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Parents, Help Your High School Senior Be Prepared to Leave For College

Letting go is hard. Particularly in today’s age of “helicopter parents” (or whatever new term has been coined this week) parents have become accustomed to planning their student’s schedules, being in constant communication, and setting the course of their everyday life. Here are a few things to think about to start the process this summer for your senior who will be leaving for college that will ultimately help both your student and yourself feel more comfortable with the future.

-Have a discussion about how you will communicate when they leave for college. Will you plan to check in on the phone or via email at a certain time each week (or for some of you, every day?). Set up a plan now that will help you feel better about staying in touch when they leave.

-Have a conversation about finances. Talk to your student about how you want to handle their bank account (are you setting one up at a bank with a branch nearby their college?) and what your expectations are for personal spending money when they are away at college.

Talk about their summer plans. The summer after high school is a tough one. The students aren’t quite off to college but also want to feel more independent now that they are done with high school. Set up expectations for how they will spend their time over the summer and create some balance for them.

– Ask them to start keeping track of their own calendar. When they get to college they are going to have to stay on top of advising appointments, class schedules, club meetings, sports practices and more. Sit down with them and show them how you usually make this work and ease them into the process and encourage them to begin scheduling their own appointments.

-Take a look at the parent or family section of the college website. Many colleges now have a parent section of their website or a specific parent office. This often contains helpful information about where to stay when you go to visit, emergency alerts, ways to get involved with a parent’s association, and more. They may also offer suggestions of things you can be doing now to prepare to let your student go.

-It may sound silly but talk to your student about what you plan to do with their room at home when they leave for school. Some students want assurance that their room (at least for the first year) won’t change and will remain a secure place for them to return to on fall or winter break.

-Make sure they are aware of resources and places to go if they need assistance. Remind them about the school’s counseling services or health services and what is covered there under their policy. Let them know that Residential Advisors are also good resources for things like roommate issues.

-Discuss a realistic packing list. Many big box stores now offer college packing lists, in fact there are even phone apps that have these. Go through them together and sort through what is necessary, what you already have, what will need to be purchased, and when things should go to school ( Maybe the skis don’t need to leave home until Thanksgiving break)

-Ask them what questions they have. Your student likely has a lot of questions on their mind at this point. Let them know you are open to talking.

Reader Interactions


  1. An excellent article, Mark. I would also add that seniors can show signs stress and anxiety in different ways. Crankiness, sullenness, withdrawal, or anger can all be symptoms and it’s best to acknowledge these feelings in a supportive way.

  2. Thanks for your amplification, Allison. You’re right that acknowledging these emotions is an important step.

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