In the United States, there are close to 20 million students attending colleges and universities. Over 16 million of these students were in undergraduate programs. If your child is about to start their undergraduate program, they could use some help on their first day of college and beyond. Follow these eight ways to send your child off the right way and guide them through their first year of college.
Encouraging, Not Discouraging
The thought of college can be intimidating. High school teachers may have tried to prepare your child for college by giving them tough coursework and intimidating them with horror stories from their time at university. The best thing to do is to encourage your kids rather than discourage them.
You can support their hopes by reminding them of the fun experiences they’ll have, such as meeting new friends and learning to live independently for the first time. Avoid overemphasizing the negative aspects, like the dangers of parties and traveling alone at night. Focusing on the positives will ease the worries for yourself as much as your child.
Moving Away From Home
When it arrives, moving day could be your kid’s first experience living away from home for an extended time. If their college is far away, your child could be gone until a holiday arrives. Living on your own for the first time can be challenging, so it’s essential to be supportive and impart wisdom. What lessons did you wish you knew when you moved out for the first time? Something is bound to come up with your kid, and they may come to you asking for help.
Providing a Good Start
Because you’ve been there and done that, a practical way to send your kid off to college is to take them shopping beforehand and help them pick out things they’ll need when they’re off by themselves. For example, the beds in their dorm may be uncomfortable, so get a mattress topper and cover. Noise-canceling headphones make studying easier in a dorm with loud roommates and neighbors. These items are just some things your kid will need for a good start in their first semester.
Picking a Major
One of your child’s most important decisions is selecting a major. This choice will impact the next four years and beyond, so talk with them and ensure they are confident in their judgment. If they are unsure what major they want, encourage your child to do research on degrees with a high success rate after graduation. A degree cannot guarantee a position after college, but picking one in a field with high demand, for example, can set them up for success.
An excellent way to make college more fun is to find ways to get involved. Your child’s college or university likely has hundreds of ways for your student to be active in the community. Joining a club may be the easiest way for them to start. College clubs cover many different niches, so there’s bound to be something they like, such as theater, sports, academics, politics, culture, religion and more. Finding like-minded people to surround themselves with is an easy way for your kid to make friends and professional connections.
Making Professional Connections
Besides the diploma, professional connections may be the most crucial part of your kid’s college experience. A network of colleagues and mentors can help them find that first job after graduation. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn are on the rise, so building those connections early and often can make a huge difference. It’s another reason you should encourage your child to join clubs and organizations like student government and student media.
One of the best learning opportunities your student can get is partaking in a study abroad trip. These programs can be a couple of weeks long, or they could be as long as a semester. Either way, they’re a magical experience for your child, especially if they haven’t had the opportunity to travel internationally. Going to other countries and immersing themselves in the culture can give them a new perspective on life and make them more well-rounded.
If you’re worried about the cost of these trips, help your child apply for scholarships. These monetary awards can come from the university itself or memorial funds specifically created to help college students study abroad. They’ll need a passport to study abroad, so get that process started early.
Caring, Not Overbearing
The last piece of advice is solely for you, the parent. Sending your kid off to college can be a bittersweet experience, especially if they’re your first bird to leave the nest. You’ve prepared your child about 18 years for this moment, so they’re ready for anything ahead of them. It’s important to find a balance between caring and overbearing.
They might not know how to do everything, but your kid is smart enough to figure it out. If they need help, you’re just a phone call or text away. You can and should check on them to see if they’re okay. Kids need encouragement, especially from the adult figures they admire most. You’ve set them up to succeed, so now you should let them spread their wings.
Making College Sound Fun
Some say college is the best four years of their lives. That may be an exaggeration, but the university experience is critical to your child’s growth into a young adult. They’ll be living independently for the first time and taking on classes, clubs and athletic games. It can sound intimidating, so you as a parent should shift your kid’s focus to the positives of college. It will be a wonderful time for them to figure out themselves and what they want in life.