10 Tips for Parents of College Freshman

10 Tips for Parents of College Freshman Stacey GustafsonLike six million other parents, my child heads off to college for the first time. She’s on her way to becoming an adult. Endless changes will bombard our kids from having a roommate for the first time to figuring out the magic behind time management. A few useful tips can aid in making the transition to college smooth and painless. However, your tears are guaranteed!

  1. Send care packages. Your kids really count on getting reminders from home. Don’t be stingy. Fill boxes with candy, cookies, letters, pictures, toiletries, and gift cards. Extra cash never hurt. This will help them feel more connected to home.
  2. Write a contract. Together set realistic academic and social goals with your student. When your child knows what is expected, it increases the opportunity for success.
  3. Set a budget together. Be clear about the portion your student will be responsible to pay for in college. For instance, parents may pay tuition and school supplies yet the student is responsible for extras, such as late night pizza and toiletries. Explain appropriate credit and debit card usage.
  4. Rent a refrigerator and microwave for the dorm room. This enables you to exchange it at the college in case of malfunction.
  5. Get to know other parents. Trade email addresses with other parents during orientation and move in day. This creates a support network exchanging thoughts, ideas, and feelings and even offering reassurance when things aren’t going well.
  6. Purchase text books in the most economical manner possible. Used books, iPad, eBooks are available for lower prices than new.
  7. Let your student be the guide regarding communication. You will hear back more often from your student if you utilize a method they prefer, such as texting, instant messaging, emailing, or actual phone calls. Find out if they would like to call once a week or text daily.
  8. Urge them to use on campus resources to problem solve. Whether it’s roommate issues, grades, or scheduling problems, remind your student to get support from resident advisors, professors, and school counselors.
  9. Encourage them to get involved. Discuss that campus activities such club or intramural sports, volunteer opportunities, and campus jobs are great ways to enjoy college life and stay balanced.
  10. Ask questions. But don’t ask too many. Listen carefully.

Children need the opportunity to make decisions on their own. It’s time. And remember that you have done a good job so far preparing them for their future. Trust them. They will surprise you.

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” ~ Frank A. Clark

Do you have any advice to offer parents of college freshman? Let’s share!

About staceygustafson


  1. Thanks Stacey! This year we have a college-bound freshman, and about 3 months before his H.S. graduation we began the “care” package as a graduation gift, which quickly morphed into a college/life starter kit. We call it “Boy-in-a-Box.”
    It has linens, toiletries, spare supplies (paper, pens, flash drives, etc.), a mini-fridge, small first aid kit, small tool kit, laundry soap, flashlight, whiteboard for dorm door, industrial strength concentrated bathroom spray (appropriately named “50 Shades of Brown”) and a box of condoms. By the time we drop him off to school it will also contain a value pack of t.p., and a case of cup-o-noodles.
    We don’t expect everything to be utilized the first quarter, we generally operate on the “better to have it and not need it, than the other way around” philosophy.
    I love the rest of your list, and am going to print it for the next family meeting.

    • staceygustafson says

      You are so sweet. Glad you enjoyed it. I have about 50 more suggestions but these were the most important. The tool kit was invaluable. And yards of command strips, the velcro type.

  2. Great post! The quote at the end says it all.

  3. Your advice is perfect, Stacey! Having been there, done that a few years ago… and getting ready to do it again… I can vouch for how important these tips are.

  4. I won’t need this list for four years, but I’m bookmarking it for when the time comes.
    Wow, I wish I’d had a microwave and fridge in my dorm room. That is an excellent idea!


  1. […] Teachers, valedictorians and school administrators spoke at your high school graduation and offered advice like go to college, get a job, work hard, pursue your dreams, and travel. This is great for most graduates but just the tip of the iceberg. Since they did not ask me to speak at commencement, now I offer graduation advice for my daughter. It includes the little stuff that people often forget to mention that makes life meaningful. […]

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