It is with a little concern that I write this letter to you, parents of college-bound kids. Your wide eyed, excited youngsters have been looking forward to going off to college for at least a year, and your older ones have been desperate to get back to their friends since March. What a mess this pandemic has created. Now you are packing, unpacking, mopping up tears and trying to calm everyone down. You yourself may be going through a blend of sadness, disappointment, frustration and downright anger. And why not? Many of you have been putting money in your 529’s for 15 years, diligently planning every step of your child’s education. For what? For college. The obvious next phase of their life.

But now it is time to dust yourself off, look in the mirror and smile a stoic grown up smile, speak to the cheerleader inside every parent and engage the logical side of your brain. Now is not the time to give in to the same emotions your kids are experiencing. They need your guidance, reason and Yoda-like wisdom now more than ever.

Here are 3 tips on how and what to communicate to the new college students in your life, whether they are holed up at home, studying online, stuck in their dorm rooms, or trying to get organized on campus.

  1. Unfamiliar, uncomfortable, confusing and frustrating are all good emotions to be having. Embrace them. In order for this to be a successful message to your kids, you yourself have to believe it and practice it.
    1. Avoid cleaning their apartment for them. This is obviously just an example, but how will they learn how to fish if you keeping hauling in the catch for them?! Unless of course you intend to keep doing these things for them for the next 10 years. Yikes!
    2. Don’t answer texts in the middle of the night unless they are really urgent. (A smelly or unfriendly room-mate is not an emergency).
    3. Limit care packages. This is the first step into the real world. The more you spoil them, the less they will build self- sufficiency muscles.
  2. Just because the education is online or being delivered in a Hybrid fashion, doesn’t make it less valuable, or less of an investment. Education is both an investment and expensive, so communicate this to them.  You have worked hard to be able to make this investment for them, and it shouldn’t be taken for granted or under-valued.
    1. Help them set up a serious, organized and private space for their courses and coursework.
    2. Consider a Personal Commitment Contract that ensures their diligence in studying, producing good work, and following the rules put in place by their college regarding papers due, class contribution, etc.
    3. Use this opportunity to teach them some financial literacy. If you filled out FAFSA or CSS Profiles, teach them how to do it. Point out tax return line items and explain what gross and net and adjustable mean. It won’t be long before they need to do this for themselves.
  3. Encourage them to take on a meaningful project, to add even more value to their education:
    1. Find a local non-profit that is in desperate need of Social Media/PR/Marketing student to help them.
    2. Find a small business that is looking for help with data entry, data analytics, customer support help.
    3. Encourage your student to sign up for a voting or political campaign in their area. Older people are unable and unwilling to work at polling stations so they are looking for resources.

If you need any help at all please don’t hesitate to reach out. Sometimes a “Non-Parent Voice” can impart wisdom with greater ease.

Warm regards
Jo Leonard