There was a moment, a big one, when as we were launching our first child to college, I started to panic:

Had we taught her all the things she needed to know?

Did she have any idea how often to get the oil changed in the car?

Had we covered contingencies for a variety of situations?

And, of course, the overwhelming, overarching question:

Had we done our job as parents?

With the summer speeding by at a rapid pace, the start of school is almost here. While you’ve gathered the skills through the years of getting your K-12 kids out the door and into the classroom, the college launch can feel far more daunting. While the answers to the above questions are going to take some sorting out, there are some pretty standard things you can do, right now, to help your college student start the year strong, whether they’re staying fairly close to home or are hitting the books halfway across the country.

  • Dorm essentials: Bedding, mini-fridge, storage, closet and drawer organizers, cleaning products, shelf-stable snacks and meals, decor, these kinds of items can help you and your student set up their dorm space in a way that maximizes their space and gives them a sense of comfort and home as the semester begins.
  • If your student isn’t going to start out in the dorm but is going to commute from your home, consider leveling up their responsibilities as a ‘tenant’ in your home. Perhaps they should take on helping with one meal a week or shopping for supplies. The goal is not to put more on their plate but rather for them to move into a more collaborative, independent frame of mind as they enter their college years. Discuss ahead of time what your expectations are around communications, cleaning, and other activities. Again, give them as much autonomy as you can while also reframing the ‘advantages’ they may have experienced as a child in your home. The dynamic should shift as they enter the college experience.
  • Study essentials: Think through the office supplies that your student will need. So often, there are items that our kids are used to having access to in our homes but will require some forethought when you’re setting up their home away from home. Notebooks, pens, highlighters, planner, paper clips, tape, a filing system, printer paper and printer, index cards, Post-it notes, scissors, and copies of important documents they’ll need are all important components of setting up their study area for success.
  • Clothing and personal care: If your student is heading to school in a climate different than their hometown, take some time to add items to their wardrobe that will have them weather-ready. And don’t forget the right kind of footwear to help them traverse campus in style and comfort. Get a feel ahead of time for the styles favored by your student’s school; regions and schools all have their own unique approach to clothing. You’ll also want to make sure they have a backstock of hygiene products in case they don’t have easy access to transportation to stores.
  • Classroom basics: Textbooks, laptop, lab supplies, and other resources are likely required for your student’s classes. Search the syllabus ahead of time to make sure you have the required materials ready to roll for your student’s first day of class.
  • Medical and health membership: If your family is part of the Altrua HealthShare Membership and your student is 18 years or older, they will need to sign the Statement of Standards for themselves. When your student turns 23, they will need to enroll in their own membership with Altrua HealthShare. If you or your student needs any help with your Altrua HealthShare membership or if your student needs help locating a new primary care provider in their new college town, contact a Member Services Representative at 1.833.3-ALTRUA (258782). And here’s a great reminder: if your student has any non-emergency issues with cold-like symptoms, allergies, rashes or other issues, they can reach out to DialCare, a telehealth service that is part of your Altrua HealthShare membership. (If you’re not yet a Member of Altrua HealthShare and are looking for an affordable, flexible approach to healthcare, check out all the affordable options available with Altrua HealthShare.)

Yes, one of the goals in launching your student into their college experience is for them to get an education in the field in which they have an interest. But it’s also about them learning that they can make steps into the adult world of managing their own health, paperwork, handling their personal product and clothing needs, keeping track of their study materials and resources, and maintaining their living space for maximum comfort and organization. With a little bit of planning and help from you, your student will be ready to hit the first day of class with, sure, some nerves, but also with a sense of being prepared for the year ahead.