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high school graduate hugging her dad, anticipating how to prepare for college

How To Prepare for College: 13 Ways

May 24, 2024

Tips To Help Your Child Prepare for College 

As May draws to a close, we bet your family is experiencing lots of emotions—joy, sadness, excitement, anxiousness, relief, anticipation, and more! Especially, if you and your spouse have a high school senior, this is a big time of year. You’re closing the chapter on 13 years of schooling—kindergarten through 12th grade—with all the “things”—end of year parties and award ceremonies, sports and music banquets, baccalaureate and graduation, and on, and on! It’s an amazing time. 

If your high school senior has chosen to go to college, then there are a few months standing between graduation and move in day. In these few months that are bound to fly by, how can you help your child prepare for college? 

Here’s the good news—you’ve been preparing them for 18 years! So, take some pressure off. Each time you prayed for and with your kid, you were prepping them for this new chapter. Every time you assisted your son or daughter in solving a problem, you were assisting them for their future college years. Whenever you imparted a piece of advice or wisdom, you were getting them ready for adulthood. So, you don’t need to do 18 years of work in the next four months. Instead, build on what you’ve been doing their entire childhood, and ultimately, have fun!  

Celebrate their accomplishments—and yours—by making memories you’ll cherish forever. In the meantime, if you do want practical tips, check out our 13 ways to prepare for college below. 

1. Create a Summer Bucket List 

You’re embarking on your “last” summer as a family before your high school senior jets off on their new college adventure. Make the most of this season by creating a summer bucket list! To get you started, check out our 25 summer activity ideas for families. How many can you all do between now and August? 

2. Celebrate 

Like Kool & The Gang say in their classic song, “Celebrate good times, come on!” It’s time to celebrate. When your kid asks you to get ice cream this summer, don’t hesitate—just do it! Celebrate them. Take them out to a nice dinner, plan a stellar family vacation, or get them a thoughtful gift such as a personalized blanket for their home away from home or The Five Minute Journal, a unique way for them to start and end each day in college with gratitude and reflection. 

3. Print Photos 

Spend an afternoon picking out some of your favorite family photos to print out that they can take to their dorm room and you can display around the house when they move. Pictures from graduation, this summer together, or even a favorite childhood photo. You could also schedule that family photo shoot you’ve been putting off! P.S. An instant color printer is a great gift idea, so they can print photos directly from their phone to hang in their room. 

4. Mark Important Dates 

There’s nothing worse than this season being filled with stress because an important deadline is missed, so spend a few minutes together with your child to mark down all the important dates—move in day, when to register for first semester classes, deadline for tuition, etc. In the process, you’re instilling personal responsibility while showing your interest and care in their success during this transition, too. 

5. Go Shopping for Dorm Room Essentials 

You know the essentials they’ll need like sheets and laundry detergent. But what are the things you’re not thinking of? A flashlight, a first aid kit, jumper cables, or a Sonic Alert alarm clock for the heavy sleeper? Here’s the key—make this about having fun stocking their first ever dorm room, not about stressing to get every. single. item. needed. Amazon will be there for the inevitable few items that are forgotten. 

6. Get Them Connected 

You’ve likely toured campus once or twice now, so this time, go back with a different “hat” on—the “We’re so excited for you to settle into your new home!” hat. What fun restaurants are in the area you can look forward to sharing meals together when you visit, for example? Additionally, who do you know that lives in the same city, or who do you know who knows someone who lives in the same city? Connect your son or daughter with someone you trust, who can be there for them if they get sick and don’t know what doctor to go to or if their car breaks down and they need a mechanic. Anticipate the bumps they could experience and introduce them to someone you trust, so they know they’re not alone.

high school graduate hugging her mom and dad, anticipating how to prepare for college

7. Visit Churches in the Area 

Sadly, during college, over half of young adults who grew up in the church walk away from their faith and church. Encourage your child to continue investing in their faith not just with words but with actions. Visit churches together around their new town and help them see what a good fit might be. Ask questions like, “What are you looking for in a church?” Founders Ministries and The Master’s Seminary are two good starting points with free tools to help with your search. 

8. Help Them Pack 

Don’t do it for them, but help them! After your fun shopping sprees, spend time together getting ready, physically, by packing. As you spend time logistically getting items together for their move, consider it an opportunity to be curious (number 10 on the list). 

9. Be Curious 

Show genuine interest in your kid’s transition from high school to college by asking thought-provoking questions. How can we support you physically, spiritually, and emotionally during this time? How can we specifically pray for you? What are you most excited about? What about this season is making you anxious? 

10. Set Appropriate Expectations 

Your little one is transitioning from being your “baby” to being an adult—but no matter what, you’re still their parents. This can provide some tension, so set appropriate expectations in anticipation of this dynamic. We have an additional resource, “Six Tips for Parenting Adult Children,” you might find helpful. In the meantime, begin preliminary conversations like, “How often should we be checking in with one another?”, and, “How often are you planning to come home/how often should we plan to visit you?”. 

11. Set Them up Financially 

This is a necessary follow-up conversation to number 11 regarding setting appropriate expectations. Have the needed conversations around an appropriate budget, a monthly allowance, whether they need to get a job, whether they are taking out financial aid, etc. This isn’t the most “fun” item on our checklist, but it is important. Clarity is kindness, so be clear with your young adult around the financial implications of this season.  

12. Encourage 

Your encouragement during this scary, yet exciting, transition will mean the world. Remind your kid with words, “We believe in you. We believe you’ve got what it takes. We are here for you. And we love you.” Then, encourage them with actions such as writing notes and hiding them in their sock drawer or pantry to find when unpacking and settling in. Set up a care package now to be delivered in their first month away from home. 

13. Pray for and With Them 

Quite possibly the most important way you can help prepare your child for college is to simply give this season to God. You can do everything in your might, and at the end of the day, the most reassuring part of this transition is that God already knows how this transition will unfold. So, seek Him. Pray for your young adult and pray with them, and ultimately, rest in knowing your Father is a good, loving God. 

What a wonderful time for your family. Enjoy every moment with your child, your spouse, and your entire family celebrating this achievement and launching into a brand-new, sweet season ahead!  

Learn More About the WinShape College Program

The WinShape College Program exists to glorify God by cultivating college students who will develop disciples, create community, and launch leaders.

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