Tips for parents with college-bound children

So your child is flying the nest and heading off to college. Don't fall to pieces—follow these expert tips and send your child to school with confidence.

Tips for parents with college-bound children

Don't be a helicopter parent

Parents, learn to let go. There's a new phrase circulating among college administrators: "helicopter parents." Helicopter parents swoop in whenever their kid needs a helping hand. Well, it's time to turn off the engines, Mom and Dad. Instead, follow this advice from Rodger Summers, vice president for student affairs at Binghamton University in New York State.

  1. Don't call the president of the college or university!
  2. Acknowledge your own feelings about your child leaving and address them, either on your own or with a trained therapist.
  3. Be familiar with the university resources available and where your child can get help, and where they (and you) can find answers.
  4. Keep all contact information and resource material in your night table drawer or in a central location.
  5. Support and demand degrees of independence from your student. Remember: at age 18, your student is an adult.
  6. Develop expectations for communication and talk about them before your child leaves home.
  7. Have a life of your own and recognize that others depend on you besides your first-year student.
  8. Be supportive but not "hyper" when it comes to your child's college or university life.
  9. Celebrate your accomplishments and let go!

Advise your kids to go with debit, not credit

  • A 2001 study commissioned by the federal government's Millennium Scholarship Foundation found that four out of 10 students have accumulated debt on their credit cards—with 24 percent of those carrying credit card debts up to $500, and 19 percent carrying more than $2,500.
  • Since they're likely graduating with student loans to repay, why would they also want to be saddled with credit card debt at 18 percent or higher interest? Here's an easy way to avoid it.
  • Your children need to establish credit, so go ahead and advise them to get a credit card. Have them use it once for a purchase, pay off the bill immediately and cut the card up. At the same time, have them get a debit card that looks like (but doesn't act like) a credit card. In other words, they can't spend more than they have in your account.
  • Just make sure they track their debit expenses, or they'll find themselves paying some hefty fines in overcharges to the bank.
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