Advice For Parents Of College-Bound Students

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By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

Chances are that if you have a student accepted at an accredited college or university, you’ve done a lot of things right in raising your son or daughter. But are there other things you can do a month or two before the start of higher education classes, or perhaps things not to do?

This summer, I’ve been a participant in several new student orientations at LaGrange College, where I am a professor. Over the summer, I’ve talked with other professors and teachers at other schools, and here are several ways you can prepare your future college student to succeed, and other things you should perhaps refrain from doing.

1) Time Management Skills: You will need to have your future freshman student develop a lot of time management skills if they haven’t already. That means having them use their final days at home to start keeping a calendar and fill it with events to do. Next to the birth of a child, my wife and I found the transition from high school to college to be the biggest life-changing experience. Your student is going from a very structured academic regimen to one with a more unstructured environment. You’ve also probably managed your student’s schedule a lot, telling them when to do their homework, driving them to school, and getting them ready to be on time, for example. Now they’re going to have to do it largely on their own, going to classes, keeping up with the homework, and planning to be ready for exams and papers. That last month or two of practice will be a good start if you haven’t done this already.

2) Calling Professors: Some parents make a habit of calling their kids’ teachers all the time, just to stay in the loop, from kindergarten through 12th grade. But you won’t have that luxury anymore. Your student’s professors are limited in what they can disclose. Keep those communication skills going with your student, and don’t be a “roommate” parent.

3) No Nagging: At the same time, don’t be a “helicopter” parent either. Your offspring are old enough now not to be nagged about everything. That relationship should change, if it hasn’t already. They’re young adults, not kids. It’s time to talk with them on a more equal footing, without being a controller. Maybe a teammate might be a better metaphor than a coach?

4) Cost Awareness: Talk with your student about how much things cost. And yes, that includes tuition too, along with scholarships and grants, and public loan forgiveness, so they have some idea of how much things cost. That includes groceries, cars, and rent. Involve them in the financial process, and don’t shield them from the economic lessons to be learned. They’re going to have to be ready for that in college, just as our oldest was.

5) Dorm Room Preparation: Don’t buy a lot of expensive dorm décor until you actually see the room, what’s in it already, what will fit, what’s allowed, and what your student will need. You don’t want to waste a lot of money on what you won’t need or can’t use.

6) Computer Concerns: Don’t purchase a computer and software for your student, or have them do it, until you figure out what the school, program, or major requires, and what’s allowed, so you don’t have to wind up buying multiple laptops or the wrong software, for example.

7) Book Buying: I recommend buying books for your student’s major since you’ll probably need them after college too. There are other options, such as textbook rentals, and cheaper online versions than hardback texts. Some professors (like me) allow students to buy earlier versions of the text to save money, for classes where the text doesn’t change as much. Just make sure you do that before the first day of class. Reach out to your professors. You don’t want to fall behind.

College was an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t mind doing it all over. Evidence also shows the economic importance of a degree. But keep these tips in mind so your student gets the right kind of experience and does not get sidetracked or fall behind. As a parent, you’ll also appreciate the maturity they’ll likely show if you put them in the right position to develop it. I just had my oldest graduate from college, and my youngest will be headed off to higher education next year. This is the same advice my wife and I will need to follow in a year.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at His “X” account is JohnTures2.