughter, and the rush of anxiety that immediately followed about what came next. After two kids and six years as a college parent, plus four years of writing about it, I am telling you to relax. You don’t need to stress over your student’s high school transition to college, well at least not as much as I did.

Tips for Helping Your Child Adjust to College

The high school transition to college can be a daunting task for both parents and students. But with a little planning and support, you can help your child make a smooth transition and succeed in college.

First and Most Important! Your teenager must read and/or forward you all emails they get from the college because they are the main contact, not you. Get used to it. Those emails contain info like the list of required vaccinations and orientation dates.

Talk to your child about their expectations and fears.

Help them understand what to expect in college, both academically and socially.

  • Academics: College is a lot more challenging than high school. Students are expected to be more independent and self-directed in their learning. Help your child understand the different types of classes they will be taking, the expectations for each class, and how to manage their time effectively.
  • Social life: College is a great time to meet new people and make new friends. Students will have the opportunity to join clubs, organizations, and activities that interest them. Help your child understand the different social opportunities available to them and how to make friends.
  • Living arrangements: Students will have to learn how to live on their own for the first time. This includes things like cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. Help your child learn how to do these things before they go to college.

Help your child develop good time management skills.

College students have a lot of freedom, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Help your child learn how to manage their time effectively so they can succeed academically.

  • Help your child create a schedule and stick to it. This will help them stay on top of their work and avoid procrastination.
  • Help them learn how to prioritize their tasks. Not all tasks are created equal. Help your child learn how to identify the most important tasks and focus on those first.
  • Encourage them to take breaks. It’s important for college students to take breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout.

Encourage your child to get involved on campus.

College is a great time to meet new people and make new friends. Encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities, clubs, or organizations that interest them.

  • Help them find activities that they are passionate about. This will help them stay motivated and engaged.
  • Encourage them to meet new people. College is a great time to meet new people from all walks of life.
  • Help them find a balance between academics and social life. It’s important for college students to have a healthy balance between their studies and their social life.

Help your child find a balance between academics and social life.

It’s important for college students to have a healthy balance between their studies and their social life.

  • Help them set realistic goals. It’s important for college students to set realistic goals for themselves. This will help them avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Encourage them to take breaks. It’s important for college students to take breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout.
  • Help them find a support system. College can be a stressful time, so it’s important for college students to have a support system in place. This could include friends, family, or a therapist.

Helping Your Teen Manage Money in College

  • Setting Up a Budget: Your teen might be worried about handling money at college. Help them by creating a monthly or semester budget for the first year.
  • Choosing the Right Bank Account: Encourage your teen to open a bank account. It’s handy if there’s a bank branch in your area and an ATM close to campus. Ask the bank about a “college account.” These usually need less money to start.
  • Using Cards Wisely: Many college ID cards include a debit account feature, meaning you load money onto the card and use it like a bank debit card. Depending upon the college, the card can be used for laundry services, campus stores, food kiosks, and stores off campus. My kids were also able to use theirs at businesses that had locations near campus, like Panera, CVS, and Starbucks.
  • Picking a Meal Plan: When choosing a meal plan, don’t go for the most expensive one. Pick the medium or low option instead. You can always add more meals later if your student needs them.
  • Talking About Money: Discuss money matters with your teen. Make sure they understand who is paying for tuition and what they are responsible for. This might include signing for a loan, buying books, finding a job, and covering travel costs.

More Tips for Setting Up Your Teen’s Finances

  • Starting a Checking Account: Open a checking account in your child’s name. This will give them a place to put their financial aid money and any other money they earn.
  • Understanding Financial Aid: There are many types of financial aid, like grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study. Help your teen understand these different types and how to apply for them.
  • Applying for Federal Student Aid: Help your child fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Do this as early as possible.
  • Knowing the Terms of Financial Aid: Make sure your child understands their financial aid terms. They should know how much money they’ll receive, the interest rate on their loans, and when they need to start paying back the loans.
  • Finding a Job: A part-time job can help your child earn money for their expenses.
  • Saving Money: Encourage your child to save money. This will help them be ready for unexpected costs and emergencies.

Initiate College with Comprehensive Health Preparedness

As the date for your child to leave for college approaches, ensure all health-related appointments – including those for doctors and dentists – are scheduled. Otherwise, they might not have time for any medical visits until the winter break.

Consider refilling necessary medications to avoid untimely complications, such as receiving a call about an empty asthma inhaler just two weeks into the semester.

Order your child’s insurance cards – covering health, dental, and prescription plans. When your child visits a campus doctor or pharmacy for the first time, you won’t be there to assist.

Health insurance is a prerequisite for college students. But be aware, campus health centers might not fall within your insurance plan. We recommend confirming this information with your insurance provider first. If necessary, consider purchasing a separate health center-only plan offered by the college.

Ensure your child carries a record of their allergies and daily medications, either saved on their phone or written on a card in their wallet. This is crucial for any trips to the health center, which are bound to occur at least once during the year.

If your child is over 18, think about acquiring a health care proxy. Privacy laws could prevent medical facilities from contacting you without your child’s consent. 

power of attorney for college students
Will you be able to help your college student in an emergency? Get a Young Adult Power of Attorney with Mama Bear Legal Forms (click the image above to find out more).

Early Orientation Scheduling

During my daughter’s orientation, I was surprised to discover that choosing her fall semester classes was part of the process. Be mindful that you may not be asked to participate in this session.

Scheduling the orientation earlier in the summer, if possible, is a wise move. Despite colleges’ assurances to the contrary, the last groups often face challenges in securing their desired classes.

Ensure your child completes any required online tests before orientation. My son overlooked an email and had to scramble to make time for an exam during orientation.

If your child has taken any AP or IB tests, have the results sent promptly. This enables the credits to be applied to your freshman’s college transcript before the orientation.

What to Pack For College

Packing for college can seem scary, but it’s not. Instead of big, old-fashioned items, now all a student needs is a laptop. You can often buy a laptop at a good price from the college.

Check out stores like The Container Store, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. They have sales for college and dorm room items. Don’t feel you have to buy everything the college recommends. Bring essentials like chargers, a fan , since it will still technically be summer when the semester starts, a power strip, favorite snack foods, rain gear, memory sticks, dorm tool kit and a reusable water bottle. And remember, it’s normal to forget a few things. You can always pick up extras at a nearby store.

You will forget to pack stuff, or the roommate will bring something that makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it, too.

Don’t freak out. Just find the closest box store.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to start packing. This will give you plenty of time to research what you need and find the best deals.
  • Make a list. This will help you stay organized and make sure you don’t forget anything.
  • Shop around. There are a lot of different places to buy college supplies. Shop around to find the best prices.
  • Don’t buy everything the college suggests. The college will likely send you a packing list with a long list of items. You don’t need to buy everything on the list.
  • Pack light. You’ll be moving around a lot, so you don’t want to be weighed down by a heavy suitcase.
  • Pack essentials. Make sure you pack the essentials, such as clothing, toiletries, and school supplies.
  • Pack your personality. Add a few personal touches to your dorm room, such as posters, photos, and blankets.

Tips for Staying Connected with Your Child in College

Stay connected with your child in college. Visit them on campus, call or text them regularly, and encourage them to come home for breaks.

  • Visit them on campus. This is a great way to see how they’re doing and to get to know their new friends.
  • Call or text them regularly. This is a great way to stay in touch and to offer support.
  • Encourage them to come home for breaks. This is a great way to reconnect with family and friends.

Important Talks to Have with Your Almost College Student

You can never have too many discussions about drinking, drugs, and sex as your child transitions to college.

Impart your best advice without preaching. Kids approach their independence in different ways, and you have to hope some of what you’ve taught them over the years has sunk in.

How to Support Your Child’s College Success

Be positive role model, provide financial support, and offer emotional support.

  • Be a positive role model. Show your child that you believe in them and that you support their dreams.
  • Provide financial support. College is expensive, so it’s important to provide your child with financial support if you can.
  • Offer emotional support. College can be a stressful time, so be there for your child to offer emotional support.

The high school transition to college can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. By following the tips in this article, you can help your child make a smooth transition and succeed in college.

Other Articles You Might Like:
FERPA Waiver and Other Legal Documents College Students Shouldn’t Leave Home Without
How Often Do College Students Talk to Their Parents
Dorm Room Checklist of College Essentials

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