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Organizing Your Teen's Move to College

Sending your teen off to college in the fall? There are a lot of things to think about before your son or daughter leaves home. A little planning and organization can go a long way to reducing the stresses the next couple of months may bring.

First of all, congratulations on your teen's college acceptance! It's a big step just choosing a college, applying, and then waiting expectantly for that college acceptance letter.

One of the things you will need to decide is whether or not your teen will be taking a vehicle to college. Some families decide it is just not cost effective to send their teen off to college with a car. It helps if your teen is going to a college where a friend or two will also be attending. If carpooling home is an option, then your teen may very well not need their own car. Some colleges also charge an additional fee for student parking. Our daughter is attending a small private college and no one from our area is attending her school, so that has made carpooling not an option. We opted to let her take a car with her so we wouldn't be constantly driving back and forth. Her college does not charge additional parking fees, so that has worked out great for us.

The summer before your teen leaves for college is a great time to go through her wardrobe and decide what she will be taking with her to college. Remember she (or you) will likely be hauling this stuff back and forth in the car, so be realistic in what she will be taking with her. This is also a great time to donate unwanted clothing to charity or consign it for some extra cash. You also need to keep in mind differences in climate. Our daughter moved from a hot, dry area to an area that is cool and rainy. She definitely needed to take a raincoat and umbrella.

Sometime during the summer your teen may be finding out who her roommate is going to be next year. This is a great time to start a relationship with the roommate-to-be. My daughter spoke to her roommate several times on the phone and emailed her back and forth before they actually met in person. When they finally did meet they felt like they already knew each other, so that made the "moving in" transition a whole lot easier for my daughter. This is also a great time to decide who will bring what. You won't need two refrigerators, telephones, etc. My daughter even shared her stereo with her roommate.

You will be receiving a suggested list of items to send to college with your teen. Again, don't take more than will fit in your don't want to have to rent a U-Haul! If you and/or your teen have a chance to visit the college before your teen moves in to the dorm, make sure to take a look at one of the dorm rooms. If you can do it during a preview day, you will be able to see one that someone is currently living in and see how it is arranged and how much room your teen will have.

If you have any questions you want to ask the college, about anything at all, don't be afraid to call or email them. I am fortunate that my daughter's college is so small that it is very easy to get a hold of them and speak to someone. In our on-campus parent briefing, they (the financial aid office especially) reminded us that they are there to help us and want to be our friends, they are not the enemy! They want our children to succeed and want to make sure our questions are answered. Make friends with will help you get a lot more sleep at night.

Keep all important dates you need to remember written on a calendar or day planner. With financial aid due dates, housing registration and deposits, visitation days, class registration, move-in day, orientations, etc., you don't want to forget anything. Write everything down.

Take advantage of visitation days, if possible. This helps your teen become accustomed to the campus and makes her transition to her new surroundings much easier. My daughter was even able to stay overnight in the dorms with a student. You can often arrange a visit even if you are not attending a scheduled visitation day.

Become familiar with hotels/motels in the area of the college if you will be visiting very often. Prices definitely vary, so call around or check online for the best prices. Make sure to make your reservations ahead of time...other college parents will be making reservations too.

One last thing to think about is sending spending money to college with your teen. Most parents agree that it is fine to send your teen some spending money, but remember they will spend as much as you send them (and then want more)! For Christmas and birthdays, family members give our daughter gift cards for clothing and Starbucks gift cards and she loves it. She doesn't need anything else anyway, where is she going to put it!?

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Rachel Paxton
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