While no one will ever be an expert, most would agree – good parenting is about consistency. It’s about being there for big moments, but it’s also the consistency of decision making. Naturally, parents want to do all they can to ensure that their children succeed, but many have a hard time knowing when to hold on, and when to finally let go.
This process of separating peaks when children leave home for their first year at university. As your student settles into his or her new post-high school life, the next few years will likely be filled with ups and downs, both academically and financially.
Here are some tips to help your son or daughter thrive during their freshman year.
It’s ok not to have a career plan yet.
Even though it may seem everyone else knows what career path they are heading down, it is perfectly ok if your freshman isn’t sure what they will pursue right away. Teach them not to feel pressured to make a hasty decision about a career or a major.
Remind your student that college is the place to really discover who they are and what they’re good at. It’s not a race; encourage them to take their time and enjoy exploring their options.
Emphasize getting to know their professors.
There are only upsides to getting to know the professors, especially if your freshman needs some extra help with coursework. Tell your student to take advantage of professors’ office hours and, additionally, encourage them to get to know their academic advisor. This is the person who will help them with scheduling courses, resolving academic conflicts and deciding on majors and minors.
Keep track of money.
If you’ve never taught your child how to create a budget, now is the time to do so. Show them ways to stretch their money and warn them to avoid all of those credit card solicitations they’ll soon be receiving. You want your child to start off on the right financial foot after graduation without the burden of credit card debt.
Even before you pack up your child’s bedroom, it is important to start saving for their post-secondary education as early as possible – years before a university education is even close.
Committing to a sound savings plan when your child is born, like through a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), which are managed and distributed through providers like Children’s Education Funds Inc. (CEFI), can help mitigate some of the financial stress in the future.
There is a lot of flexibility built into saving for higher education through an RESP. As parents, you can help set the foundation for your child’s future by making payments that work within your budget.
Remember, freshmen need space to make their own decisions and even in the face of uncertainty, parents need to take a deep breath, and allow their children to enjoy their new freedom.