Preparing Kids for Start of College

Question: It's a bittersweet time for our family. At the end of the summer, our oldest child will be going off to college. What are the things our family should be doing this summer to prepare him for this great adventure? -- Off to College

Answer: This is an unusual experience for families, as their children are poised between being a teenager in high school and the young adult they will be in college in just a few weeks. This is definitely a transition time.

The start of college will be smoother for both parents and child if certain discussions are held before the day your child leaves home. Believe it or not, you should definitely talk about drinking. Research seems to show that having this conversation can not only avert tragedies caused by excessive drinking but can also reduce the likelihood of college freshmen drinking heavily once they get on campus.

The other important conversation parents need to have with their college-bound children is on creating a realistic budget before they step on campus. The first step is to determine how much money the student will have for expenses beyond tuition and room and board. The next step is to figure out what expenses are likely to be. Quite often the college will have a webpage detailing typical expenses for items such as books, snacks, supplies and recreation. This financial discussion must also include the source of the money for these expenses. Will it be from money the student has saved, a job, from parents or a combination of sources? This is also the time to discuss whether the student will have a credit or debit card and how it will be used.

Students, themselves, will be far better prepared for college if they have talked to students who are currently attending the school about items they need to bring, college activities and courses to take. They also will find it beneficial to read books about how to handle their freshman year, such as "The Naked Roommate," "The Freshman Survival Guide" and "Navigating Your Freshman Year."