5 of My Favorite Tips for Preparing Your Child for College

I graduated from Riverwood High School in 1981. In September, our family drove, in my parent’s station wagon (wood paneling and all), from Atlanta, Georgia to College Park, Maryland. The car was packed with all the items that we felt were needed to start my first year in college. We did not have cellphones, Bed Bath & Beyond or Social Media. We arrived at the Holiday Inn, totally exhausted from the trip and decided to park under a light post for the night and unloaded our overnight bags.

The next morning, as you can imagine, we were filled with a million feelings. My parents were nervous to leave me at school, my sister was probably watching with eyes wide open, and I was not 100% sure of what I was getting into but was not turning back. As we approached the car… See the end of the blog for “the rest of the story”.

As a mom of three children – two of which have completed college and one is entering her senior year of high school, I thought it would be fun to offer some of my favorite tips for those parents getting the recent grads ready for college. Here goes:

  1. Move In Day – Each school has different processes and procedures for moving into the dorm. Ask a ton of questions! Maybe you will get specific instructions from the school, but still be prepared. It can be very hot, require multiple trips back and forth to the car as well as long lines for the elevators. Pack in boxes that you can carry in case you have to walk up multiple flights of stairs (one year the elevators were broken) and rent your own “dolly” to avoid waiting for the school provided ones.  If you are flying and planning to reserve what you need ahead of time, make sure to arrive well ahead of the crowds. The stores will sell out of the popular items. Depending on where you are going, sometimes multiple schools start at the same time, so you are competing with not only your school but others in the area as well..
  1. Bring Cleaning Supplies & Basic Handy tools – The dorm room will need a once over. Leave a small supply of cleaning items for your child to use since most dorm rooms are only cleaned at move in and move out. Bathrooms are usually cleaned frequently unless it’s in your room. Also, you may need some basic tools for hanging pictures (Commando Hooks are amazing), screwdrivers, and other tools.
  1. Healthy Living Discussion – It’s so easy to monitor your child’s health when they are home with you. College is a leap of faith for everyone - living on their own with so many temptations and new situations. We can only trust that we have done our best job and trust our children to make good decisions. I believe it is worthwhile to review the following:
    • Good Sleep7-9 hours of sleep a night is important for repairing and restoring your body. It helps with your immune system especially living with so many new people.
    • Hydration Purchase a couple of reusable water bottles for your student to use during the day. Staying hydrated is a key component to healthy living. Also, stress that too much caffeine can inhibit sleep as well as impact digestion.
    • Nutrition Luckily for most students, the dining halls are equipped with many healthy options. Taking advantage of these is another story. Late night pizza runs and snacking in the dorm room are all a part of the fun. Moms and Dads - it’s out of our control, but one idea to help keep the gut healthy is to suggest to your child to take a daily Probiotic – start now with this healthy habit. The health of the gut impacts your entire body. I am happy to share what I use.
    • Exercise Schools recognize the need for their students to be healthy and have invested in some amazing facilities. Take time to explore and look at it with your student. Go to locker rooms as well. You might need your own lock, towels and other items. Set her/him up for success!
    • Health Center Take a trip with your child to the Health Center. Save the number in their cellphone as well as yours. You might need to jump in an advocate for your child at some point.

There will be a time that they need to visit for one reason or another – some schools require an appointment, and some don’t. Make sure they are familiar with the rules.

If your child takes regular medication, learn how refills work. Some medications cannot be delivered to dorms or there may be specific rules. Maybe the campus has a pharmacy or there is a store nearby. Clear this up before you leave.

    • Pack a Small Supply of Cold Meds – While this may seem obvious, put together a kit of the basics for your student so they do not have to search for the items when they aren’t 100%. Tea bags, honey and cup of soup may be some nice additions to this kit!
  1. Own Credit Card?  - I remember when I went to college and got my first ATM card. Do you? My dad was quick to remind me that there had to be money in the account to use the card. Funny how things have changed. Depending on your situation, college may be a great time to begin to establish credit. Credit card companies cannot bombard students with enticing offers any longer, but you know your child, your situation, and something to consider.
  2. Renters Insurance - Students living on campus usually aren’t worried about renter’s insurance because their parents’ homeowner’s policy will normally cover any loss or damage to personal items. See if your policy has “off-premise coverage.” Just a precaution in case your child’s stuff goes missing.

If you have made it this far in the blog, here is the rest of my story.

Yes, overnight, most of my personal belongings were stolen. No need to give you the details of what transpired next, while in a new city, preparing to meet 2 complete strangers to live with for the next year, and trying my best to show my parents that I could handle going to college so very far from home, I was devastated inside. The pictures of my family, friends and other personal mementos were gone. I loved belts back then and still miss them!  I believe, to this day, that I never really get attached to “things” as a result of this experience. Life is funny!

The story does not end here, my parents took me into Washington, D.C. and we began over. Turns out shopping in D.C. and the Georgetown area was quite nice. All settled and tears wiped clean, I began my college days.

I spend two years at the University of Maryland and then transferred to University of Georgia to complete my BAA degree in Management Information Systems.

My Bonus Tip - Don’t Leave Your Stuff in Your Car Overnight!



Please email me your comments and tips to alison@alisonandco.com

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