9 Things Parents Should Know

Before Their Kids Go to College

By Jen Dennis

When it comes to planning for college, parenting advice is usually aimed at helping your kids get into their dream schools. Once the semester begins, however, those sage words of wisdom disappear, and you’re left wondering what to expect. We asked parents who’ve been there what they wish they’d known in advance. Heed their advice, so you (and your new student) can sleep easier.

1. Get eight hours of sleep the night before move-in day

Combine the “my-baby-is-leaving” emotions with last-minute store runs (shower shoes!), packing up the car, lugging everything to the dorm, and unpacking and organizing in August heat. That’s a recipe for physical and emotional exhaustion, especially if you’re sleep-deprived.

Research shows that a lack of rest can make you more irritable and prone to extreme emotions. Stick to your bedtime the night before, so you don’t end up being the mom who “snapped.”

2. Invest in a new mattress—it’s worth it!

A cute bed comforter is important-ish, but the quality of the mattress under it is essential. Getting quality sleep is key for academic performance, according to one university study. With four layers of body-cooling, hug-you-like-a-friend memory foam, your kid will love sleeping on a Nectar mattress (most college dorms have a twin XL size). Nectar has a lifetime warranty, unlike the mattress topper you’d have to replace year after year. Check with the school to make sure you can bring in a new mattress, and don’t forget to put the old one back. Bonus: You get to bring your Nectar home with you.

3. Book hotel and travel for parents’ weekend before move-in day

Having plans in place to see each other again during parents’ weekend can make it easier to part ways on move-in day (at least for you). Plus, good hotels fill up fast, and staying at the worst motel with the grossest beds because it’s all you could get is not a recipe for a happy reunion.

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4. Expect a power-shift in communication

Remember when you could set the schedule for check-ins and texts? Those days are over. You may get a five-second call one day and a five-minute video chat the following week. Be ready for extended games of voicemail tag and long bouts of silence. Take it with a smile—you and your freshman will likely find a rhythm by winter break. And then it’ll change right before finals.

5. Parents on social media only tell the half-truth

You’ll probably see glowing Facebook posts and Instagram photos from other parents of college kids: No homesickness; excellent grades; constant contact. That can be frustrating, if your kid is struggling. Remember that most people don’t post about the bad days, but those happen, too. Every new student (and parent) has ups and downs, and the change management phase looks different for everyone.

6. Get ready for wild emotions

The first few months might feel crazy: One minute you’re feeling lonely and worried; the next, you’re the proudest parent in Zumba class. Those emotions may strike at unexpected moments—like while you’re grocery shopping or doing an unusually small load of laundry. A little self-care can help you ride out the rough spots: Eat healthy meals; get enough rest, and read tip #9.

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The Nectar forever warranty ensures you're covered for life as long as you own the mattress

7. Send care packages

Kids might think snail mail’s old school. But there’s nothing like a box of goodies that travels from your hands to theirs for a feeling of connection. Pack a mix of special, shareable treats and essentials, like chocolate-dipped pretzel rods, snack-sized chips, laundry pods, and packs of gum. Don’t forget a handwritten note.

8. Schools may not give parents their kid’s grades

Planning to call and check on your kid’s grades? Think again. Some colleges protect student’s privacy, even from the people paying tuition! Research the school’s policy, so you know what you’re entitled to.

9. Plan how to fill your free time

What will you do with all the hours not attending soccer games, practices, or having pizza nights at home? Book spa dates with friends; sign up for the drawing class you’ve been putting off for 17 years; do a bedroom makeover, with a new mattress, sheets, drapes, and an area rug. Better yet? Redo your kid’s bedroom. You’ve always wanted a home gym.

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