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A Parent's To-Do List for the Summer Before Your Teen Heads Off to College

Here is a simple and achievable checklist of all of the things parents of college-bound teens should do this summer with advice from a college recruiter.
parents helping on college move-in day
Updated: December 1, 2022

The summer before your teen heads off to college for the first time seems to fly by faster than any previous summers! Once your teen has committed to the school of their choice—and continues to deny they have “Senioritis”—it’s time for them to hunker down and tackle all the last-minute stuff. They’ll (hopefully) appreciate your help, especially because you may not always be there physically if they’re dorm-living in another city come fall.

More: 5 Ways to Bond With Your Teen Before College

Here’s a checklist of all the things parents of college-bound teens should do this summer:

  • Schedule a ‘date’ night or vacation with your teen.

“The last summer before teens leave for college feels like a milestone time for parents,” explains parenting Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer:  “Parents should teach kids how to read a credit card statement and spend within their limits! They should know how to keep track of charges, payments, and so forth.”

  • Reserve a hotel near the school.

If you have not done so yet, book a hotel to stay at prior and during dorm move-in time. There could be hundreds of students moving in the same day as you, and it can get a little chaotic, albeit, exciting! Knowing you booked the hotel room in advance will give you peace of mind. You can ask for hotel referrals from parents of upper students, such as seniors who know the drill well, or just run an online search. Also consider parking options, breakfast and room service options, budget, and so forth. Check the calendar for visiting weekends and special events, so you can return to that hotel in the future and have a familiar place to stay when you visit. Also, think outside the box; for example, my sister attended college in upstate New York where hotels were sparse and booked fast, so when my parents visited her, they stayed at a local bed & breakfast close to campus.

  • Talk to your teen about budgeting.

Sit down with your teenager (sans their mobile phone) and discuss a budget with them. Use a regular ol’ pen and paper if you need to—let them know how much money you’ll give them weekly or monthly, and what that money should be used for. Also, discuss with them whether or not they should find a job while at school, either on campus or off-campus. If they whine and complain that you’re not providing them with enough (grr) remind them that part of growing up is managing your money. Basically, remind your student not to be financially reckless and what to do in an emergency—for example, will you provide them with a credit card to be used ONLY in emergencies? (And define YOUR definition of an emergency.) 

Says Risa Lewak, former college recruiter and author of Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer:  “Parents should teach kids how to read a credit card statement and spend within their limits! They should know how to keep track of charges, payments, and so forth.”

Use this printable teen budget worksheet to get the conversation started and help your teen plan:

teen budget worksheet snippet

  • Help them buy supplies—within a budget.

You know the drill with this. As a parent, chances are you’ll help your student purchase all of the college essentials like bedding, sheets, and everything they’ll need for college, including items such as towels, a robe, rain boots, and so forth. Thanks to sites like Amazon and Wayfair, you and your teen can easily order anything once you get to their dorm, but be sure they don’t forget their medicines, fave shampoo, umbrella, a raincoat, photos from home, and so forth.

Big Box stores like Walmart, Costco, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Macy’s tend to have great deals on everyday items and clothes your teen will need for college, so check for coupons, sales, discounts, and stock up on stuff they really need, like razors and notebooks and computer paper. Anything they forget they can order online or pick up at a store near the college. Remind them NOT to forget their phone chargers, laptop chargers, and so forth. (And invest in a big bulletin board-slash-wipe-off board and a power strip for charging all their digital gadgets.

  • Teach your kids how to do laundry.

If they already know how, that is awesome. But...says Lewak: “It sounds simple, but you'd be surprised how many kids have never done laundry in their lives.” Unless your student is living at home while attending college, chances are they’re on their own for wash and fold. Also, make sure they know where the local dry cleaner is near campus; remind them they’ll never know when they’ll need to clean a puffy winter coat or press/steam a formal outfit. (For example, I had an internship throughout college and had to learn real fast where my local dry cleaner was for times I had to attend formal events with my boss.) While you’re going through the 123’s of doing laundry with your teen, remind your student to pack an iron, a mini ironing board, a steamer, and some laundry detergent. Again, it’s boring but a basic skill.

  • Remind your student to read.

Ok, this one will be a toughie, but it never hurts to remind your teenager reading is so important—and not just celeb gossip sites. We’re talking classic books or popular ones of today to work their ‘brains’ in prep for intense college work. In college, chances are they won’t have much time for pleasure reading, so summer’s the time get in a lit-fix. Says Lewak: “Seriously, remind your student to take time this summer to read classics: Dickens, Tolstoy, etc. to keep their mind sharp and vocabulary well-stocked.”


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Rachel Sokol

About Rachel

With a degree in Magazine Journalism, Rachel is a writer who has been featured in a huge… Read more

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