Thinking of a Gap Year? Here’s What You Need to Know

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The Royals do it. Malia Obama did it. Why not you? Gap years, or a delay in starting college, is becoming more and more trendy. But what is a gap year, and should you take one? We break it down to help you make this difficult decision.

What is a Gap Year?

Gap years are defined as a literal gap between high school and college. For most US high schoolers, summer break is all you get between graduation and college orientation. But across the pond, where gap years are common, it’s usually a 1-2 year period “off.”

What you do with your gap year is up to you. Some people decide to work full-time while others relax. Traditionally, gap years are spent volunteering and traveling. Whatever you decide, your time off should be beneficial to you and your reason why.

Reasons to NOT Take a Gap Year

Sounds great, right? A full year break from school may seem like a dream scenario, but there are some pretty big cons you need to consider. Here’s why you shouldn’t go for a gap year:

You’re Interested in a Competitive Program

Harvard doesn’t wait for just anyone. Even though Malia Obama was able to defer her entrance into the top college in the United States doesn’t mean you’ll get the same kind of offer. Deferring your start in an ivy league school or a competitive college program could mean losing your spot altogether. Is the risk worth it? That’s up to you and your future school.

Money’s Tight

Unless you plan on working during your gap, you better have the money to cash flow it. Whether you are planning on traveling or volunteering, all of that will cost you probably the equivalent of a year of your college tuition.

Your Family Isn’t On Board

While not completely necessary, not having the support of your family could ruin your time off — especially if you plan on crashing with them. Selling more traditional parents on gap year could be trickier than you think.

Reasons TO Take a Gap Year

On the other hand, all the risks you take may be worth it. Maybe these reasons can make your decision easier.

High School Was Stressful

If you were a ball of stress and anxiety in high school, a gap year might get you back on the right foot. A year off to explore your interests, find yourself, and could help you better prepare mentally and emotionally for college.

Money’s Tight

While we talked about money being a potential issue, if you plan on working during your year off, a gap could be in your favor. A year’s worth of work could get you the work experience you need and help you save for future tuition costs.

You’ve Got a Heart for Service

If you want to make a difference in the world, you don’t need to wait until college ends. There are many programs out there that will take those 18 and over and help them find their place in the world. You may build homes, serve in disaster areas, teach English abroad, etc. Whatever you decide, you’ll make the most of your time away from school.

Taking a gap year can greatly benefit those that use it to their advantage. It is important to discuss your options with your parents or guardians before making such a decision. But, if you feel it is right for you, dive in head first and enjoy everything that a gap year has to offer!

How to Actually Fundraise in College

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You’re hopefully back in the swing of classes, although summer vacation could not come soon enough. But it’s far from time to check out. If you’re intent on building your resume, you’re working hard at your classes as well as some extracurricular activities. But one of the hardest parts of staying active in clubs and groups throughout college is the constant pressure to fundraise.

College students aren’t exactly known for their expendable income, since paying for school itself is often a struggle. So you and your group members might not have enough to donate yourselves. Instead, you’ll have to get other people to part with their money, so you can keep playing lacrosse, raising awareness about local policy, educating disadvantaged kids, or whatever else you think will help you later on. Question is, how can you best fundraise in a college town?

Know Your Target

Ask yourself: who is most likely to support your cause?

Students might have little cash to spare, but they also probably have more school spirit than anyone else nearby. If you want to target students, you’ll have to give them some sort of tangible return for their support. Some kids might be willing to part with a couple extra bucks for nothing but a fuzzy feeling, but most college kids will respond best to food. Popcorn, pizza, or anything that you can make it bulk cheap is a good way to go here.

However, if you’re looking to solicit community involvement as well, then you might need to up the stakes. Adults in the community might feel a certain sense of pride about the school, but they’re less impressed by dollar pizza slices than your average sophomore. Consider their political leanings; if you’ve got a lot of concerned environmentalists in your town, try a green fundraiser. If there is a strong arts presence, consider classing up your fundraising.

Quantity or Quality?

When considering your fundraising scheme, consider if you’re aiming for quantity or quality. Are you trying to get a lot of little donations or several larger ones? The latter will require more effort on your part, but the payout for your organization could be great.

Here are a few “quantity” based ideas:

  • Have a bake sale. Consider some easy recipes like pancakes, cookies, or hot cocoa!
  • Create a GoFundMe account. This is a great way to get people from even outside your community to donate, like faraway relatives, but don’t rely too heavily on this one option.
  • Ask your school if you can sell concessions at upcoming games.

And a few “quality” ideas as well:

  • Ask a local business for support. Even if you can’t secure a one-time donation, you might be able to convince them to donate a percentage of their sales as long as it’s a worthy cause. Lots of business do just that to help fundraise for pets, world hunger, and literacy programs. Your club can do that too!
  • Hold a dance! Social events are always appreciated on campuses. You can go for casual or formal, but college kids rarely get the chance to dress up, so you might have an easier time with formal.
  • Offer your services to the community. As a group, all go rake someone’s leaves, mow their lawns, fix their plumbing, whatever it may be. With so many of you, the job can get done in a few hours max.

These ideas will vary depending on your fundraising goals and how many people you have involved, but they’re a good place to start.

Consider Teaming Up

On college campuses, there are a lot of involved young people. Many are trying to make a significant change in their community, and there is no reason you both can’t help each other out.

If you’re part of a gender-divided sports team, consider asking the other side if they want to team up. If you’re an environmental group, there’s probably another one on campus that could use some money as well. Greek houses are always trying to fundraise, so make sure to pick their brains! They’ve got to be experts by now. Sometimes, two minds are better than one.

Of course, the returns on this strategy diminish the bigger the other group is. If they help out a lot, the other group might want more of the money than you’re prepared to give up. But you shouldn’t dismiss this option right away; give it some serious thought.

Fundraising is always a surprise, especially in a place as unpredictable as a college campus. You never know who is going to feel school-spirited or giving that day. The best you can do is approach this problem as a unit and commit to putting your all in it. Because if you’re not going to fight for your club, who is?

Building Your Resume

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Resume under the magnifying glass

Maybe you’ve got big plans to do a summer internship, or perhaps you’re hoping to bring in a paycheck over the summer. Either way, you’re going to need a new resume. We’re here to help! Here’s how you can build your first resume from top to bottom!

Resumes 101

Before you get started, you should know that your resume should be a full page long. No big gaps. If you’ve got lots of relevant work experience, you may use a second full page, but never go over that page limit.

Your resume should also be basic. Think normal fonts and black. While it may be tempting to make it unique, most businesses now use a tool that scans your resume for your qualifications. Text boxes, images, graphs, etc. will make it impossible for your resume to be read by most programs.

Before you send it out, make an appointment with your college’s career or writing center for editing help.

The Intro

In your header, you’ll want your name in big, bold letters. Underneath, place your contact information. This is key to getting your name out there.

education is one of the most important parts of a resume

The Education

You’re in school, and you’ll want to show off those credentials. Always list your college, degree, dates of attendance, anticipated graduation date. You may also want to include any accomplishments, awards, professional organizations, leadership roles, etc. Use bullets to separate lines.

USA College                                                                                                           09/2014-05/2018

Anticipated Bachelors of Arts in Art History

  • Director of campus radio station
  • Member of Kappa Kappa

The Experience

If you’ve had or have a job, this should be easy. You’ll list out your 4 to 5 most recent jobs from most recent to oldest. It should also list the name of the job, the position title, the dates you worked, and experience.

When talking about your experience, you’ll want a list of action words in past tense to describe what you did. Be specific as possible, and use numbers when you can. Stick to 3-5 bullets per job.

123 Shop                                                                                                                 10/2015-present

Cashier and Showroom Attendant

  • Attended cash register at busy, upscale clothing store.
  • Organized and maintained shop’s racks and shelves and helped create seasonal front-of-store displays.
  • Trained in customer service protocols and appointed store closer and opener.

The Alternatives

If you have never had a real job, don’t fret! You can list experiences like internships, volunteering, campus leadership roles, and summer jobs (like babysitting or mowing grass). The trick is making it as relevant as possible. Pick experiences that make you sound like a leader or someone with a unique background. List it out just as you would a job.

graduation diploma and cords

The Extras

After your experience, you might also want to make a section for any awards, honors, volunteer roles, special training, or skills. This is a great time to look over the job posting and customize it to what they want. For example, if they want a bilingual speaker, use a “Skill” section to say that you speak Spanish fluently or that you volunteered to translate at your church.

The section is optional, but it makes a great filler if you need to get to the end of the page. It also shows off who you are, and what you can bring to the table.

How to Begin the Job Hunt if You Are Graduating

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Students throwing caps in the air at graduation

With only one semester left, college seniors, it’s time to start thinking of the big question, “What comes next?” For the majority of us graduating, that means starting our first real job hunt. Whether you’re a total newbie with no experience or you’re looking to transition to a six-figure career, here’s what you need to do when you’re searching for the perfect post-graduation position.

Consult Your Career Services Office

Most colleges have some career services offerings out there, and you may be surprised at what they can offer you! To start with, they can help you narrow down your job search and find the niche you’re made to be in. Then, they can help tailor your applications so that you stand out. And when you’re given a position, they’ll be there to do mock practices or offer feedback. And, believe it or not, a great career office will even help you negotiate your first salary!

a monthly planner

Set Up a Calendar

Another fun fact about the career services office is that they often hold events just for upperclassman on the job hunt. It may span from low-key, one-on-one meetings with hiring managers to large-scale job fairs that attract hundreds of businesses. If your college doesn’t offer these, check your community or look at professional trade organizations for similar events.

Update and Edit Your Materials

Your resume is the most important weapon in your job application arsenal. It should be continuously updated and crafted to meet your industry’s standards. You’ll also want to do make sure your reference list is current and that everyone you may use is aware your name is going out there. Finally, practice writing out a cover letter that is both interesting and easy to tailor to the job you’re applying for. When you’re done with the first draft, edit and edit again until it’s perfect.

a professional business card

Stock Up on Thank You Notes and Business Cards

It’s the little things that matter when you are putting yourself out there. While email thank you notes are sufficient, you may also want to bring out an old-school technique of a handwritten card sent to your interviewer. Business cards have the same effect, especially if you’ve got them ready to go at a networking event. The bonus is that both thank you and business cards are cheap, easy to make, and always handy — even after you’ve landed your big break.

Tailor Your Interview Suit

The perfect look is essential. That means everything you wear to your interview needs to be made for you. This is the one area where we don’t recommend skimping on price. Grab the best looking suit in neutral colors and have it professionally tailored so that it fits your body like it was made for you. Add shined shoes, toned down makeup, and thoughtful accessories, and you’ve got a complete look that’s ready to wow your interviewers.

Your final semester is an important one. It’s time to reflect and to look ahead. When you’re ready to rock your job search, getting your affairs in order is a must. From creating an eye-catching resume to settling on your professional look, you can get ahead by starting now.

Parents Corner: Care Packages Can Be The Morale Boost Needed For Finals

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Exam Survival care package from OCM

It’s that time of year again: finals season. You probably know this from conversations with your student(s) about due dates and paper lengths. They may be stressed because of course exams and lab reports all piling up. Finals can be challenging for even the toughest students so why not send them a little boost of support and love during this trying time? Here’s why care packages are the best ways to show them you believe in them.

They’ll Need Some Luxury

Getting through finals week is like surviving a train wreck. You’re tired, living in the library, and running on precious little sleep. There is nothing luxurious about that kind of life. But receiving some upgraded chocolates and treats in a care package is! With a care package full of scrumptious snack mixes and Belgian chocolate, your student will feel they earned that time out from the chaos to sit back and enjoy the finer things in life.

They’ll Need Fuel to Power Through

Taking final exams and writing those last papers before the end of the semester is a little like running your first marathon. Every mile gets tougher along the way. But it’s so worth it in the end. Sending a fitness buff some of their favorite pre- and post-workout eats is a good reminder that fueling up for the work is important.

They’ll Want a Little Laugh

Waking up to a package full of snacks is always a good surprise. Waking up to a package full of your favorite treats, delivered in a cute “survival tube,” and sent with an encouraging note is a whole other story! Going big with a survival kit of classic candy will bring a smile to their face and a pep in their steps.

They’ll Want a Break Time Reminder

With no time to spare, taking some time for yourself is nearly impossible during the final weeks of classes. As parents, you’ll want to remind your student that a little peace and quiet can go a long way. With a sunny and sweet care package complete with hot drinks, fruit, and snacks, you can’t go wrong! They’ll thank you for the best break ever.

They’ll Want to Share With Friends

Study groups, roommates, teammates, and more… your student is probably not studying all by themselves! With deluxe care packages, you can send more than just a single serving of chips and candy. Instead, go big with treats they can share with the entire team (and more). Imagine being the friend who brings in the two dozen gourmet cookie tray!

They’ll Need to Stay Healthy

Unfortunately, the fall semester comes at a bad time to be unhealthy. Not only is it cold, dry, and bleak in most of the country, but it’s also prime cold and flu season! To beat off sickness, conquer the seasonal blues, and stay in peak physical health, you may want to steer away from giving candy and treats and instead go for something more seasonal. A healthy blend of munchies, soups, and hot drinks is the perfect care package combo.

Parent’s Corner: Thanksgiving Break

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University campus on break

We have a lot to be thankful for this season — but nothing greater than for college-aged children coming home. Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to check in on college freshman. From gauging how they’re doing mentally or working out a plan on how to get them through the end of the semester, here’s how you can open up lines of communication, watch for any red flags, and help your freshman succeed.

Before the Break Starts

One of the worst mistakes you can make as a parent is to put too much pressure on your student before they’ve even left for home. Sure, you want to remind them to pack a sweater or try to convince them that flying is better than driving. But by nagging or upping their anxiety, they’ll look less forward to being with you.

Instead, try to remember that their break is meant to be a relaxing, easy going time. As adults, they should be allowed to make their own decisions, including mistakes. Let them lead the ship.

Upon Arrival

Depending on how far they have traveled, the first night may not be the best to judge their mental state or have a heart-to-heart. Allow the first day to be a quiet time. On the second day (or after they’ve settled in), ask them open-ended, nonjudgmental questions about school. For example: “You mentioned you have a tough schedule coming up next semester. What classes are you excited for?”

It can be tempting to slip in a few, “When I was in college…” stories, but for the most part, those are probably not helpful. Instead, practice active and patient listening skills. Talk less than them, use shorter sentences when they are replying, and allow them to vent or talk out a problem.

When Celebrating

Every student is different, but many freshmen are more humble about their accomplishments than their parents. Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family isn’t the time to shout out their great GPA or that they joined a sorority. Let them share the good news themselves!

In addition, don’t be offended if they’ve become guarded or want to keep holidays simple and small. Be open to changing plans.

parents enjoying time with their child over break

Before Heading Back to School

This is when red flags usually pop up. If a student talks about not wanting to go back, you know it might be time for a heart-to-heart or even an intervention. But more subtle signs that your student might be anxious include avoiding discussing next semester plans, asking for money, evading questions about their social life, or feeling a drastic shift in personality.

As parents of an adult, you can’t force your college student into any decision — even if the decision is in their best interest. However, you can offer your support and love. If your child does express fears that college isn’t working for them, listen without losing your temper. Sometimes all they need is a springboard. Other times, they want a person to tell them that they are there for them no matter the outcome. Luckily, if you have this talk before they leave, you can work out a game plan for the rest of the semester.

Once They’ve Returned

Even if you didn’t see any potential issues in your child, use post-break upswings in a mood to establish a connection when they’re on campus. Set up a calling schedule, send a care package or gift, and check in on details they discussed with (such as a professor they dislike or an internship they were applying to). They’ll love knowing you were listening to them just as much you’ll love that they opened up to you.

Parents Corner- How Often You Should Check-In

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College Student stressed over textbook

Sending your child off to college can be an emotional time for everyone involved. As a parent, it can be especially hard to get into a routine of not having the student around. Setting boundaries and establishing rituals is important in maintaining healthy relationships with college-aged kids. Here’s how you can determine how often you should check in based on your student’s personality or situation.

The Homesickness Factor

One of the most normal phases of freshman year is going through some periods of homesickness. Even the toughest, adventurous, or independent students may go through this when first moving into dorms. Being in a stressful environment or having a lack of familial support only exaggerates it.

If your child is showing signs of homesickness, it may be tempting to increase your contact or encourage them to come home. However, it can harm the student if you tell them that you miss them, increase your phone calls, or pressure them to visit in order to feel better. Instead, ease back, encourage them to get out, and praise them when they find something new to love about living on their own. Set up weekly calls instead of nightly, and help them book one trip home soon so they have something to look forward to.

The Close-to-Homebody

When we think of living on campus, we think of living more than a few hours away from home. Today, however, many students choose to live in dorms not far from where they grew up which can make it hard to determine how often parents should initiate calls or visits.

For homebodies who frequently visit, making calls short and to-the-point will help establish boundaries. You want the student to be independent (and do their own laundry), so over communicating can make them feel like they’ve never left. And it can encourage them to treat dorm life like they are commuting instead of living on their own.

The Long-Distance Students

One of the trickier parent-student situations is when a child decides to live on campus hours away from parents. In this case, it can be terrifying to ease back and let a student be on their own without checking in often.

In this case, it’s important to be honest and have a conversation early on what your student wants and what you expect in terms of them reaching out to you. Depending on your situation (such as if you’re paying their tuition or not), you may be able to call the shots. But as parents of adults, it’s important to remember that your student may not be on board with daily phone calls and video chats. Instead, ask them what they feel is appropriate and find common ground. Same goes for visits.

The Solo Student 

A student who goes dark can be scary for parents. When you don’t know what they are doing or how they are feeling, it can be difficult to adjust to the new norm. But in many cases, a student wanting space is demonstrating to themselves and you that they are setting boundaries.

Using the same advice for long distance students, open the conversation. Ask them how much is too much when it comes to calls or texts. Ask if they prefer one way of getting a hold of them over the other. Suggest a code word for emergencies or a set day to have a check-in chat. They’ll love that you are respecting their wishes and you’ll feel better having a set routine to follow.

Setting a Budget for the Remainder of Your College Career

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counting quarters when budgeting

Welcome to adulting! It seems fun at first, but it’s also pretty risky. There’s a lot that can go wrong — especially with your money while you’re in college. The best way to protect yourself from debt or pesky fees is to set up a budget.

Here’s how you can make the best one possible in just a few easy steps:

  1. Gather Your Supplies

Before you get started, you’ll need your paperwork. Get a hold of a copy of every bill you pay regularly. Some frequent ones include your car insurance, phone, credit card, medical bills, debt to your parents, gym membership, Netflix subscription, etc. If you live in an apartment, bills would include your rent and utilities.

2. Categorize Everything

Then, if you use a debit or credit card, look at your complete spending statements from last month. Write it all down or print it out so you can categorize it. Our most common categories include Housing, Phone/Cable/Internet, Transportation, Food, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Insurance, Debt. Giving, and Savings.

Take those receipts or statements from your bank and start to give everything you spent a category. Eating out goes in Entertainment. The shoes you bought is classified as Lifestyle. Your credit card bill is in Debts. Do this until you’ve got a full picture of every dollar you’ve spent over the last month.

making a budget spreadsheet

3. Look at Your Income

Next, look at your paychecks, as well as any extra regular money you make from side jobs like babysitting or allowances from your parents. This is defined as income. If it’s not steady (say you work hourly or get tips), round down an average to be safe.

Compare your income and your total spend from last month. Does it cover your bills? If yes, then you’re doing great and proceed to step five. If not, move on to step four.

4. Get a Reality Check

Overspending in college is a huge issue and we rarely fail to see it until it’s too late and we’re short on cash. Now that you know you’re in the red, you need to act. Go back to those categories and see what you can cut. You can probably do without daily coffee or another new outfit in your closet every single month.

For example, if you’re consistently short $100, take $10 off of each category or cut out your shopping habit altogether. Can’t cut anything? Time to make more money with a side job or extra hours!

5. Give Yourself an Allowance

One great way to keep yourself within your budget is to ditch the cards and go cash only. I know — crazy! But it works, especially for overspenders! Having cash will make you think twice about those splurge night outs. And it will help you visualize your money. Use envelopes, clips, or even dividers in your wallet for your categories.

If you’re not comfortable carrying large amounts of cash, you can set up checking bank accounts or a reloadable Visa gift card for your big spend items (like eating out or shopping).

Start saving, even if it is just a piggybank!

6. Be Wise With the Extra

Now is the time to pay down your student loans. If you pay while you’re in college, even a small amount monthly, you’ll save HUGE on the amount owed when you graduate. No student loans? Get investing! Open a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA and save for retirement. Or open a traditional savings account and save for that future expense like a new car or your study abroad. When you know how to budget, you can afford to treat yourself.

Taking the initiative to establish a budget while still in college is one of the most important money-conscious actions that you can take. If you can abide by a stricter budget while in college, it will be a breeze post-graduation. Not only will you feel like a million bucks by having your finances under control, you will be well on your way to saving that million!

Managing Finances in College (Plus, Win $1000!)

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Money. There’s a good chance that, if you’re in college, you don’t have much of it, and you probably don’t have much experience managing what you do have. Whatever your financial situation, college is the perfect time to learn the basics of budgeting, saving, and investing for your future. Here are some steps you absolutely must take to manage your finances. Read on, and learn how you could win $1,000 through OCM’s Room Goals contest!

 

Keep School Costs Down

Did you know that the average student graduates with over $37,000 worth of student loan debt? That’s a year’s worth of salary for entry-level workers. Incredibly, it can take ten, twenty, or even thirty years to pay it all back — especially if you’ve got high interest rates.

Though your debt could end up being much less — or much more — there’s one step you should consider taking now: Pay something towards your loans every month! It could be a few bucks a month or a couple hundred when you get it.

Though it may seem like a waste of money to start paying before you actually receive your first bill, it’s actually a very smart idea. By starting your payback now, you can significantly lessen what you owe by paying down the principal before it starts accruing interest. A payment of just $5 per month can mean way more now than it will once you start getting regular bills.

 

Apply for Scholarships

Believe it or not, scholarships aren’t just for incoming freshmen. In fact, far from being the time to coast, now is when you should be ramping up your scholarship search! Apply everywhere and anywhere. Look in your community’s newspaper, on bulletin boards on campus, and on scholarship search sites. Plan on applying to at least ten scholarships a week, if not more.

 

The trick is to apply for scholarships that may be overlooked — ones that are $250-1500 range. While that may not seem like a lot when you have an insane tuition bill, several $1,000 scholarships can add up quickly!

One scholarship you simply can’t forget to apply for is OCM’s Room Goals scholarship. All you need to do to apply is submit a photo of your awesome dorm room and some info to be considered. It’s that easy — no tedious essay necessary!

 

Learn to Budget

Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard or complex. With little bills and income, we promise you that budgeting in college will only take about an hour each month to do. All you’ll need are your pay stubs, your monthly bills (like car insurance and phone), and a calculator.

First, write down how much you typically make in a given month. If you don’t have a regular income, or if you get tips that can vary from day to day, take an average or your best guess. Then, write out and total up your bills due. Next to each bill, write a due date, and then put that due date in your calendar so you don’t forget. Now, subtract your bills from your income and that is what is leftover for things like groceries, eating out, school supplies, and fun. Make categories that reflect your life and money goals and give each dime a place to go.

 

Open the Right Financial Accounts

You should have two bank accounts: checking and savings. These should be at banks that are close to campus and have online access. You should also have a debit card for at least your checking account.

If possible, set up your bills to auto-draft the amount from your checking account to your savings account each month. There are also apps like Qapital and Digit that will do it for you if you have a tough time pulling the trigger. Learning to save money while you’re in college will help you build a foundational good money habit.

 

Understand Financial Basics

Before pulling the trigger on anything financial, it’s a good idea to make sure you fully understand the terminology, methods, and costs. Grab a book from the library, take a financial literacy class, or read some blogs by other millennial money experts. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll be managing your finances.

 

Nervous Parents: Sending Your Kid Off to College

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parents-children-college-nerves

The first day of school can be an emotional time for any parent. But when it comes to sending your kids off to college for the first time (or for their senior year), the stakes can seem much higher. Dealing with empty nesting and worrying about how your child will do when they are no longer under your care is never easy. However, you can address your fears, anxieties, and worries with several simple coping methods and strategies.

 

Worry: The Loss of “Parenting”

The eighteen-plus years you spent watching your child learn and grow were certainly some of the most wonderful and fulfilling of your entire life. It’s natural that when that time comes to an end and the child goes off on their own, the parent may feel a sort of loss or vacancy we commonly call “empty nesting.”

Here’s the good news: you’re no less their parents than when they were in elementary school or in high school. In fact, many college students will need your love and guidance more now than ever before! Finding the balance between over-parenting (i.e. treating them like a child) and providing guidance and support can be difficult. One of the best ways to build a healthy relationship with a new college student is to talk directly to them like you would a friend. Be honest, upfront, and share with them your feelings.

 

Worry: They Will Fail Without You

Some students hit their stride when they are more independent. Others need a push. No matter where your kid is, it is important to remember that they are now responsible for their academic results. There’s no helping them on science reports or reminding them a million times of their big test.

So how do you deal if or when your kid struggles to keep up? Provide them with resources at their school. This might take a little research on your part, but remind your student of tutoring centers, encourage them to see their academic advisor, and offer up your own editing help on a paper.

However (and this is a BIG caveat), you need to remember that they are adults and overstepping will not help them. Professors, advisors, and college administrators frown on or forbid parents from calling their offices or attempting to fight a student’s battles. While you can provide phone numbers or locations, do not cross the line and step in for them.

 

Worry: They Won’t Fit in or Get Along

College is a different experience for every student. Like high school, there are cliques and social groups, and it can be hard to make your mark or find your kind of group. Watching from afar as parents can be even more nerve-wracking!

With students that are more on the shy side or are having problems getting along with roommates, think positive. What is your student’s best characteristic? Share with them why they are great in your eyes and encourage them to seek out spaces where they will be appreciated (like a club or sorority). A little positivity can boost their spirits and help them remember that making new friends is only temporary.

 

Worry: They’ll Be Homesick

While you may be more concerned that you’ll miss them, don’t forget that they will miss you too (if not more)! College can be scary for them, even if leaving home for school has been their dream. That’s why it is important to share a bit of home with them.

Schedule phone calls, send fun and unexpected care packages, exchange emails regularly, and plan in advance for weekend visits. With your love and support, you both will get through the first semester (and beyond) of a new school year.