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Feel Less Stressed: Every Parent’s Pre-College Checklist

The summer before your teen heads off to college might feel like it’s a jumble of things you’ve got to get done ASAP. And, if we’re being honest, it is. But we’re here to help you make sense of that big to-do list and organize it into digestible chunks you can knock out with getting too stressed. Let’s get started.


Download a PDF copy of our checklist


Fill out any required forms and documents.

We know—the paperwork seems endless. Staying on top of it and not letting it pile up is going to be your best line of defense so you don’t start feeling overwhelmed. The two major things you’ve got to make sure get submitted are your student’s final high school transcript and proof of graduation. After that, keep an eye out for last-minute documents from the college, such as housing forms and financial aid or scholarship forms.


Make your teen’s health a priority.

There are few things you’ll need to cover under this category. The first is health insurance. Talk to your student about theirs, and go over any student health plans the college might provide. You’ll also need to make sure your student’s immunization forms are filled out and submitted. This is also a good time to go over how to make healthy food choices, exercising, and consent. If you haven’t already talked about drugs and alcohol, make sure to do it before they leave.


Prepare for any upcoming payments.

Each school handles this differently, but you’ll likely have housing or tuition payments that will need to be made the summer before classes begin.


Apply for any last-minute scholarships.

It’s never too late to try for more money! Most students will stop applying for scholarships long before the summer after high school graduation, but there are still opportunities to apply.


Talk about money.

Talk to your student about spending responsibly, budgeting, and saving. Tell them what you will pay for, and what you will not pay for. They should head off to college with a clear understanding of how they’re expected to use their money.


Prepare for the big drop-off.

Depending on where your teen is attending school, getting them (and all of their stuff) there might be a big to-do that requires some coordination and planning. Get all of that squared away early so you can both focus on the fun parts of preparing for the move!


Encourage your teen to connect with his or her roommate.

Your teen will likely have one or more roommates if they’re planning to live in college housing. Make sure they’re reaching out to their new roommate and making introductions beforehand so the adjustment to living together isn’t as bumpy.


Check their key life skills.

We already mentioned the importance of budgeting and saving money, but there are a few other life skills your teen should have a good grasp on before transitioning to living on their own. That includes cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and more. The summer before they head off to school is a great time to make sure they can handle all of those.


Plan for parents’ weekend (if you’re attending) and stay up to date with the school.

If you plan to attend parents’ weekend, plan for it early! Book your hotel room as soon as possible, because they’ll fill up fast. You can also check out the parent programs the school has available so you’re always aware of the big things happening on campus.


Figure out communication.

You’re about to go from seeing your teen every day to not at all. That can be a big shock for both of you, so talk to your teen about how and when you’ll communicate with them.


The Big Financial Takeaways

We’ve touched on a lot of important points you should keep in mind before your teen heads off to college, but we want to touch on the financial factors one more time. Making sure they’re all squared away can take a lot of weight off your shoulders, so:

  • Check and double-check that you’ve submitted all financial aid, scholarship, grant, and student loan forms to the college’s financial aid office.
  • Talk to your student about health insurance, copays, deductibles, and other medical expenses they might face while at school.
  • Have a conversation about money and make sure your student has a good grasp on how to budget, save, and spend responsibly.
  • Prepare for upcoming expenses, such as student housing, tuition, course materials, and even other supplies, such as personal computers.
  • Keep an eye out for new scholarships and grants. They aren’t just for rising college students—those already enrolled are often allowed to apply and will have access to student aid specifically created for currently enrolled students.

And there you go. We hope this list helped you feel a bit more prepared for when your teen heads off to college for the first time this fall. A little stress is normal—this is a big life change coming up, after all—but a little planning and organizing can go a long way toward helping you feel a bit more secure.


Download a PDF copy of our checklist


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