Dropping off your student at college can be a stressful time for many parents. It’s hard to know what your student wants. I know that parents struggle to figure out how they can help and be supportive, while also giving their student the space to be independent.
Parents can find a balance between helping and overstepping at college drop off
Before drop off
- Help your student make a checklist
- If your student wants your help, help them make a checklist of everything they need to pack for college.
- Help to ensure they do not forget anything important and have the essentials including things that might be easy to forget such as medicines, etc.
- Don’t create the checklist for them though, just help remind them of things they may be missing from the checklist
- Assist in packing
- You might think it’s time to let your student do all the packing, but if you make it fun, we’d love your help! It will help take our stress down a notch or two. (Audrey Redell, senior at Arizona State University)
- Teach life skills
- Teach your kid how to be independent with activities like laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking. Essentially, it is important that your child knows basic life skills for living on their own, since most high schools no longer teach home economics classes. (Irene Chen, senior at University of California, Santa Barbara)
- Don’t embarrass your student
- Don’t ask the resident assistant a million questions
- Don’t be overly loud when talking
- Offer to make a grocery store run
- We welcome a stocked refrigerator and lots of snacks
- Invite your student to go with you, or they may prefer you to go on your own while they start to settle in (Rebecca Li, senior at University of California, Berkeley)
- Invite your student for lunch or dinner before leaving
- It is very comforting to go out for lunch as a family after getting the dorm set up so the student feels comfortable in the college town. (Rebecca Li, senior at University of California, Berkeley)
- Listen to your student
- Pay attention to what your student says they want. Don’t always follow what other people are doing, because everyone is different.
- Your student might want help unpacking and decorating, but it’s also possible that they want to do it all themselves. Follow their lead.
- The point above recommends inviting your student to lunch or dinner. But don’t be offended if they decline and ask you to leave. Some kids will want to jump into the college culture because this is a new chapter of their life and something they have probably been looking forward to for a while.
- Don’t be overbearing
- Be there to help with whatever is needed and let your student decide how much of the move in process you will be involved in.
- Let your student direct you; don’t keep offering to do things as that can be stressful. (Mitchell Drysdale, recent graduate, North Carolina State University)
- Let your student do the talking
- Many parents will try to make friends for their student. Let your student introduce themselves to the other kids in their dorm. Don’t talk for your student or talk over them; let your student carry the conversation with other students they are meeting for the first time.
- Don’t go into other rooms and introduce your student to others (refer to the point above: don’t embarrass your student!)
- Leave a note and/or fun gift for your student to find after you leave
- It’s so nice to find an unexpected note or gift in a desk drawer, dresser, or refrigerator after the family leaves!