10 Tips to Prepare Your Child for Freshman Year

Our tips include financially setting up for college, checking the health insurance waiver policy, knowing important dates, coordinating living arrangements, meeting financial aid requirements, gathering school supplies, scheduling doctors appointments, touring the campus, and joining a university parent group.
Mother and daughter preparing for freshman year

High school graduations have come and gone and summer is in full swing! Now college-bound students are counting down the days until they can begin the next chapter in their lives—gaining higher education. Making the transition from high school to college is a journey not just for the student, but for the parent as well. If you're a parent sending a child to college, this may be your first child to leave the nest, and it's important to know how you can best offer support over the next several weeks.

Before the fall semester starts, here are 10 ways you can help set up your child for a successful first semester:

  1. Get your child financially set up for college. Consider local banking options near the college if your child will be on campus. Talk to your child about what, if any, financial support you'll be providing. Sit down and discuss how to budget.
  2. Check the policy on the health insurance waivers. Many colleges require that students provide a health insurance waiver if they are planning to stay under their parent's coverage. Without the waiver, students will be charged for health insurance under the college's plan.
  3. Stay on top of important dates. Check the college's website for important registration and payment deadlines so that you don't incur late fees or risk your child getting dropped from a class. Make sure you know dates for moving in/moving out, the beginning and end of the semesters, and school breaks. Make a tentative plan of when your child will travel back home.
  4. Coordinate living arrangements. If your student is living on campus, make sure he or she has contacted his or her future roommate(s) and determined who will be bringing which items and needed furnishings to campus.
  5. Make sure all financial aid requirements have been met. Prior to the semester starting, check in with the school's financial aid office to be sure that all financial aid can be properly distributed and that all requirements, such as federal loan entrance counseling and signing of the Master Promissory Note, have been completed. Check your billing statement before move-in to ensure that everything has been paid.
  6. Determine what school supplies your child needs. Does the school require a laptop and certain computer software? If so, many online retailers and stores offer student discounts on supplies, so do your research! This could also be a good place for students to spend any graduation money or gift cards they may have received.
  7. Schedule any doctor's appointments before the semester starts. If your student is going away for college, be sure to schedule any appointments with doctors before the summer ends and get any required vaccinations ahead of time.
  8. Tour the campus. If you haven't done so already, and if possible, take a tour of the college with your child to help familiarize him or her with the campus layout and the surrounding town.
  9. Join a university parent association or group. Many colleges and universities have parent associations or groups on social media that can be helpful to keeping you updated on campus activities, deadlines, and special events. They can also be helpful for any questions you or your child has about campus life.
  10. Be the voice of reason and support. This is sometimes a difficult time of transition for students. Be sure to help guide them through managing expenses and staying on top of academics, and offer a voice of confidence and support as they get ready for a whole new stage in life.

While the transition to college will focus primarily on the student, the parent also plays an important role in helping ensure the success of the first semester. Many students are overwhelmed their first semester on campus, so parental engagement is vital. A simple phone call to check can go far. Most importantly, don't forget to celebrate the achievements your student makes along the way.

Read advice for college freshmen