What Families Need to Know About Sending Their First Child to College

Your first child is going to college.

Flickr user Stephanie Wallace

Sending your child to college can be a stressful time, both for you and them. There are a lot of things to take care of from selecting the school itself to making sure all the correct books are purchased. Here are a few tasks you may have forgotten before your firstborn leaves the nest.

Filing for Financial Aid

One of the most important things you can do before your child goes to college is filling out the forms for financial aid, most importantly the FAFSA, also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The application can determine whether you or your child can qualify for federal loans such as direct subsidized, direct unsubsidized, PLUS just for parents, and more. FASFA is also used by some colleges to hand out scholarships and grants, like the Pell Grant. Even if you believe you make too much money for federal financial aid, you may be surprised as most students and parents do get awarded something.

You should also ask your child about any potential scholarships or grants through their high school. Many school offices have information for local or state awards, and they’re extremely easy to enter.

Avoiding Overpacking

When heading off to the dormitories, it’s extremely easy to overpack and bring plenty of unnecessary items. During orientation, or even before if possible, get an idea of how big the dorms are. This can also give you both an idea of the layout when you unpack on the first day. Your child shouldn’t be trying to cram all of their personal possessions into the dorm.

Also check if the college supplies the students with microwaves, refrigerators, or anything else. You might find there’s less you need to bring than planned.

Teach Responsible Financial Behavior

If your child doesn’t yet have a checking or savings account, now is the time to open one. Some students also decide to get jobs during their four years. It’s a great way they can keep track of the money coming in as well as going out.

College will also require some money savviness, especially when it comes to spacing out meal plans or dining dollars, paying back loans, or purchasing books. It’s important that students don’t spend all their dining hall money halfway through the semester, for example. Your child should also understand any federal or private loans that are in their names, so they know how to pay them back when they graduate. To save some money on books, consider purchasing them used online from websites like Amazon or eBay.

Going to college for the first time is always an exciting and stressful time, even for the parents. There is plenty to do and keep track of, but these are just three things you’ll want to make sure to do during the summer before they head off to earn their degree.

College Raptor can help you discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the US—for FREE!

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