A funny thing starts to happen this time of year for both high school seniors and their parents. It’s a bit of a senior spring awakening in a sense. Sometimes it is more the parent; sometimes it is more the student, but there is a dawning question of “Am I ready to go to college, or is my child ready to go to college?”
April is a month of big reality checks as we order graduation announcements and put security deposits down on a college. As a mom of a current college student and one in high school, I want to acknowledge and validate every feeling you or your child has about this reality check. You are not alone.
They knew enough to get into college, but do they now know enough to go to college? And to also survive college, because let’s face it, that is what this mom was really thinking. We get busy with the day-to-day monotony and with these past couple of years, we were just trying to survive it. Quite literally in fact. It is no wonder when a new life chapter is on the horizon that we start to wonder if we, as parents, have properly prepared them to leave the nest?
Up until this point, everything was about getting them into college, and now that we have gone through the anxiety of waiting on acceptances or denials; we all start to slowly realize that they are in fact going somewhere and soon. They will live on their own outside of their cozy bedroom and home. Totally free to do what they want and when they want. And then you look at their messy room or perhaps their scrunched-over body while they are sitting at the kitchen counter slurping cereal; watching a YouTube video and thinking, “I need to teach them so much more because they are not ready to leave home.”
Fear not, because they will figure it out. Forget momentarily about all the items you need to buy and pack to actually move them to college. These are some things I can suggest to help them (and you) get prepared over the next couple of months to survive being solo at college.
Have them go to the dentist before they leave for college and have them do it solo. And then have them make a follow-up appointment for when they are home on break. Make sure they put it on their phone/calendar WITH a reminder. Learning how to do things solo and then having the forward-thinking ability to plan for the future is a new concept to some kids. I have run the family calendar for years and all they have had to do is show up. It’s time for them to create their own personal calendar.
Make them buy those special things at the grocery store that they tend to remind you they are out of and for you to buy the next time you are there. Sorry kid, it is your turn. But this is a great seek and find mission; much more elevated than asking where the ketchup is in the fridge and they standing there for 5 minutes trying to figure it out.
Start taking vitamins – seriously. But more so than that, have them learn about certain OTC medications and for what ailment they may be used. Remember when they all started kindergarten and they all got sick because it was new kids and a new environment? Well, the same theory applies to college. And I am not talking about COVID, because they catch any bug and virus while at college as well. They will still call you and you will be thankful for this. But they need to learn why not to mix certain things and when it is time to go to the doctors. I literally created a spreadsheet and medical care toolkit for my child, and I swear it is the best thing I packed for him last year.
Learn how to use other forms of transportation. Public bus, train, Uber, Lyft, taxi, or even airplanes. Depending on where your child is going, their car or your car, won’t be in the scenario. They are way more tech-savvy than us, so have them download the apps on their phone and create accounts for them now. I know feelings about their safety can vary here, so have them learn what to look out for too.
Have them get a job before going off to college. Nothing is more of a reality check than learning how to deal with other people while working. This could be the people they are working with or the people/clients they are serving. Simply put, this can be a great life lesson in communications and problem-solving that doesn’t involve friends or family.
Lastly, learn about money management. That job they have is hopefully putting money into their account. If it isn’t, it is time they learn how to save versus how to spend. Perhaps make some financial goals they need to achieve by the time they leave for college – they need to save “x” amount of dollars to either help pay for tuition or for spending while there. With this goal in mind, perhaps have them break it down for how much weekly or monthly they will be able to spend. It is amazing to see that once they get to college that they don’t mind buying the off-brand items with their own money quite so much.
Kelly Barnhardt is an independent college consultant based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Send questions to: email@example.com ; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com
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