Preparing for a student to head back to school is difficult enough when the school is just down the street. But when a student is going off to college several miles away and living in a dorm or apartment, the transition becomes even more difficult. Naturally, parents want to ensure that their kids are prepared for living without their supervision. The following tips should help students feel more prepared to live on their own and ease parents’ concerns. 

1. Create an inventory

Thanks to modern technology, students don’t need to argue at the end of the semester about what belongs to whom. A new smartphone app called Digital Locker allows students to take pictures of all of their belongings and store them in a secure database to always have a detailed inventory on hand. This technology makes it easy to keep track of belongings, and if anything should end up missing or stolen during the school year, your child has a record of that item. 

2. Pack smart

Gone are the days where packing simply involved gathering school supplies in a backpack and tossing lunch items into a brown paper bag. With a college student heading off to live on campus, packing involves renting an entire truck and filling up suitcases and boxes of virtually everything your son or daughter owns. Although you want to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible, it’s also important not to add unnecessary clutter – especially if he or she will be living in a cramped dorm room. Many colleges and universities offer helpful packing advice for freshmen right on their websites, which can help narrow down your list to make packing more manageable.

3. Organize finances

With the high costs of college tuition, parents often don’t have money to spare to keep students completely financially secure without some sort of supplementary income or budget in place. Before your child leaves for school, it’s important to discuss the financial aspects of living independently. First and foremost, you and your child should discuss whether he or she will need a part-time job during the school year to have money for necessities and miscellaneous spending. You child’s school may have resources that can help with finding a job. 

4. Discuss transportation options

Determine whether a car is absolutely necessary if your child will be living on or close to campus. Remember that a car will add several extra expenses to a student’s budget, including gas, maintenance, insurance and other miscellaneous costs. Weigh these expenses with the benefits of having a car and decide together whether this is the best choice for your child. Research the reliability of public and university-provided transportation to determine if that’s a viable alternative.

No matter how far your child is headed or how responsible he or she might be, making the transition from living under their parents’ roof to complete independence will be a challenge that might not always be smooth. Although this rite of passage isn’t always easy, planning beforehand can make it much easier with the right precautions in place. The four tips above can help your young student prepare for some of the difficulties that come with this transition.

Matt Herndon (@Just_Matt_) lives in Indianapolis with his wife and children. He has been studying and writing about leadership development and organizational communication since he began his undergraduate work in Upper East Tennessee approximately 20 years ago.

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