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How to Help Your Child Transition to College

How to Help Your Child Transition to College

He’s not ready! We’ve not prepared him. We need more time. I recall the thoughts rushing to mind last year as my husband and I prepared to release and launch our oldest child into life’s next chapter. College stood on the horizon. Joel eyed it eagerly. His father and I waited with a mix of excitement and a solid case of the jitters.

Most, if not all, parents hope to prepare their child for a smooth transition. After all, our babies are leaving the nest, flying on their own. A foundation with Christ sets the stage for life, and it’ll help a mama breathe a bit easier when her eagle flies. But, a few steps of practical preparation support the effort as well.

Here a few ideas gathered from friends, personal successes, and “learning opportunities” after things didn’t quite go as intended. So, grab this list. Use and share it well.

  • 1. Pray

    1. Pray

    This four-letter word stands packed with a huge spiritual punch. Call prayer a best friend, a much-needed and powerful lifeline to our faithful Father.

    Pray for the transition and the release of our young adults. Pray for their decisions, friends, roommates, concentration, studies, choices, and more. Go ahead, pray one-on-one with our Father, but consider including a spouse and your son or daughter as well. Offer verbal prayers. Consider prayer via text, too. Joel and I communicated this way often – for his studies, suitemates, and even football teammates.

    2. The Friend Search

    Many new students trod onto college campuses without friends. Why not exchange honest dialogue concerning how and where to find good friends, offering warnings as well? Never underestimate the importance of friends.

    Consider clubs, Bible studies, and young adult fellowships for personal growth as well as possible friend connections. Social media offers opportunities to get to know roommates and other college freshmen before the move-in date. Encouraging your non-commuter student to remain on campus during weekends often aids in friendship forming as well.

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  • 3. Where to Worship

    3. Where to Worship

    What about Sunday worship? Where will your child attend church?

    Students living on campus face the task of finding a new church home. Why not visit the campus chapel or surrounding churches with them on one of your initial visits? A little research ahead of time, either online or in person, often offers a starting point as well.

    4. Balance the Workload

    Learning to create and navigate a healthy schedule becomes paramount during college. Let’s face it; some of us are better time-schedulers than others. Our students prove no different.

    Extra curricular activities during high school teach workload balance, as do jobs and serving opportunities. Taking college courses while still in high school helped our son “ease” into the rigors and requirements of college as well. It built his confidence. And don’t forget simple tools like planners, calendars, and the ethic of work hard then play.    

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  • 5. Learn the Basics

    5. Learn the Basics

    Does your child know how to budget for grocery runs? Can they prepare simple meals fit for a college student? Do they understand good nutritional choices? Do they know how to ask for help at a store?

    Why not allow them opportunity to checkout at the post office or grocery? Sounds simple, but loading items onto the belt, interacting with the cashier, and paying offer basic, real-life scenarios. So do buying stamps or mailing packages and aiding with household meal planning.

    6. Hello Clean Clothes

    The stories stand. College students drag those larger-than-life bags of dirty laundry home in hopes mama will make a deposit in the washing machine on their behalf. And while that’s a nice gift from time to time, why not teach our teens laundry basics?

    Teach them about cold water vs. warm, the difference between soap and fabric softener, and how to keep whites white. No more waiting for trips home to afford clean laundry.

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  • 7. Bank On It

    7. Bank On It

    Do they know the difference between savings and checking accounts? How will they grab cash when needed? What about overages and charges for ATM withdrawals or online banking?

    Help your college student transition smoothly by introducing them to banking basics. Open a local or online account during their high school years. Allow your student to become familiar with deposits, withdrawals, and other banking basics. Then, find a good fit for their freshman year, whether it’s the same account or a new one local to college, keeping in mind that mom and dad may want easy access to add a few dollars here and there.

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    8. ID Me, Please

    Call a college identification card (ID) a student’s golden ticket. They’re often required for dorm entry, library checkout, health clinic visits, and more.

    My son considered a lanyard strung around his neck a wise go-to for safely carrying college identification. Wallets work, phone cases with slots for cards do too. Have a solution ready for day one to help ease your student’s transition. After all, a simple, lost ID equates to a instant zap of a mountain of stress.

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  • 9. Make Those Appointments

    9. Make Those Appointments

    Learning when and how to make appointments eases the transition because students often find the need to meet with professors and academic advisors during their college years. Why not allow your adult high schooler the opportunity to make educational, dental, medical, or other appointments?

    Once our son turned eighteen, he attended appointments alone. I’ll be honest, the controlling mama in me wanted to jump right in and tag along, but I found Joel learned more when I simply released him. He left the house armed with insurance information and a hint of guidance. That’s it. And he survived. Mama did too.

    10. Scribble a Budget

    How nice to eat out every night, but is it financially wise? Funds often prove tight in college. Why not help your student transition with a budget?

    Many online and bookstore sources offer beneficial guidance. Sending a high schooler to the grocery with a list, budget, and $20 helps. Crunching college numbers on paper does as well.

    We made lists on our kitchen chalkboard when comparing colleges. Tuition, fees, room and board, scholarships, family and student contributions found their way to the list. These allowed Joel to see final costs for each choice and make a wiser decision. 

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  • 11. Vehicle Upkeep

    11. Vehicle Upkeep

    Many students drive vehicles, traversing a path between home and college. They gather firsthand experience with oil and coolant levels, tire pressure, and tread wear – whether they realize it or not.

    For an easier and safer transition, make certain to cover basic vehicle upkeep. Show them how to check the oil and keep an eye on coolant levels. Plop a tire gauge on a valve stem and read the results. Grab a penny to measure tread levels. Hold a discussion about the dangers of worn tread and how to add air to tires with low levels.

    12. Communication 101

    If you had told me I’d be taking screenshots of myself donning funny animal ears, I might have laughed in disbelief. But it happened.

    When my son headed to college in another state, he also headed straight to social media and me. We “chatted” daily and zipped silly screenshots back and forth across invisible wires. I grew to love this means of communication. The best part? My son and I grew closer even though miles remained between our locations.

    Along with social media, don’t forget texting, phone calls, and good old letters. After all, a little handwritten love in the mailbox chases away homesickness beautifully. 

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  • 13. Hone Those Navigational Skills

    13. Hone Those Navigational Skills

    Can your child read a map or drop a pin? Do they know how to get from point A to point B? Can they find a specific class in a new building – on time?

    Whether driving to college a few hours away or commuting to new classes, buildings, and locations closer to home, college students stand a better chance at transitioning well if they know where they’re going and how to get there. Consider allowing them to drive to the college visit or move-in day. Take a walk through the buildings, finding classrooms ahead of time. Consider sending your budding adult on errands to local areas during their high school years as well.

    14. Seek Help

    No shame rests with those asking for help. College students regularly raise a hand for assistance with academics in class, finding a specific classroom, or making appointments with tutors and professors. At times they seek the assistance of a mental or physical health provider or a library assistant. Why not encourage seeking help?

    High school classes, both traditional and college courses, set groundwork on how and when to email teachers or professors. Open dialogue when opportunity rises helps as well. Reinforce the idea of seeking help when needed.

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  • 15. Plan B, Please

    15. Plan B, Please

    Sometimes initial plans fall through or require an alternative. Don’t fear reconsidering and praying over goals and action steps.

    Sometimes a change in plans is the best plan, whether it’s a dropped class or a transfer to a new campus. Encourage students to consider wisdom and walk accordingly. 

    Kristi Woods, writer and speaker, is passionate about women walking deeper with God. She clicks words of encouragement at and is published in both Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions and Military Families as well as on Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today. Kristi, her husband, and their three children survived a nomadic, military lifestyle, and have set roots in Oklahoma. Connect with Kristi here: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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