Preparing for College: A Guide for Parents and Students
Preparing for College: A Guide for Parents and Students
You have prepared your child for college and your family is helping them pack as they prepare to leave. You have a solid college funding plan; your child has secured their dorm and is regularly texting their roommate. Financial aid and finances are taken care of, everything is falling into place. As you load the back of your vehicle with their clothing and other items, your family is simultaneously nervous and filled with happy anticipation. Everything seems to be set for a successful semester.
Four weeks later at your cell is blowing up with late night texts; your child is unhappy and struggling. Classes are not going especially well and the roommate is constantly inviting other students over to drink and hangout. The meal plan is terrible and your child is living on a diet of orange juice, ramen noodles, and Hot Pockets. They want to quit school and return home as soon as possible
You try to reassure your child as your mind begins to race. Hadn’t you planned everything well? Didn’t you have multiple conversations with your child about what to expect that first semester? What about the money and time you have invested, can’t they just tough it out and stay put?
Many students struggle with the college transition
Welcome to the reality of transitioning your child to college and rest assured, you are not alone.
The freshman dropout rate varies by institution, but a ballpark average is that between 25 – 30% of new students drop out by the end of the first year. A lesser known fact is that universities admit higher numbers of freshmen fully knowing that they will not complete their first full year. They admit them, sign them up for courses, let them take out loans, but they realize that a certain percentage will not return.
For those who do make it through that first year, one out of every six students ends up on academic probation. The average grade point average is under a 3.1 for public colleges and a 3.3 for private schools. That sounds fine at first glance, but quite often those students who are struggling throughout that first year do not return, regardless of their grades.
Planning for college can help your student feel comfortable at school
Why and how does this happen and how can it be avoided?
There is one major reason why we advocate planning for college earlier in high school rather than waiting. By working together to select the right fit for your child’s education, we can determine the best collegiate environment for your child to grow and flourish. We work with you on the financial aspects, but there is far more to helping your child succeed when it comes to transitioning to college.
Some considerations we consider include: is your child more comfortable in a larger classroom and social situation or is a smaller classroom setting better for them? Are they focused on attending a large school with an emphasis on sports and activities or do they prefer to be surrounded by a smaller group where they can participate in activities without feeling overwhelmed? We have to assess their goals, their personality, even their studying style as we determine the best fit for their collegiate experience.
One of the most important issues after early planning is to have realistic expectations on both sides. If you expect to send your introverted child to school suddenly expecting them to become an extrovert in college, it may not happen. It could, but there is a line between encouraging them to expand and grow and pushing them too far outside their comfort level. That is one of many things we need to determine as we begin planning.
Consider miscellaneous fees in your college funding plan
If your child is going to live on campus, this brings a whole host of important questions we need to discuss well before they leave. How often they will come home and what transportation options are available (many colleges do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus)? This can change over time, but if they are able to come home every weekend, is that good for them and enriching their college experience? And what about the meal plan? Quite often, colleges require freshmen to select one of the more expensive meal plans. Do you have a plan of what to do if your freshman dislikes the food on campus that the meal plan covers? Is the cost of laundry included in the tuition or does your child need a ready supply of change for laundry expenses? Will your child purchase or rent books? Do they have access to computer labs that are open more than they are closed or do they need a laptop or tablet? It is a lot to consider.
Whether or not your child is living on campus or commuting, there are a number of challenges they face. Many college students feel homesick during their first year if they live on campus; have you worked with them to create a plan to deal with this in a way that helps them with that while also assisting them to find positive social outlets? Even if they commute, students can find the change in the type of homework, testing, even the lecture style of professors difficult. Is your child heading to college with an understanding that it will differ greatly from their education thus far? Are they fully aware of all the resources available to them on campus, from their RA to tutors, academic advisors, counselors, and medical professionals?
Let Melissa Cox CFP® and Cox Collegiate Planners help you create a comprehensive college plan.
There is so much to consider! Just know that you are not alone in this. Here at Cox Collegiate Financial we do more than help you plan the financial aspects of college; we view students and their families individually and holistically. We will work together with you to assess the best option for your child. Think of it as planning finances and beyond; because a happy college student means that they will derive the most from their college experience. And knowing that, you will rest easy.
Together, we can do this and I look forward to meeting with you to create a comprehensive college plan for your family's future.
Melissa Anne Cox CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ is also a College Funding and Student Loan Advisor, and Financial Coach in Dallas, Texas.