Get your teen ready for college

Your kids got their acceptance letter! Yay! Congratulations! Now it’s time to ensure that they are ready to be on their own. It’s time to use your guidance to nurture their growing independence in the next few months before they leave home next fall.

It starts with money. You’ll remember how tempting it was to order a pizza during your late-night study sessions. You’ll probably also remember the impulse shopping splurges before a big party or night out. It’s time to sit down with your child and review his or her likely expenses, and how much he’ll have to put toward them. Then create a list of categories like food, housing and utilities, transportation, entertainment and school fees.

Remind your child to log their expenses regularly, and that a little deviation isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as they default back to the plan you’ve created.

Next up, risky business. Ideally, you’ve been discussing your values and expectations about alcohol, drugs and sex since middle school. Still, it’s a good time to reiterate your guidelines. These talks may be awkward, but that’s okay!

One thing that might help the conversation along is to share personal stories, perhaps the time you refused to use your fake ID or nursed a friend who’d had too much to drink. Remind your kid to save emergency contacts into their phone like the college health center and the campus police. Let them know that even though they’ll be more independent, they can always call home no matter how sticky the situation.

When your child gets sick at school, you won’t be there to nurse them back to health. That means he or she needs to know when to call the health center, where it is, and how it works. Look into health insurance early. First determine what’s available and covered on campus, college and university health centers vary in the scope of the medical problems they treat.

Some services may be covered by tuition or a prepaid fee, while others may be out-of-pocket or have to go to your insurance. You also might want to research which doctors practice near the school and what each physician offers, what the college doesn’t or what insurance won’t cover at the health center.

If your child takes regular meds and will be in charge for the first time, there’s no time like the present to let her take over. Explain the importance of setting up regular habits and keeping the medication in a safe, secure location that’s easy to remember and access.

If your teen doesn’t already schedule doctor’s appointments or fill prescriptions on their own, explain the basics and remind them to always carry their insurance card. Stock your teen with a  simple first aid kit, thermometer, bandages, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen or acetaminophen for not so serious illnesses and scrapes.


DREAM, one of the Midwest’s well-known youth mentoring organizations, provides life-changing and life-enriching experiences to at-risk youth through mentoring and after-school programs in Omaha, Nebraska, and Springfield, Missouri. Their proven approach puts children in a comfortable setting where they’re encouraged to discuss openly, learn, and grow as individuals. Are you interested in getting involved with DREAM? Contact us today.