Prepping your teen for college
Congratulations! Your teenager has been accepted to his college of choice — that’s a weight off of everyone’s shoulders. But now, the hard part: helping him prep for living independently, and overcoming the emotional hurdle of letting him go. This summer, teach your teen practical living skills while sharing moments to cherish long after he leaves the nest.
Your teen will need access to money and know how to manage it. Consider opening joint savings and checking accounts with a bank or credit union that services both of your locations and offers online banking. Show him how to write checks, balance a checkbook, pay bills online and use a debit card. Venmo and Paypal let you transfer money to friends and family without fees. To help him establish a credit history, consider co-signing for a low-limit credit card. USAA offers a Secured Platinum Card, available to servicemembers and eligible family members, that is backed by a certificate of deposit (CD) that you open with the card account. The amount you put in the CD (from $250- $5,000) becomes the card’s limit, and you build credit and earn interest on the CD with the card in good standing.
Help him create a basic budget with categories such as “food, transportation, entertainment and savings,” and also “housing and utilities” if he lives off campus. Mint.com offers a money management app for creating and maintaining a monthly budget. Expense accounts, credit cards, loans and bills can be monitored from a smartphone or home computer, and both of you can have access to the same account. Goals can be set for future purchases, alerts tell you when bills are due and more.
Many freshmen don’t have access to (or aren’t allowed) vehicles on campus. So ensure that he can navigate public buses, trains and subways on his own.
Laundry & personal space
Show him how to do his laundry, what products he’ll need, and then have him do his own laundry for the remainder of time he’s still at home. He should be ready for the Laundromat when he hits campus. If he’s in a dorm, he’ll probably have a roommate. Discuss cleanliness and respecting others’ belongings and space. Never borrow without asking, learn how to give the other person peace and quiet, and keep shared facilities clean. Staying neat at home can also lead to better organization in other aspects of life.
You’re not going to be there as his personal alarm, chauffer or event planner. Help him establish a schedule for classes, studying, sleeping and extracurricular activities that works best with his lifestyle, part-time job schedule or campus activities. Show him how to use to-do lists and calendars, or encourage him to find a productivity app he enjoys using.
Talk about healthy eating and the “freshman fifteen” phenomenon. Encourage healthier snack choices, and show him how to prepare a couple of basic meals that are nutritious, easy and need little prep or ingredient storage space.
Look into your TRICARE or private insurance plan about healthcare coverage for college students. Ensure that enrollment cards are up to date and your teen knows how to access the online provider directory, make appointments and refill medications. Help him create a basic first aid kit with bandages, topical solutions, over-the-counter medications, antibiotic cream and a thermometer. Also ensure that campus police, health center, dorm mom or residence assistant numbers are saved in his phone.
Since you won’t be present at college to help guide or monitor lifestyle choices, reiterate expectations and guidelines about sex, drugs and alcohol. Encourage him to keep open communication with you (or a trusted mentor) about encounters and choices, and remind him that you’re only a phone call way, 24/7.
Make plans doing fun things with your teen before he goes. Take a family vacation to one last bucket list location. Or, take a few small road trips to places you’ve been and enjoyed. Be sure he has one-on-one time with other family members, but don’t smother him if he seems distant. He is about spread his wings. It’s time to let him fly.