College Parent Tips

Should you go to parents weekend?

Treat your student to a meal at a restaurant and give them a break from dorm food

There is a question many parents of college students, especially first year college students, asks themselves. Should you go to parents weekend? (also referred to as families weekend, or parent and family weekend, at some universities)

Most colleges offer a weekend of activities for parents and families roughly six weeks into the first semester or quarter of the fall term. This is about the time when many students become homesick, are stressed out from mid-terms, and/or simply miss their parents. It also goes the opposite way where parents really miss their children! If you are like me, you started to miss your child at drop-off, before getting in the car, or the boarding the airplane home.

A parents weekend is a great time to visit your child, as long as you understand they cannot spend every waking moment with you. This fun-filled weekend is smack in the middle of mid-terms. Your child will likely have a big exam to study for, or have other activities they need to attend to such as club meetings, practices, work shifts, or volunteer duties. You will need to be patient and supportive of your child, and speak with them before-hand as you plan the schedule for the weekend; especially if you are making dinner reservations or there are ticketed events on campus which need to be paid for in advance.

The itinerary for parents weekend compensates for this conundrum by offering sessions for parents which you can attend while your child is busy. You can learn more about the degree your child is studying, learn about school traditions, find out about extra-curricular activities your child might be interested in, find ways for parents to be involved in booster activities etc., learn about on and off campus housing, and more. Save the fun stuff such as a tour of the football stadium, tour of all the haunted spots on campus, etc. for when you your student can go with you. These are fun bonding moments and things they might not do on their own when you aren’t there.

So, the question remains, should you go to parents weekend? Yes and no. Yes, if your child can carve out the time to spend with you, no if they have a huge mid-term and you don’t need to attend any of the sessions offered for parents. If you don’t go to parents weekend, find a weekend which works for your child and visit them at that time. This will allow you both to have fun. If your child has a huge exam on Monday and you flew across the country for parents weekend, your student will feel obligated to spend time with you and this could cause undue stress. So, before booking those tickets, speak with your student first to make sure parents weekend fits into their schedule.

Parents weekend is not just for first year parents, it is something you can attend every year until your student graduates. It is also the perfect excuse for visiting your student without looking like a helicopter parent. I love parents weekend for that reason! Haha

This is also a great time to bring your student a gift such as a squishie or homemade cookies. It is also about halfway between drop-off day and thanksgiving break, so the timing of parents weekend is genius.

Shop college student gift ideas online:

So, should you go to parents weekend? My short answer is yes, unless your student has a huge exam or other conflict, then, find another weekend where you can visit and enjoy some time with your child.

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What do you really need in your dorm room

Dorm essentials from top left: shower caddy / large squishy / desk lamp / blanket / window fan / travel iron / shower shoes / hot/cold air purifier fan /

It is that time of year when parents start shopping for their new college student’s dorm room. There will be huge shopping lists posted on blogs and handed out by advertisers, as well as your child’s own school. Some of these lists are great, while others are trying to sell you unnecessary items such as headboards, string lights which can damage walls, and other fluffy decorations.

Do you really need to replace the dorm room headboard? No. Your child will live in the dorm temporarily and the majority of those headboards end up getting thrown away at the end of the school year. That’s right! There is a giant trash area next to the dorm building filled with fluffy decorations that cannot be reused the following year. Don’t fall for it. You DO NOT need to buy your child a fancy headboard!

When you receive these lists, sort through them. What is necessary and what is fluffy. Stay away from fluffy. You can end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on decorations which might damage the walls of the dorm room, and/or end up in a landfill at the end of the school year. Don’t do it. Just say no.

The first things you should pack are things your child needs to survive at school for roughly nine months. Your child may or may not rent an apartment their second year of school, so investing in too much for the dorm room will be a waste of money. If you think you need to buy drawers and other forms of storage, you’re bringing too much to school. You don’t need drawers, shelves, and shoe racks. Leave the extra stuff at home.

Here is a small, capsule list of what you really need in your dorm room.

Bathroom essentials: You should make sure your child has all of the necessary toiletries s/he needs to survive such as toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, soap, towels, etc. In addition to these products, your student will need two important items; a shower caddy and shower shoes. A shower caddy that hangs on a hook is ideal so that it does not touch the nasty floor in the bathroom or shower. Your child will also need, and I mean NEED, shower shoes. Don’t buy shower shoes with holes that allow nasty water to get into them from the floor. You need shower shoes that allow the water to run down to the floor. I highly recommend the pair pictured above. DO NOT go into the bathroom, especially the shower, without shower shoes.

Fans: It does not matter if your child is attending school in a warm or cool climate, they will need a fan. Older dorm buildings will often have radiators which are very old and difficult to control. The room can get hot, dry, and stuffy. A fan is essential. I recommend a window fan, especially if your dorm does not have AC, and also a desk fan. A hot/cold air purifier is a great option where there are a lot of pollutants and wildfires.

Blanket: Whether your student attends college in a warm or cool climate, they will need a blanket. I recommend a medium weight blanket which can carry them throughout the school year.

Mattress: The dorm mattresses are gross and uncomfortable. You will need to get your student a mattress cover which zips up and protects your child from the cooties within the dorm mattress. These mattresses are also uncomfortable, so a good gel topper will add comfort and help make the bed cozy for your student.

Desk Lamp: Most schools have built-in lighting, but it never seems to be bright enough. I recommend getting your student an inexpensive desk lamp. The one featured above is the same one my daughter uses in her dorm room. It has places for pencils and also a port for plugging in your phone charger. She loves this lamp!

Travel Iron: A large iron and board is too bulky for a dorm room. A travel iron is easy to store and your student can use a beach towel on the floor as an ironing board. That being said, do you really think your college student will iron anything? Probably not. I would get the travel iron anyway. Maybe, just maybe, someday, they will iron something. A parent can dream, right?

Large Squishy: OK, this is not completely necessary, but a large squishy makes a bed cozier and offers something to hug; especially if your student feels homesick or stressed. All of the college kids these days have squishies in their dorm room.

First Aid Kit: You can purchase a ready-made first aid kit, or you can make one up yourself. I recommend getting a clear shoe box your student can look through. The clear shoe boxes are great because they can stack in the closet with your students’ shoes, or store easily on a shelf. Your first aid kit should include band aids, Neosporin, Bactine, cough drops, Advil (or your fav pain killer), a decongestant, and any other over the counter items your student needs if they get a cold or flu.

Well, those are the bare bones basics which every college student needs in their dorm room. The best checklist, out of all the ones your student will receive, is the one the school hands out. Even then, you can pair it down. The goal is to buy the least amount possible. In this dorm room essentials post, I am pointing out the most important things your student will need for their dorm room. Repeat after me, shower shoes!

Shop dorm essentials online:

Congrats on your child’s new journey into college and let me know if you have any questions!

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Dorm Essentials

Things to do the summer before your child leaves for college

things to do before your child leaves for college

Is your child leaving for college in the fall? There are a few things you should do before they leave for school. After all, they will be gone for a few months; and in addition to missing them, they will miss things too! Plus, there are a few important things you will need to teach them before they leave the nest. So, without further ado. . .here are a few things to do before your child leaves for college.

Play tourist in your area: Chances are, you and your family have avoided the touristy areas of your city like the plague. Find a day and play tourist before your child leaves for college. When they go away, other students will ask if they have been to these tourist attractions, and your student should be able to say yes. Plus, it is really fun to play tourist for a day. If you live in LA, check out Hollywood, if you live the Bay Area, visit Alcatraz and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, if you live in St. Louis, see the Arch! You get the picture. Play tourist!

Clean their room: I don’t just mean dust and sweep, I mean go through everything in the room and donate what your child does not need anymore. Box up mementoes and store them; and update what is hanging on the wall. As soon as your child leaves for school, their room becomes a museum. When they visit on holidays, there will be no redecorating or cleaning. They will treat it like a hotel room, and someday when they are thirty years old, the room will look exactly the same. Clean it out now before it comes a storage closet. At least it will look like a room when they leave and won’t become a burden. That being said, don’t convert it to a pool room. Their room should remain their room while they are in college. It should reflect their personality and have their stuff in it; just in a clean and organized fashion.

Let your child make the menu: The week before they leave for the fall semester, let them pick what you cook for dinner. Once your child goes off to college, there is a good chance they won’t be home until Thanksgiving and they will miss your food. Let them get their favorite meals in before they leave. One month into school they will tell you how they miss certain meals you cook. Let them enjoy their favorites before they leave.

Give you important passwords: If your student loses their phone, laptop or other form of electronics, you want to be able to lock out a thief. Get your child’s passwords to key accounts so you can do some security from home; especially if they lose access to all of their electronics. You can also help them if they are a victim of a security breach. . .which takes me to. . .

Teach them about cybersecurity: Teach your student about staying safe online. Make sure your student has unique passwords for every account and those passwords need to be strong and long. Teach them to not share passwords and to never use public networks; especially at the airport. Set up your child’s electronics with security software and a VPN. Also, make sure your student knows to never click links in texts and emails. College students are victims of elaborate phishing scams, so make sure your student is aware of them and knows what to look for. Tell them to ask for your help if they are unsure if a text or email is legit.

Teach them street smarts: If you haven’t already taught your child some street smarts, do it now. Show them how to keep their belongings safe both on their person and in public spaces. Make sure they know not to walk alone after hours and never, ever leave their backpack and/or laptop unattended; even if it seems safe in a library or dorm lounge. Laptops disappear quickly at colleges! If your child has an expensive jacket, those disappear too. Never leave nice things, and important things, unattended.

Teach them to guard their drinks: If your child plans to party like a rock star in college, teach them to protect their drink. Too many students are reporting laced drinks nowadays. Make sure they know to abandon any drink set down or which has left their eyesight. Never accept drinks from strangers at a party, and if they are drinking out of a famous red cup, make sure they see the beer from the tap going into the cup. Don’t drink an open cup someone handed to them, even if it’s from a friend. Make sure they saw the beer go from the keg into the cup or it isn’t safe.

Learn how to do laundry: You won’t believe how many kids go to college and have no clue how to do their own laundry. Make sure they know how to separate darks from lights and to wash reds separately. Make sure they know to read the label and not throw something in the dryer which should be hung up instead. Rule of thumb, if it’s dry clean only, leave it at home.

Go on a family vacation: Once your child starts college, there is no guarantee your family’s schedules will sync up again. Go on that family vacation you have all been talking about the summer before they leave for college, or it might never happen.

Teach them how to budget and balance a checkbook: You won’t believe how many kids go off to school and have no clue how to watch their accounts and budget their funds. Make sure your student understands due dates, such as when to pay their student credit card-and how! Make sure they know how to balance their accounts and not end up overdrawn. Also, teach them the value of the dollar, just in case they haven’t worked yet. Or else, they will spend all their money on burritos the first week of school and their meal plan will go unused. Also, teach them to pay off their credit card balance every month. The worst thing they can do is run up a balance and max out their credit card while in school. Teach them to live debt free, and only spend what is within their budget, and already in their bank account.

Spend time with them: Your student will be gone for two or three months before they come home for Thanksgiving, spend as much time together as you can. Watch movies together, even drag them to the supermarket. Get as much time with your student as you can because they will gone for a few months. Cherish these last few days together.

Lastly, hug your student and reassure them you will always be there for them, and home will always be there for them. As excited as they are to go off to school, they are nervous and scared too. Be their rock.

Congrats on your new adventure!