Going to College for the First Time
Listen to Podcast Episode No. 20
Going to College for the First Time
What I wish someone had told me—as a parent
Daniel de Roulet
(Continued from the Previous Post)
6. Before they leave, have a talk about finances: Oh, how I wish I had gained some parental financial advice before I left for college. Students, often for the first time in their lives, are making both day-to-day and significant financial decisions. Talk to your daughter or son about savings, budgets, smart ways to save money, and the negatives of debt, but do so in a way that makes it clear that you’re advising them on something that they will be in charge of. Credit card companies prey on new college students. If you are providing financial support, make the extent of that support clear, and stick to it. Do not over perform or underperform in meeting your agreement. Doing either sends terrible messages about independence.
7. If you want to take them shopping before they leave for college, allow them to take charge of what they need to buy. Different family budgets can afford different things, and differing parenting styles have differing ideas about this subject. Encourage your daughter or son, however, to contact the school about what she or he will need. (Many school websites have lists for new students.) If a computer is on their list, ask them to check with their school for what kinds of computers the school helps to support, or what kind of computer is typically used in their major. (For example, art and music majors typically have software available through Macs that might not be available or as easy to use on PCs. Some schools, on the other hand, are PC oriented in their classroom tech.)
8. Encourage them to work out their problems at school—do not be a “helicopter parent.” Now, I must admit, when I first heard this term, I was aghast; I believe I would have died of embarrassment if my mother had contacted my college about anything. But there’s something about the age we live in. I found myself tempted to wade into (sometimes actually wading into) difficulties with the financial aid office, for example. But, please, do this as little as possible. Do not make their course schedules, do not proofread their papers, do not call professors (or deans or presidents) to complain about grades, and do not call residence hall directors to address roommate problems. College is the great halfway house from adolescence to adulthood, and it is an expensive half-way house. Get your money’s worth. Allow your son or daughter to begin to work out life’s difficulties. If you do not help them to become adults now, it will be very awkward when you have to show up at work with them on the first day of their post-college careers.
9. Help younger siblings adjust. If there’s anything it is okay to remind your college son or daughter about, it is to keep in touch with their younger siblings. This is a responsibility they need to take on. Also, be aware that the younger sibling might be missing their brother or sister who has gone away. Check in with them. Invest in them as well, and try to allow them some adult responsibilities. Equal treatment is often much more watched by siblings than by parents. That’s the beginning of the advice, anyway. College is a new experience for both parents and first-time students. New experiences are adventures—they are part of what makes life exciting. They should be expected to go well, and to never go smoothly. The very best to you as you adjust to these new stages in your life.
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