Off to College

17 Practical Tips for College Freshman and Their Parents

By Darla Winstead - Publisher of Macaroni Kid Annapolis and mom of a college Freshman August 11, 2022

After years of growing, maturing, studying, and preparing my son is heading off to college in a few weeks.  He is ready, I am not!  

If you find yourself in the same situation, here are some tips Bryan and I put together to help you both prepare.

For the Student:

  1. Connect with other students and your roommate before you go.  Attend orientation events offered by the college and connect with others through social media.  This will help you make new friends, ease anxiety, and go into this experience with a support system. 
  2. It's ok to have a mix of emotions.  You will probably feel excitement and fear at the same time.  You have never done this before so give yourself a break.  When the emotions are intense, try coping skills such as deep breathing, journaling, taking a walk, or talking to someone.
  3. When packing for college, keep it simple.  Dorm rooms are usually not very big and get filled up really fast with just the basics.  Only take what you think you will need for the first semester. Add to your room as needs come up and you have the space.  Coordinate with your roommate so you can share things like coffee makers and refrigerators.
  4. For toiletries (hair, skin, dental,... care items) leave one set at home and take another set to school.  That way you don't have to carry them back and forth for trips home.  
  5. Check and double check the "Bring List" provided by your college.  Some require very specific items.  For example, Bryan's dorm require a certain brand and type of surge protector.
  6. Actively search out forms and permissions needed and complete in advance.  Be aware of deadlines.    
  7. Before you go, schedule a physical and visit your dentist.  Also have your eyes checked, especially if you wear glasses or contacts.
  8. Talk to your parents about moving in day.  Make sure to clearly state your needs and expectations.  Do you prefer your parents drop you and your belongings off, say good bye and go or do you want help unpacking and maybe even decorating?  Remember - it's your adventure, not theirs.  What do you want?
  9. Although this adventure is yours to take, your parents care about you and may be having separation anxiety.  Some parents have a difficult time letting go.  Remember, for the past 18 years, you were their job to keep alive and guide.  
  10. Keep an open line of communication as you prepare to leave and once you're at school.  Send pictures, texts, and call or video chat.  Your parents will be appreciative.       

For the Parent:

  1. Pull back and allow your child to experience being an independent adult.  Have them fill out forms for school, ask questions and decide what they will pack for school.
  2. People pack differently.  My son is taking only the minimal basics, for now.  All of his belongings will fit in the back seat of his car.  His girlfriend has purchased all new everything and will make her room her home.  We joke that she will need a moving truck to get everything to school.  
  3. Make special memories before they go.  Spend some quality time together doing something new or something you enjoy doing together.  
  4. Prepare your young adult to be their own money manager and talk about budgeting and expectations.  Have a plan in place in case unexpected expenses come up.    
  5. Investigate and plan for medical issues while at school.  Most colleges have clinics on campus that offer basic medical care.  Have a plan in place for getting prescription refills.  If your young adult needs specialists, find ones that take your insurance and are close to campus.  Help them fill out new patient paperwork before they go.  
  6. Talk to your young adult about moving in day.  Find out how they envision the day and what they need from you.  Listen to what they say and respect their wishes.  Does your child want you to drop them and their belonging off, say good bye and go or do they want you to help unpack and decorate?  Remember - it's their adventure, not yours.  
  7. This experience is not about you.  You have prepared your child for this moment and now it's time to take a back seat and watch them bloom.  

Have tips we can add to our "Off to College" list?  Email Darla at


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