Sending a child to college is one of the most taxing experiences you'll ever have as a parent. It's emotionally, physically and financially exhausting, and no matter how much you prepare, you'll never feel like you've done enough. It's not as simple as moving a bunch of stuff into a dorm room and calling it a day. You must prepare for the expenses and challenges you'll face when move-in day arrives.
Your college freshman will spend more time in the dorm room than anywhere else, so making the room feel as much like home as possible will make dorm life easier. Go shopping together for necessities and a few decorations to brighten up the drab dorm room walls. Encourage your son or daughter to communicate with the new roommate before heading off to school so they can figure out who's bringing what. And chatting with a new roommate in advance may make dorm life seem less intimidating.
Make sure all those great dorm room furnishings are insured. Many homeowners insurance policies cover dorm room valuables, so check with your insurance company to make sure it's part of your coverage. If your policy doesn't cover dorm rooms or if your child will be living in an off-campus apartment, look into renter's insurance. Replacing and repairing damages that were the result of a theft can cost thousands of dollars, so a little insurance goes a long way.
You can expect moving day to be an awkward, frustrating and emotional day. The best thing you can do on moving day is to be as helpful as possible without hovering. Let your child set up the dorm room, but be available to offer advice if asked. Don't make long-winded speeches about making responsible decisions over the next year - do that before moving day. Once moving day begins, it's time to get used to the idea of your child leaving the nest.
Before you leave campus, make sure any existing damages to the room are properly reported, unless you want them to show up on the tuition bill.
Choosing the correct meal plan is an important part of starting the year off right. For the first semester, get the biggest meal plan offered by the school. Having your local pizza parlor on speed-dial can be expensive and may result in more requests for financial assistance.
Money is another subject you'll have to discuss. Is your child going to work part-time, or focus on studies and getting used to college life? Will you pay off cell phone bills and car payments? Most part-time jobs pay minimum wage, which means no matter what your child decides to do, you should be prepared to help pay for monthly expenses.
It's never easy to say goodbye. But making sure your son or daughter is prepared for the first year of school will help you feel more at-ease.