How To Prepare My Child For College (Simple Beginners Guide)

Tara Cunningham College Life

My daughter has done her final exams and is set to go to college this fall. But am I ready and is she? We must not stand in our children’s way no matter how much we will miss them.

In preparing a child for college ensure it's a positive experience.  She has never lived away from home before and will need some guidance.

1. How do I know she’s ready?
2. Where will she live
3. Can she cook basic meals
4. Importance of clubs and societies
5. Being independent

If we put in place some simple guidelines then leaving home shouldn’t be an ordeal. We must look at this as a life challenge and fully in a positive light. Children will always look for guidance in some way. This is how I plan to ease both my daughter’s and my transition.

Laptop and books

how do i know she's ready?

My daughter has always been driven. She took her first steps on her first birthday. She knew all her letters and could write her name before she started kindergarden.

She is always top 5 in her class and has known for a long time what her further studies would be. But we have always encouraged and guided her. Whatever help she needed we sought it for her.

With about 6 months to go before she sits her final high school exams, time is flying by. Their whole childhood lives are pinpointed by events. First steps, first words, first days of school, first days of high school, first day of college.

But all the way through, at each milestone we have been there, by her side. And now suddenly she’s going to be leaving home and going to college.

My daughter and I have a great relationship. I’ve always been somewhat strict but you know what? That’s no bad thing. Both my children have respect for adults, they have manners and are self disciplined enough to know that hard work pays off.

But come the fall, it will be hard to see her make her way in the world. It’s hard to step back and allow her her independence. I have every belief that we have put her on the correct track and that she is (or will be!) ready to leave in the fall.

where will she live?

So what can we do as parents to ease the transition? It’s a big move for most teenagers. Many or all of whom have never lived away from home before and so the first big hurdle is where are they going to live? This is unfortunately for many an economic decision.

Of course, we would love our daughter to be living on campus but this is an expensive option. Everything else has to be taken into consideration, tuition - this will be included in your costs if you decide to live on-campus, books, travel, food, it all adds up and the cost of campus accommodation is just not a viable option.

However, lots of colleges insist that the first year undergrads live on-campus, and so you may not have the choice. Living on campus, is of course ideal. The pros being, instant social life, everything catered for, including meals, close to your classes and everything is bundled into one bill.

Bank of Mon and Dad

However this is not a cheap bill, and you can expect to pay upwards of $11k per year. There are also cons attached to dorm life, it can be noisy, you more than likely will have a roommate (you may not see eye to eye!) and your accommodation will be basic.

So what else is on offer? Renting a room off campus is also an alternative. However, this is in line with the cost of living on campus.

The main difference being, you are paying rent and tuition separately. You also have to find this accommodation, and usually there are plenty of extras, electric, wifi, and also you will have to sign a lease, so you can’t just decide to leave.

Decide on your budget and stick to it. It will be a long hard year if you have signed a lease and you spend most of the time working to pay your rent!

The other option is of course, if your child is going to college in state, then possibly they can live at home. This is ideal in some respects, the most obvious being the financial aspect. However, college kids need to spread their wings, so let them decide where they would like to study.

Basic Meals

can she cook basic meals?

So if you have decided that your child is living on campus, then their meals are pretty much all going to be in the dining room. They won’t need to worry about how to cook to survive, however, you will need to ensure that they are eating properly.

It’s easy to pick the unhealthy food in the dining hall, because it’s usually the one that looks the nicest! Encourage them to head for the salad bar, or choose fruit as their snacks.

But if your child is living off campus, then they will need to know how to survive! Before they head off to college, teach them a few easy tips. Mac & Cheese, stir fry, chicken salad.

When they realise how easy it is to make really tasty food, they hopefully won’t be eating out of a box every night of the week! Most college kids are being supported by their parents in some way or another.

But just because you’re paying doesn’t mean that they can just blow all there money in the first week of college. They need to know how to handle a budget. Like I said, college is the first step at being an adult, and so having to buy food and manage money each week should definitely be part of their college life from the get go.

No parent is going to see their kid short, but they need to learn that it’s not a bottomless pit, and if they want to party, then maybe they need a part time job! The bank of mom and dad is only for essentials.

Parenting Info-graphic

clubs and societies

Going to college is not just about academic. It’s so important that they join clubs and societies so they can mix with all types of people, and not just the ones they take classes with.

If they have any interest in sports or hobbies, try and encourage them to join their club. And also to try out anything new. You never know, they might be inspired by a supper club, or a choir, anything new is a bonus.

They have worked so hard to get to college, they also need a little down time. It’s a great way of making new friends. Everyone is more than likely in the same boat, where they know hardly anyone.

Everyone wants to make new friends and so by joining a club, you might meet your new best friend for life!

being independent

So you have got them to college, but how can you keep an eye on them? Well, the truth is you can’t! You have to believe that they are not going to blow it. If they have a college place, well that hasn’t happened by accident.

They are driven enough to have studied hard and you have to believe they are going to continue to work in college.

The dropout rate is high in first year. Current figures range from 11-15%. They have been looked after and guided all the way through elementary and high school and now no one is checking up on them.

College lecturers don’t care if you turn up, if you do your assignments or get involved. It is up to the student to manage their routines and study plans.

We have attended a lot of College Open Days, and all the professors and heads of departments have reiterated how vital it is to be in class everyday.

Even if you only have 1 lecture! It’s easy to stay in bed or go for coffee, but one missed class leads to two and suddenly you’re failing your module and are so behind that you can’t catch up.

As parents it’s hard to know if the are attending especially if they are living away but we can only encourage and support them as we always have, by checking in with them, by text or calling to make sure they are coping. This is probably the biggest change in their lives to date.

We want them to spread their wings and become independent but that’s also hard for many parents.

They don’t need us like they used to, and although we hope and wish that they will return home each weekend or break, the reality is that they need to feel independent, and so initially you will see lots of them, and get lots of texts, but as time passes these will become less.

They will have assignments to complete, they may have gotten a part time job and also we want them to be socialising. You want them to fit in, make new friends and become rounded adults and much as we’ll miss them we can’t hold them back.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t go and visit. Take them to lunch or dinner. They still want to know you are supporting them, not just financially, even if they don’t say it out loud.

Be proud parents! All the hard work has paid off. The ultimate goal was to raise them to be the best they can possibly be. And if your child is about to leave for college, well then, ‘Well done you! You’ve done an amazing job!”

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Mum, Graphic designer, Website owner, Writer at Tweentotwenty | Website

Tara Cunningham is a Mum and Graphic Designer. My children's education has always been very important to me. I feel that if you are willing to put in the time they will appreciate the effort.
I hope that you find our thoughts and ideas useful and interesting.