Summer is almost over, and it’s time for kids to go back to school. Is your teen preparing to start their first year of college? While it’s an exciting time, it can also be stressful for you and them. Thankfully, this article offers tips to help ensure the best college experience for your soon-to-be college students.

1. Encourage Independence

Getting ready to go to college is an exciting time for teenagers, but it can be a stressful time for parents. You want your child to get the most out of those four years. But that doesn’t mean you should try to control their experience.

It’s important your teens have the space to make their own decisions, like what college to attend, where to live, and what to major in. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advise them on what to do. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to ensure your teens have the information necessary to make the right decision for them. 

To start, suggest your kids make a list of the colleges or universities they’re interested in attending. Then, plan to spend some time touring those places. A college tour is a great way for prospective students to get a feel for the school to help them make their decision. If a school is out of state and you’re not able to visit in person, use online resources to help your teen. Most college websites offer virtual tours and photos. 

Being able to see a campus, the classrooms, and meet other students, can help your teens feel more prepared. It can also ease any stress you might feel with them going away. 

2. Teach Life Skills

In school, kids learn history, science, and math. However, they don’t necessarily learn life skills, including: how to do laundry, budget, and cook their own food. These are tasks your teen should know how to do before going to college. And it’s up to you to teach them. 

A great way to teach these life lessons is through hands-on experience. Don’t just tell your kids how to take care of themselves, show them. For example, teach your kids the importance of separating their clothes by color and what temperature is best for washing. Then, have your teens do their own laundry. You can take this same approach for other life lessons, like teaching them how to cook their own food. 

Budgeting, on the other hand, might take additional effort. Teaching teens to manage their money isn’t always easy, so start small. Walk your kids through the process. Have them begin by writing down their monthly income and expenses. Your teens probably don’t have too many expenses, so it shouldn’t be overly difficult to assign a percentage to each expense.

For instance, 30% of their budget could go to school supplies, 20% to activities with their friends, and 50% to savings. After all, they are likely saving for college. Developing these skills can take time, so make sure you start teaching your kids sooner rather than later. 

3. Have Important Conversations

While it can be uncomfortable, it’s important to have tough conversations with your teen prior to them attending college. This includes conversations about sexually transmitted infections. It’s crucial your soon-to-be college student knows the importance of practicing safe sex and how to access resources. 

According to research, one in four college students have an STI. The truth is, most infections don’t have symptoms, making them easier to pass from one person to the next. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this spread. 

Using protection, like a condom, during intercourse can lower the risk of infection. Make sure your teen knows that, as well as the correct way to put on a condom. Regardless if your child is male or female, it’s crucial they have this understanding. In addition to STIs, make sure your teen knows what protection is best to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. 

These conversations are crucial to helping your child prepare for college. Sure, it can be awkward. But at the end of the day, you’d rather your teen have this information than be ignorant of it.

4. Discuss Finances

It’s no secret that college is a huge expense. In fact, it might be one of those most expensive investments out there. Unfortunately, this isn’t something many teens are prepared for. The last thing you want is for your teen to graduate college with debt they knew nothing about. That’s why it’s imperative you discuss finances in detail with your child before they even decide what college to attend. 

Do you plan on contributing to your child’s college education? Will they need to apply for financial aid or take out loans? These are factors you and your teen need to know, so everyone can prepare. Take the time to discuss your plan with your teen, and make sure they know what’s expected of them. If they need to apply for financial aid, walk them through it. Another option is to look for cheap accredited online colleges you can afford. If they have to take out loans to attend college, make sure they know how loans work. 

It’s also important to set financial boundaries with your teen. Let’s say you plan on sending them money every month. Make sure they know you aren’t their personal piggy bank but are there to help when you can. College is a great way to help your teen grow in their financial and emotional independence, so make sure you’re letting them. 

To ensure the best college experience for your child, make sure they’re prepared for what’s to come. Talk to them about finances, how to care for themselves, and answer any questions they may have about the “real world.” The more your teen knows, the better off they’ll probably be.