Preparing Parents and Incoming Freshmen for College

There’s nothing quite like college. There are so many incredible things to look forward to: football games, intellectual debates, fraternity parties, late night study halls and pizza runs, group projects, service rallies, and a new found liberation that comes with fleeing the nest.

While all of these experiences are exciting and fun, they can also be scary and anxiety-inducing for both parents and incoming freshmen, even if neither party wants to admit it. As the fall semester nears, establish some common ground between you and your freshman-to-be to make the transition easy and successful for everyone.

Alicia on “Creating Financial Freedom”

“Determining whether or not to let your freshman manage their own finances can be a tough call. It’s natural to want your freshman to be autonomous, but these days college campuses are crawling with credit card companies offering lots of credit to young, maybe naive, students and the thought of them racking up ridiculous amounts of debt is scary. Whether your student relies on you for their income, or is paying their own way through school with a job, you should set up some ground rules before they head out on their own. If you open a credit card that has both of your names on it, establish hard and fast rules around spending limits, what kind of things can be charged to the card, and who makes the payments. Take this opportunity to talk to them about the long-term consequences of credit card debt to deter them from opening additional cards. If they are taking out student loans, encourage them to try a work/study program to lessen their debt burden. Experts are saying that college is going to become increasingly expensive. The more your student can pay their way while in school the less they will have to pay in interest and capital later. Also, it’s not too late for scholarships. Keep an eye out for local and regional scholarships that come up for 1st and 2nd year students.”

Sarah on “Sending Them Off with Personal Freedom”

“You have been the primary source of advice on everything from what to wear on the first day of kindergarten to the dress they wear to Prom. They have lived in your home under your rules for 18 years and now they are venturing off on their own with complete freedom. How do you cut those strings with the confidence that they’ll stay on track? It’s really tough, but the best approach is by being an informed and calm parent. For example, your son knows you have high expectations for grades, but you don’t need him to update you every day on his progress in each class. If you feel you absolutely must track their grades, ask your student for updates half way through the term for the first semester. Be sure they know you won’t be upset if they show you poor grades, and that you will happily help pay for a tutor or provide assistance if they need it. Remind you children that you are not trying to run their academic life, just get them off to a good start. Then back off second term. They are going to have to learn some mistakes on their own. Now that they are adults, they need your support more than your discipline.”

Here are a few more tips to get them off to a wonderful college career:

1. Suggest Internships, Jobs, and Fellowships Right Away

Unfortunately, the university experience isn’t what it used to be. By the time your child graduates, the economy will hopefully be in better shape, but it’s never too early to start establishing contacts, references, and job skills that will get them into the workforce upon graduation.

2. Encourage Them to Join Clubs, Groups, and Volunteer Organizations

Ashleigh Sonnenberg, Buttoned Up’s marketing associate, was hired fresh out of college because her sorority advisor at Alpha Chi Omega was a close friend with Buttoned Up co-founder, Alicia. The saying is true that what you know is important but who you know is also opens lots of opportunities.

3. Shop Smart for Dorm Gear

You can always find great deals on college gear like towels, shower caddies, etc. at places like, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target. But try searching for items like furniture, lamps, TVs, and calculators on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Ebay for absurdly discounted prices. Facebook Marketplace even has items listed by college so you can pick up goods around move-in time from other students. Just be sure you see lots of pictures of the items ahead of time.