Preparing Your Teen for College

I am free, I am free, I am free!

I have heard both parents and teens chant this as they pack up the minivan and leave for college. Yet, parents often watch their kids leave, with tears in their eyes and forget to cover some essential pre-freshman topics. Since it’s now June, and your high school seniors are either graduating soon or have just graduated, I thought I’d share some advice with you so you can use the whole summer to start preparing your teen for college.

1) Money

Your child will most likely call you in the first six months asking for more money. Often times, kids leave for college without any idea or guidelines about how much money they should be spending and what happens if they need to be bailed out.

Essential Talking points:

We are giving you ______ per month.

You can use our credit card for everything except ____, ____, _____. These are things you need to pay for on your own either with your savings or from a job.

You _______ have your own credit card.

If you are in an emergency and need more money, we will loan/give/not give it to you.

2) Contact

Many parents have an expectation in their mind that they will talk to their child every few days. Many teens have the expectation in their mind that they will talk to their parent every few weeks. Then, the kid goes off to college and both parties get annoyed with the other for calling too little or too much.

Essential Talking points:

I would like to talk to you ____per week/month.

I must talk to you at the very minimum _____ per week/month.

Lets make a regular check-in time of ________(Sunday afternoon at 3pm is usually good)

If I do not hear from you, I am warning you now, I will call your resident dorm director.

3) Vacations

When teens leave home, they feel they have no more rules and boundaries and maybe they don’t. But they will come home to visit, and at that point, rules will return. Talk about this now, before they come home for Thanksgiving and realize they no longer can stay out until 4 am.

Essential Talking points:

I know you are free to do whatever you want, but we would love it if you could ______ while at school.

Just so you know, you will have more freedom when you come home from breaks, but we still expect ______curfew, _____ car rules, ______ amount of family time.

4) Memories

Too many students leave for school without ever thinking of logging their memories. Talk to your kids about keeping a journal, photos or video diary online.

Essential Talking points:

Here is a camera/journal/video camera—please document your first year.

Don’t you wish you could see pictures of my bad hairstyle from college? Okay, so make sure to take your own pictures to save for your kids.

5) Grade Limits

College is to learn. College is to learn. I often have to repeat this to rising college freshman. Make sure your kids know what kind of expectations you have on their grades. The more specific the better on this one.

Essential Talking points:

Of course, we want you to do well in college—it would be great if you could keep a ____GPA or higher.

In fact, if you go below _____GPA, we will not pay for your school/you will have to quit the sports team.

You need to send us a grade update every ________months/weeks.

6) Significant Others

Most likely, your child will get a significant other during freshman year. It is important to talk about what this means for vacations and breaks. Are you okay with them coming home for Christmas? What if your child wants to go home with them for a break?

Essential Talking points:

If you want to bring someone home from a vacation this ____ allowed.

If you bring someone home from a vacation, they are ____allowed to stay in your room with you.

We expect you to come home for the following holidays: _____, _______, ______

It would be okay if you went home with a boyfriend or girlfriend on the following holidays/vacations: _______, ________

7) Expensive Extra-Curriculars

The last thing you should talk about before they call you mid-October and ask is expensive social activities. Talk about the following:

Essential Talking points:

If you join a sorority or fraternity you will _____ have to pay for your own dues.

If you want to go on an expensive spring break trip to Cancun we will _____pay for it/part of it/none of it.

If you join the sailing team we will ____ pay for your sailboat and equipment.

Even if you think your kid would never join the sailing team, talk to him or her about these issues just in case. Trust me, waiting until they call from their friends cell phone is not a great first way to talk (or argue) about these issues.

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