Parents’ Check List for Sending Their Kid Off to College

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Published August 25, 2011

| FOXBusiness

As move-in day quickly approaches for many incoming college freshmen, parents may be frantically going over a list of every item their kids might possibly need.

Making sure a student has all the supplies necessary to survive while away at school is important, but parents also need to think about how they can best help their child adjust to college life and all that comes with it.

Twenty-five percent of college students drop out in their freshman year because they are not academically, emotionally or financially prepared for college life and adulthood, says Jeff Livingston, senior vice president of college and career readiness at McGraw-Hill Education. Whether students like [to admit] it or not, college takes planning and preparation.

College is full of new experiences and responsibilities that can be overwhelming to new students. Experts and veteran parents of college kids offered the following advice how parents can adequately prepare their children for the changes and also let get go.

Teach Time-Management Skills 

Making sure all the details of buying school supplies, dorm essentials and tying up any lose ends before setting foot on campus will encourage students to maintain a well-planned schedule throughout the semester.

The opening days of the year are so packed full of activities and information that it can become overwhelming and basic things get missed, says Aaron Chadbourne, admissions and career management expert.

With classes, extracurricular activities, jobs and socializing with new friends, students are going to have hectic schedules and many students arrive at college not knowing how to manage their time effectively, which can be detrimental to their academic endeavors and health.  

Parents can encourage their kids to be organized by setting them up with a system that allows them to see their agenda all laid out.

Digital calendars, such as Google Calendar or Apples iCal, can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet, allowing students to stay on top of their schedule no matter where they are, says Livingston.

Instill Good Financial Habits

Even if a student is still getting financial support from mom and dad, they need to know how to set up a checking account, create and maintain a budget and track expenditures before the semester starts to make sure both parties are on the same page.

Its important for parents to help their students consider a variety of factors in selecting a bank that will meet their needs including online banking tools, availability of ATMs, fees and location of bank branches, advises Chadbourne. He also suggests families choose their bank carefully and might want to select a national bank that has a branch close to home and campus.

While the CARD Act limits people under the age of 21 to apply for a credit card without a proven source of income (such as a part-time job) or a co-signer on the account (presumably a parent), responsible credit card habits have to start at home.

Parents can help educate their students about how to compare rates on credit cards, how missing a payment can impact a credit score and why thats important, and how to track spending or bank accounts using online tools, says Chadbourne.

Credit cards are not the only area that can hurt your credit history, especially as a student. Carolyn Monaco, managing partner of Monaco Associates who will be dropping off her son this year at the Berklee College of Music, says parents should also prepare kids for the other financial responsibilities.

Show them the options for paying a bill--let them practice paying electronically, and mailing a check somewhere, she says. Give them the whys and wheres behind building, then keeping, a good credit score.

Record Valuables

Many students wouldnt think twice about leaving their iPhone on their bed when they head to dinner at home, but at college, that could mean going without a phone until a replacement comes.

Students generally like to prop doors open so that they dont need to use their keys to get back in, but that provides the perfect opportunity for someone to slip in and grab the iPod, computer, or jewelry that is lying in plain sight on the desk, Chadbourne says.

Parents can help their students register items such as their laptops and bicycles with the campus or local police departments. It is also a good idea to write down serial numbers on all other electronics and valuables so that you can track them should something go missing.

Smartphones and computers have an increasing number of apps, such as the iPhones free Find my iPhone app that allows any owner that installs and enables the app to track the lost or stolen device, says Chadbourne.

Alicia Simons, marketing consultant at Monaco Associates who will drop her daughter off at George Washington University next week, says that she plans to remind her about the safety basics, such as not carrying large amounts of cash.

Also realize that even if you trust your roommates, you cant necessarily know and then trust all of your roommates friends--they dont know you either and may not afford you the trust youd assume, she says. If something has real value, emotional or otherwise, keep it with you, lock it up, or leave it home.

In Case of Emergency

While parents hope their child wont experience an emergency situation, experts still stress that parents help devise a plan just in case. Chadbourne says that parents should make sure the appropriate emergency contact numbers are stored in students cell phones and identify any campus or community resources.

Many colleges provide safety talks during orientation but as this is a busy time where much information is being absorbed, parents may consider taking their students on a safety tour of campus, he says.

Chadbourne suggests that parents devise a safety question checklist for students to plan out:

    --Phone number for the campus police (in cell phone)

    --Phone number for an emergency contact (in cell phone under In Case of Emergency or ICE)

    --What streets and pathways are well-lighted and safe to walk on at night

    --Locations of emergency phones along the route

    --Late night shuttle/van service or walking escort program

Simons suggests looking into the schools safety system, such as text and email alerts and safety seminars.

Having a suburban-raised daughter heading to the heart of a city has raised concerns in the area of coping with an emergency, says Simons. Have a plan for where they should go if something really should happen--family in the area, friends, and make sure they know how to [contact them].

Although it is natural for parents to worry about their college students well-being, keep in mind that college is a great opportunity for the learning process, both in academics and in life lessons.

Letting go as a parent is a big piece here, says Simons. We keep reminding ourselves that this is what we have been moving towards for 18 years.  Cover the basics, along with safety concerns of course and any last words about safe relationships  but then start to trust.

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