Going off to college is one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of a young adult’s life. This long-awaited goal of saving and studying for the past 18-ish years finally comes to fruition. College orientation arrives with bated breath as students get a brief glimpse into what life will be like without Mom and Dad right there in the room next door. Soon after orientation, coeds will embark on their own journey living as adults.

Beyond the campus exploration and making of new friends, lots of things remain to be done. Your child will find favorite places to grab a bite to eat, exciting spots to make memories with friends, or a quiet place to go and reflect without anyone else around. Before any of this can happen, college students need to pack up and move their lives from the comforts of home to the exciting new terrain of college.

How to Prepare for College

The college planning process begins way before move-in weekend. To get your son or daughter started off on the right foot, create a college packing list as well as a moving checklist. Sure, your student is going to need plenty of clothes, a computer, school supplies, a microwave, mini fridge, and other college necessities, but college shopping won’t be the only item on your to-do list.

Consider these vital college prep steps:

  • Verify that any financial aid is approved and locked in place. Complete any other steps to ensure tuition bills are covered.
  • Encourage your child to work and save up some spending money. College comes with known expenses, but also plenty of impromptu ones, like ski trips and 10 o’clock pizza orders. Encourage your student to work here and there over the summer to save a few bucks for these occasions.
  • Encourage your child to connect with his or her roommate. Breaking the ice before a face-to-face meeting can make things more comfortable for both students. Consider video chat, an in-person meeting, or even emails and texting.
  • Research moving companies and packing services. Depending on the university’s location, you may wish to rent a moving van or hire movers to do the job. Use caution when having delicate items packed up and transported to school.
  • Purchase or obtain boxes, bubble wrap, and other packing supplies. Label the boxes clearly and wrap anything that’s breakable.
  • Register for classes and double-check that everything is set in stone. Also buy required text books and other required supplies before classes start. Look online for used editions to save some money if desired.

Young woman and her parents carrying her things as she heads off to college

  • Choose a day planner to keep your child organized. This datebook will offer instant time management benefits—in particular, keeping track of assignments and due dates, tests, after-school activities, projects, practices, social events, and so much more.
  • Look into job opportunities with your current connections. If your child works at a retail store or chain/franchise business, look for local affiliates near the college campus.
  • Decide whether or not your college kid will be taking a car to school. Ensure the car is up-to-date on maintenance and service, inspections, and registration. Work out the particulars on securing a parking pass and following any campus parking requirements.
  • Open a bank account at a branch within walking distance of campus. Order checks and a debit card to help your son or daughter manage money properly.
  • Fill any prescriptions (inhalers, etc.) and purchase any needed health and dental items. Having these on hand before moving time can dramatically reduce stress. Pick out a plastic bin with a lock-tight lid to keep all medicines and health items safe and secure.
  • Make a dorm room checklist and start shopping. You can find plenty of online guides listing what to bring to college. Don’t forget an Ethernet cable! Get started with the shopping process early so you can find—and pack—everything your student needs ahead of time.
  • Make sure you have all the utilities hooked up. If your student is living off-campus, internet and cable TV may not come standard. Sometimes wrapped into rent and sometimes separate, other utilities like electric, gas, and water are likely to become a part of the student’s monthly budget. Ensure your child gets the best deals on technology (like internet and cable) by doing your homework before you pick a plan.
  • Pack some starter food and snacks. It helps to come prepared with some home-cooked leftovers or frozen meals as well as a few boxed or canned goods for easy microwaving.

Two young women heading to college as roommates.

Other Tips for First-Time College Students

Whether excited, nervous, or a bit of both, your student can benefit from a little extra reassurance before the drop-off date. Take the family out to lunch or dinner and make a big point to offer heartfelt encouragement and a reminder that you are only a phone call away. Keep the lines of communication as open as possible so your child feels confident and supported.

Young man in his college dorm doing homework.

Planning a family campus visit before move-in weekend can be helpful so you can scope out the area, discovering where the grocery stores, restaurants, and other hotspots are located. Help your child fill out and drop off job applications if desired or ask around about campus employment opportunities to allow for a little spending money.

After you encourage studying and good behavior, be sure to remind your freshman to enjoy his or her first year in college as it will go by very fast. Before you know it, you’ll be talking about what to do with all those college necessities over summer break!