College Tips for Parents, from Parents
Calling all parents with seniors in high school!
The next several months are going to be hard — there’s no doubt about that.
In between the frequent trips to Walmart, the registration for courses, and final visit day opportunities, you’ll want to relish all of the mundane, routine moments with your senior living under your roof. Tackling the seemingly never-ending list of to-dos while enjoying the present moment can be a tricky balance to strike, but the good news is, you’re not the first parent to ever go through this transition.
We’ve collected a number of college tips for parents who are in your very shoes — with many big changes around the bend. Parents of Grace College students — both past and present — have spoken into this unique time and offered up their best advice based on their own experience with the college transition period.
College Tips for Parents
College is a big milestone for both parent and child. While helping your son or daughter schedule classes, pack, and choose room décor, don’t forget to prepare yourself for the emotions leading up to your child’s departure. Eager anticipation and excitement can be tinged with sadness as one season comes to an end. But remember, the next chapter is just beginning! Proactively prepare your child for independence, but do not over-parent out of fear. While it can feel scary to back off and let go, empowering your child with trust, support, and confidence will help pave the way for this rite of passage. Treasure your time together over the summer, and this fall, offer your student the gift of these parting words, “We love you, we are proud of you, and we are always here for you – now go enjoy this new adventure!” Then drive home and don’t look back.
-Kimber Graves, current Grace College parent
I have three college tips for parents who are preparing for the transition.
- Take a deep breath. In these last days together, you can feel lots of stress…financial, emotional, and spiritual (have I adequately done my job in helping them love Jesus?) Don’t let that stress rob you of precious last moments together.
- Remember you are not sending your child out alone! God is still with them. Let that truth comfort you and give you peace.
- Give grace…to your child and yourself! The summer before college can be friction-filled. They are pulling away and wanting autonomy to make their own decisions and you are wanting to give good, practical advice. Clashes will happen. Show grace!
-Lisa Cowman, former Grace College parent
I would advise parents of college students to create a transition plan. It is important to evaluate how you can best support your child as they move into adulthood. For some, they need the space to explore and experience independence. Others need accountability and support from the school and at home. I had one rule for each of my four children: you must go to church weekly, so find a place that you can call home while at college.
-Bob Cowman, former Grace College parent
My college tips for parents are the following:
- Let your kid make some not-so-smart choices. Oftentimes, they learn more from their mistakes than their successes. College is the time to help students transition from being a child to adulthood.
- Pick a college that provides your student options outside of the classroom. An excellent school is located where students can earn spending money by working at local businesses or land quality internships.
- Safety is a primary concern to all parents. Choose a school with a low crime rate—a place where your student can walk on or off campus and feel safe.
- Choose a school where loving God with everything and loving others as yourself is their guiding principle.
-Matt Metzger, Grace College parent
Our Parent Council gets asked for college tips for parents quite often. Here’s what I often say:
Help them find independence. Have them do their own laundry, clean up after themselves, and make sure they know how to use the Grace college website and the apps. When your student arrives at Grace, find ways to keep your student involved with the goings-on at home. From experience, our kids like it when they come home and they aren’t out of the loop on family activities. We also keep a cubby in our hallway for each of our kids where we collect their mail and special treats I have picked up for them while they are gone. If they can’t get home too often, students always LOVE to get mail while at college. It’s special and shows them that we care. Whatever it is…finding ways to keep connected is key. Just remember that it looks different for every family.
-Christine Brown, current Grace College parent of three
*(The Brown family will be sending their sixth Lancer to Grace in the fall, and two have graduated already. Their two daughters-in-law also attended Grace.)
- Find a list of things needed for college and start collecting those items sooner rather than later. There is a lot to think about and consider.
- Plan some events that will create memorable moments with your soon-to-be college student. Make memories that you will embrace for many years to come.
- Include your son or daughter in any and all decisions related to preparing for college. The more invested your child is in the process, the better prepared they will be to leave home.
- Communicate with your admissions counselor. They can be a valuable resource for the school preparations that need to be addressed prior to arriving on campus.
- Encourage your student to complete their housing profile and preferences. Your student will want to be matched up with someone with similar interests, routines, and goals.
- Start to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for your child leaving home. Other parents who have already been through it can be a valuable resource.
-Rick Gorrell, current Grace College parent
Let them go. While remaining a solid support base, a listening ear, and a safe place, encourage them to be “all in” on campus — exploring new things, making new friendships, taking full advantage of this very unique season of life to grow in their faith, friendships and professional preparation — but most importantly, dependent on Christ.
Let them fail. Allowing your child to experience the consequences of unwise choices and take responsibility may reap future blessing for them as they transition to adulthood.
Let them change. Expect your child to change and mature, grow in their faith and wisdom. Fan into flame the gifts and desires that a new gospel-soaked environment may be spurring on within them.
-Kelly Michalski, former Grace College parent
Preparing for your child to leave the nest is not easy, but we hope these college tips for parents made you feel less alone in your fears and concerns. Remember, parents have felt the very things you are feeling for decades. At the end of the day, you can rest assured that we’re here to ensure your child thrives in college. It’s just the way we do things at Grace.
Are you a parent of a high schooler that is still searching for a college? Tim and Brenda Jank have some quality advice for the college search process from a parent’s perspective. Read about their experience and knowledge here.