Checklist for parents of college students

Your college students will go through many transformations during the next several years. Their college years are a time of exploration, experimentation, and learning for both your students and you. They are not quite out on their own, but they are asserting their independence. You may not feel like you know very much about their lives. Some of the challenges will seem more positive than others, but with your support, all can contribute to the educational outcomes of the college or university experience. Here are actions you can take to help them through the transitions without being over-involved.

During the summer before college

Make sure your students read all material coming from the school they will be attending and they follow-through on any required activities. Encourage your students to attend orientation programs and complete any preparation recommended by the school. (Some schools have summer reading lists.) If there is a parent orientation, attend it.

If your students are moving away from home, help them plan what they are taking and how they are getting there. Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out what will be needed. Dorm rooms in particular are very small and students will probably not be able to have all of the amenities from home.

Discuss finances with your students. Together figure out how they will handle their money and how much you will be contributing.

During college

Encourage your students to explore new interests be involved in college life. Passion about one’s future is often born out of discovery and connections made in college. There will be opportunities for study and activities in areas that they may have never imagined.

Encourage your students to build relationships with professors and peers. Your students will find new friends in any number of ways. Encourage them to be involved in their classes and extracurricular activities as a way to connect with other students and the faculty.

Discuss what your students want to do after college and how college is helping them prepare. They may go through stages of indecision, frustration, and confusion as they try to select a major. Students who were positive about their career track before entering college may find themselves questioning and changing once they are in college. Talk about the courses they like and the programs that interest them – and why. Encourage them to contact the career services to help them connect their interests to a major and to career opportunities.

Encourage your students to continue to document their activities, achievements, and work, just as they did in high school. Remind them that they are building not only their academic record, but a responsible work history and demonstration of community involvement.

Encourage your students to get at least one internship during college. Some may be available during the school year and others during the summer. Some may be paid, but most are probably unpaid. All are valuable for learning new skills, applying knowledge, and developing contacts for the future, and expanding opportunities.

If your students are playing sports, don’t be afraid to connect with coaches if you are concerned about academics or other issues. One advantage of playing sports in college is the supportive community of academic advisors and team members. They want your students to succeed as much as you do! One advantage of playing sports in college is the supportive community of academic advisors and team members. They want your students to succeed as much as you do!

Complete the required steps for financial aid each year:

  1. Get all family financial documents in order.
  2. Complete FAFSA before February 1, if possible.
  3. Review SAR (Student Aid Report) carefully.
  4. Review financial aid packages.