Parent Survival Tips for Those College Bound Kids

The time has come. You’ve imagined it since they were in diapers – what’s Alice going to end up doing with her life? Is Brian going to end up being be a cop or a robber?

I’m in the last phase of the parent survival tips (for this blog at least), so I have come up with some sane and humorous survival tips for those parents who have no clue on how to navigate your child thru the college process. Or, you do but you just want someone to echo your sanity, indicating that you are doing the right thing and that you won’t be screwing up their lives forever.

1. The Search. First of all, don’t panic. This whole process is really not up to you. Your kid is now 17 or nearly 18 – time to cut the apron strings and hand over their future to them. This is your chance to “guide” them thru the college process, but don’t do this for them.

Does your child have a dream college he or she wants to attend? Does your child know what they want to major in? These are important questions to discuss because the colleges you apply to should have the academic criteria to meet whatever major your child wants to get into. If they want to study rocks, then make sure the college has a Geology major. If they are undeclared (meaning, they have no clue what they want to do with their life at the ripe old age of 17), then pick a college that meets their ACT score, GPA and class rank. Where to start? College Board website is a great tool to use. Have your child set up their profile by putting in their ACT/SAT scores, what classes they’ve taken over the last four years of high school, and GPA. Then start searching for colleges.

If you have a specific college in mind, it will pull up everything you need to know:

  • Their address and main website link so you can check out their undergraduate programs
  • Admission Requirements
  • Costs
  • Deadlines for Admissions
  • Plus much, much more

At the bottom of the screen of the College Board website, there will be a box that says, “How do I stack up?” Since you’ve already created  your profile, you can compare that to what the school requires. If you are within the requirements needed to gain acceptance into that college you know you can apply. If you aren’t, you may want to reconsider re-taking your ACT exam or bring up your GPA before you apply.

When you search for colleges, plan on applying from anywhere between 6 and 8 different colleges. This gives you a better chance on getting accepted at one or two colleges as opposed to only applying to one or two and not getting accepted to either of them. You want your kid out of the house, right? I know I do……

2. Getting Noticed. So, you’ve got your colleges picked out (which should be around the August/September timeframe of senior year). What’s next? When you looked at the admissions requirements, download the application form for the upcoming year. Most colleges will have them available on their websites in July. Check to see if an essay is required. Most colleges require that you write an essay about something. They can ask you a specific question like, “what does a higher education mean to you?” or, “How do you think you’ll enrich the lives of others who live here on ABC Campus?” A good resource tool to write essays (for those who don’t know how to start one), is this website. It will help you get started on writing that all important essay. If a college asks you an essay question on your favorite color, or what tree would you be if you were a tree…….DON’T APPLY.

One piece of advice with the essays: If you have 8 essays to write, write one a week and set it aside on your computer. This way, you won’t be under pressure to write 8 essays in one day, make sloppy mistakes and spelling errors and don’t take the time to think about the question. Some students think that all the essay questions are the same – not so. So download those application forms and get started so you aren’t under pressure to complete them by the deadlines each college has.

So, essays are essays. College admissions breeze thru them and look for certain things (like what I mentioned above), but when you visit college campuses (which you should be doing the summer between your junior and senior year as well as the fall of your senior year), ALL of them will say, “We are looking for a well rounded individual to grace our campus.”

I’m sure when they mean “well rounded” they don’t mean overweight. What we’re talking about here is they want to see some personality. Who are you anyway?? What makes you so special that you should go to our campus? I’ve always said, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, and putting those pictures together with some of your own words, can be a very impactful, creative and forward thinking way to show college admissions who you are. There are several good photographers who handle Senior Portfolios.  If you want the name of one, just contact me. What you will typically receive is a great portfolio for you to keep and treasure, but more importantly, you can use these images to build a college admissions website thru Pegleg Web Designs. Combining your son or daughter’s photographs with their long term goal of being accepted into a four year university, we can also put letters of recommendation online, explain all the great volunteer work your son or daughter has done and what impact they’ve had on others’ lives. For those who are sports driven, the website can showcase short video of certain football or baseball plays, or maybe a piano recital or dance recital that won them a competition.

The website is only four pages (long enough for a college admissions committee to browse thru and short enough to capture their attention). Wanna see a sample and how the process works? Check it out here.

3. The Big Prep. Ok – so, let’s fast forward a bit…..You applied to your colleges by the deadline (normally 11/15 for early registration) and have received a big, fat envelope in the mail congratulating your son or daughter on acceptance to a unversity. You’ve filled out forms, paid for housing deposit and know where he’s gonna live. He’s gotten in touch with his “roomie” and they know what each one is gonna bring to their new crib. Congratulations! They are almost out of the house…..almost. Now, you have to work with them on making sure they have what they need for their dorm room.

For me, this was easy. My son doesn’t care.

Me: “Matt, what color do you want for your comforter?”

Matt: “Don’t care. pick one.”

Me: “Matt, do you want hangers for your clothes?….wait. What am I saying? He doesn’t use hangers NOW….”

Bottom line – this is what your kid needs:

  • alarm clock – or they can use their cell phone as one
  • Bathrobe (my kid will just run naked from his room to the shower)
  • Bathroom caddy (to place the shampoo/conditioner/body wash into)
  • Bedding. Be careful on this one. The dorm room mattresses are “special fit”. If your university sends you information on getting a bedding kit that includes pillows, comforter, sheets, mattress pad, towels, etc. ORDER IT. The quality of the sheets isn’t the greatest, but hey, it’s college.
  • Computer (Macbook Pro…..hands down)
  • Desk lamp (NO Halogen lamps allowed)
  • First aid kit for when he gets his first boo-boo.
  • Garbage can. This can also be converted into a handy vomit can, so don’t get one with any holes in it.
  • Headphones (earbuds)
  • Iron…….huh? Really? My kid would look at it and think it’s used to make waffles.
  • Shower shoes (i.e. flip flops)
  • Towels
  • Umbrella
  • Area rug – not needed, but it adds to the decor of the room (i.e. girls need this and guys won’t care)
  • DVD player or Xbox
  • Mini Fridge (can’t be taller than 36 inches or larger than 4 cubic feet). This can be used to put soda into because that’s all college students drink. Oh, and water.
  • TV (no more than 27 inches)
  • Underbed storage containers or storage bins
  • Snack foods and the necessary tools for beer pong

What you CAN’T Bring:

  • Any type of collections (beer can collection, bong collection, precious moments collections, china doll collection….WHATEVER COLLECTION – don’t bring it.)
  • Candle warmer or candles in general for that pyro roomie friend of yours (whom you didn’t know was a pyro until he lit your hair on fire)
  • Cinder Blocks….Not kidding – this was on the list.
  • A Grill. Like, who in their right mind can possibly think they can grill in their dorm room??? But, yes….colleges find it necessary to put this on the list.
  • Pets (don’t bring that pet python or Tabby, your pet tarantula to school)
  • Small appliances (I don’t care if you like margaritas at 7 in the morning. Blenders are strictly prohibited).

4. Empty Nester Syndrome. Take a deep breath – it’s time to take your child to college, drop off all that stuff we mentioned above, get their room set up and leave them on their own for the very first time in their young adult lives.

You have 15 minutes at the curb to drop off all your stuff and move your car. Think I’m kidding? Nope. Make sure you have a plan in place on unloading and parking ahead of time.

Are you crying yet? It’s a big step for your child as well as yourself. Look, you managed to not kill your kid up to this point – that’s an achievement on it’s own. She didn’t electrocute herself by putting that fork in the outlet when she was 3, did she? Nope. When he fell down that flight of stairs there didn’t seem to be any permanent brain damage, right? OK then….

My son leaves for college on August 18th. We will drive down to ISU and unload his stuff, unpack his stuff, and I will give him a little pep talk, give him a kiss and a hug, and then leave. I’ll save my tears for the drive home. I don’t want to embarass him by grabbing a hold of his ankles while he tries to slam his dorm room door on my hands.

That’s just not cool.

No.  A cool mom will give him the top ten list. This is from a previous post I had written, and received some great feedback on it. So, I felt it worthy to repost since these are all things I plan on telling my kid before I leave him:

1. If it’s sounds too good to be true, it’s bullshit.

2. If she says she’s on birth control, protect yourself anyway.

3. Have fun, but know there is a fine line between “fun” and being destructive.

4. Learn from your past so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

5. Learn the art of organization. Hopefully being around your mother who is the queen of organization will have had some sort of subconscious effect on you. If only I were there in the flesh to witness it….

6. The lesson to keeping money in your bank account is to not spend it on stupid stuff like Twizzlers and animal shaped wrist bands.

7. Don’t drink and drive. In fact, don’t drink. At all. Until you’re 30……

8. Don’t do drugs that you aren’t sure about. Let’s not be naive about this one – drugs can be a recreational sport, or an addictive, life sucking, festering pile of shit and will ruin every facet of your life. See number 3 above.

9. Be choosey in the women you sleep with. Remember that you’ll not only be sleeping with her, but everyone else she’s slept with before you came barging into the party.

10. Remember why you’re at college. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. And so is your mother’s bank account, so make it worth every dime and graduate (IN FOUR YEARS), with decent grades.

I hope all this helps. If there is anymore great advice on this big milestone for you and your child, I would love for you to comment.

Good luck!


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