This is an updated version of an article I wrote for the Examiner.com on sending students off to college.
High school seniors are celebrating college admission acceptances. Many of these young adults will be leaving home to attend college in the fall. This traditional ‘coming of age’ activity is approached with both excitement and trepidation by students and parents. One way to ease the anxiety on both sides is to create a plan that addresses some of the practical issues of going off to college.
Parents should set the stage early in the summer in creating a smooth transition to college by sitting down and having a discussion about expectations. These items can include:
Communications: when and how often should the parent and student talk?
Once per week is ideal, even in this age of constant connection. This way you are encouraging your student to solve his own problems, create his own resource group, and practice being an adult in the real world.
Money: who pays for what?
Make sure your student knows who is responsible to pay for college bills and incidentals, all the way down to pizza, coffee, haircuts and rides home. Give them the credit/debit card talk about responsible spending and debt if you haven’t already done so.
Grades: is there an expectation for a certain level of performance?
Are you expecting a certain GPA your student must maintain? Is there a certain major your student must have? What are the extenuating circumstances that you might foresee affecting grades? Create an action plan that your student can take if grades start to drop.
Keep informed: FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations will limit the amount of information you will receive about your student unless they sign a waiver to release the information to whoever they designate.
Students at 18 are considered an adult and information will not be coming home to parents as it did in high school. The ideal situation is to trust that your student will share with you both good and bad information regarding grades, health, possible illegal activity, etc.
Social life: if you are in trouble, what do you do?
Your student needs to know that if ever they are in a serious, dangerous, or troubling situation they can contact you at any time. You need to agree on what steps they should take if this happens.
This list is just a starting point. Families should set a date to sit down and discuss. This should be a two-way conversation with both parents and student input. At the end of the discussion write it down like a contract, commit mutually by signing and all parties receive a copy. Now you have a roadmap for how you are going to navigate the transition to college.