Parents of new college students will often go through a myriad of emotions and experiences when sending their child to college. Although this is a very exciting time, parents should expect some challenges during the process for both themselves and their child. Managing these expectations realistically and having a plan laid out ahead of time will help make the transition easier.
Do Your Research
Aside from ensuring your child’s college savings account is appropriately funded ahead of time, doing some research on what to expect will really ease some of the stress that comes along with the first year your child is away for college. Luckily, there have been countless parents of new college students in your exact shoes who have been through it all… and survived! Many of these parents have documented their experiences through blogs and social media, which can easily be found online. This is a great way to get some insight into the actual process, as well as the emotional impacts others have experienced. Learning how they were able to cope can help prepare you for the road ahead.
Your child’s school is another great resource to lean on when planning for the transition. Even before the school year starts, there will be plenty of information the college can provide, such as calendars, important contact information, campus maps, and lists of student activities and clubs. They will also have timelines for move-in dates, freshman orientation, and any opportunities for parents to be involved. Having this information will help you organize moving arrangements and transportation before it comes down to the deadline. Communicating these steps with your child can help them feel supported and less anxious as they head into the first year of college.
When it comes to this part of the transition, the best thing parents can do is recognize that this process will have an emotional impact. Being a parent is an incredibly involved role as a caretaker and protector, so letting go of some of that control can be difficult. This commonly involves conflicting emotions of anxiety, excitement, and everything in between. There’s not much that can be done to prevent this, but what you can do is focus on personal successes and accomplishments that led to being able to send your child to college. Not all children have this opportunity, and the fact that you could provide a college education for your child is an achievement in itself.
The other side of this is dealing with emotions that your child may be feeling as they leave the comfort of their home and family. It’s often hard to decipher what they may be personally experiencing, but keeping communication open is key. They may not need or want to discuss their feelings during this time, but leaving the door open will allow them to come to you should they need any guidance or support.
Laying Out Expectations
For new college students, the thrill of independence can be exciting, but also very distracting. Parents are not there to supervise, so it’s always helpful to express certain expectations or guidelines to your child. This is where parents should be explicit when it comes to hard choices and difficulties they may face that could affect their success. Issues you may want to consider discussing are academic performance, school involvement, and spending limits. If your child plans to be very involved with extracurricular activities, make sure they understand the time commitment and costs associated with them.
Most college savings accounts do not consider costs for electives or campus activities to be qualified expenses. Because of this, you will have to pay a penalty fee for using savings funds for things such as club memberships or dues connected to fraternities or sororities. However, a College Savings Trust by Prime Trust offers the flexibility to cover these costs and other related college expenses that will inevitably come up for college students. If your child needs funds to cover these expenses, they’ll simply need to log into the account and request a disbursement from their College Savings Trust rather than paying out of pocket. Parents will then receive a notification email giving them the opportunity to approve or deny these requests without being penalized.
As we have covered in the past, college is more than just tuition, so parents should plan ahead to expect the many other costs that will arise early and often, and which should be taken into consideration when preparing for the big college move. Transportation and moving costs can be expensive, depending on how far your child’s college is from home. Once you get there, there will be expenses for school supplies, required books and, in some cases, monthly rent if your child is not living on campus. Although these are also very common costs, most college savings accounts, such as 529 plans, categorize these expenses as unqualified. A College Savings Trust extends funding flexibility to these college expenses without restrictions or penalties.
Another valuable thing you can do is learn more about the local area around the college campus. Where is the closest grocery store, auto mechanic, pharmacy, computer repair, and office supply store? Make sure your child knows where to go if they happen to lose their cell phone or need supplies for a project, and how to request funds should they need them. With all the activity of the actual move, it’s important for both new college students and their parents to stay on top of these details that will make the transition a little easier in the end.
College is a time for students to experience real responsibilities and to learn to resolve issues on their own. But as you can imagine, missteps are bound to happen when your child is away from home for the first time. You can’t predict exactly what to expect, but you can be prepared for things that may occur by doing your research and planning. There’s no better way to plan ahead than to set up a College Savings Trust that offers the flexibility and security to use funds for all the expenses that come along with a college education.