College Prep 101: Tips for Parents

The following was written by the incredibly experienced, caring and talented Counseling Services staff here at High Point University.  As my wife and I watch our third child go to college this fall, we  have found suggestions like these to be very helpful in the midst of such big life changes.  I hope you will be encouraged to dialogue with your student about the transition that is coming up quickly!

–Andy Bills

Your child is preparing to go to college.  You’ve been through the application and acceptance process and now the time is growing near when you will need to let go.

You may experience a roller coaster ride of emotions: excitement, anxiety, pride, panic, loss, sadness.  Just as going to college is a time of great growth and challenge for your child, this major transition in your family dynamic can also tax the whole family.  Studies show that parents remain a key influence on college students.  Your opinions and guidance can make a difference.  Preparing yourself and your child for what to expect will help ease the stress and make the transition easier.

Spend time helping your son or daughter plan his or her move.  Even if your child is moving into a dorm, there’s still a lot to buy and pack.  You can help by asking them what they need to do, what they’d like to take with them and how you can help.  You can make suggestions on how to move their things and what they might need, but it’s also important to take a step back and let them prepare for this change the way they need to.

If you’re driving your child to campus, try to make sure that once he or she is moved in, that you leave them to settle in.  Most colleges have activities and orientation plans scheduled, so it’s best to leave as soon as possible, allowing your child to be on their own.

Acknowledge that this is a very emotional time

  1. Seek support by talking to other parents.  (At HPU, you can join the Parents Council and stay involved with the University, while allowing your child to establish him or herself on campus.)
  2. Know that you have built a good foundation for your child as he or she moves toward independence.
  3. Understand that just as you have mixed emotions, so does your child, even if they remain distant and don’t express their feelings.
  4. Tell them how proud and excited you are for them.  They need to know and feel confident that they’re doing the right thing.  You can help by telling them how right this decision is by becoming their biggest supporter.
  5. Make sure your child knows that you will be there through this time of transition and try to open dialogue to discuss fears and concerns.
  6. Make sure they know that their home will always be their home and that you’ll always be there to support them.  Your child will experience a range of emotions before leaving and during the first few weeks.  Let them know that you’re just a phone call away.
  7. Explain to them before they leave that they might get homesick and that it is very normal.  Often, the feeling comes unexpectedly and students don’t know how to handle it.  Discuss this with them and help them come up with a plan in case this happens.
  8. Don’t give advice unless asked and don’t try to solve all their problems.  Rather, guide them through the decision-making process so that they can make their own decisions and learn from the consequences.

Talk about money and finances

Discuss how to set up and use a budget, use of credit cards, spending money, what financial responsibilities the student will assume, and how to avoid identity theft.

Tackle time management

  1. One of the biggest challenges for new college students is structuring their own time.  If needed, our Academic Services Center is here to help!
  2. Discuss the need to prioritize and allot appropriate time for classes, homework, work, and social activities.
  3. Start by making them responsible now for getting up on time.

Teach basic health and nutrition facts

To avoid or minimize weight gain and maintain health, urge your child to:

  • Not skip meals, especially breakfast (HPU has many, many great dining options!)
  • Include at least one fruit or vegetable at each meal
  • Practice portion control
  • Limit late night snacks
  • Choose beverages wisely
  • Exercise
  • Discuss health care (Click here for HPU Student Health)
  • What should your student do if they become ill?
  • Explain health insurance coverage

Discuss drug and alcohol use & safety issues

  1. College student drinking causes about 1,700 student deaths, 600,000 injuries and 97,000 cases of sexual assault each year.  Prepare your child by discussing the consequences of excessive drinking– penalties for underage drinking, violence, date rape, and academic failure.
  2. Inquire about campus drug and alcohol policies.
  3. Call your child often and ask about roommates, friends and living arrangements.  Set clear expectations about focusing on academic work and personal development.  Make it clear that you do not condone breaking the law.

Stay connected

Pack or send a surprise “care kit.”  It could contain special items you know your child will be without for awhile: their favorite cookies, photos and an iTunes card– something that says that you care and are rooting for them.  It doesn’t need to be much, just a little something from home that’s a reminder to say “I’m thinking of you.”  Write, call or email regularly.  Include news clippings from your local paper.


At High Point University we truly care about your students and are available to assist them in making the transition into college a smooth one.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact any of the Counseling Services staff listed below.  We provide many services that are aimed at helping our students be happy and successful!

We look forward to having you and your student as part of the High Point University family!


Lynda Noffsinger, MaED,LPC,NCC
Director of Counseling Services
3rd Floor Slane Center Rm 329
Phone: (336) 888-6352
Fax: (336) 841-4513

Molly Casebere, MS,NCC
Freshman Transition Specialist
3rd Floor Slane Center Rm 327
Phone: (336) 841-9159
Fax: (336) 841-4513