What Every Parent of a First-Year College Student Should Know

As a parent, you want your student to succeed in college, but how can you help? Part of the college experience is learning to be independent and self-reliant, but you can still help your student as they grow toward total independence. Here are some of the areas your student may need help in, and what you can do to assist them.

Financial Stresses

Financial stresses can prove to be quite the distraction for a college student, and attending college today can be quite costly. Besides paying tuition, room and board, and books, college students often face a multitude of smaller expenses that add up quick. Helping your student financially can help them to focus on their studies rather than stressing about finances and where their next meal will come from!

Financial Aid Facts

Be advised and educated on what type of financial aid is available for your student. Not only is it important to know what type of aid is available, but you should also educate yourself and your student on the repayment that will be required. Also, be sure to file the FAFSA as early as possible to ensure you are able to get the maximum funding. Financial aid offices distribute much of their aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so keeping one step ahead of the game is crucial. The longer you wait to get started, the more you’re going to pay in the end.

Banks and Credit Unions

Your student’s campus will usually have a bank or credit union located on it. Banks and credit unions on campus are quite convenient as they can provide information regarding student loans, personal loans, and checking and saving accounts, as well as convenient cash withdrawals and money transfers.

Health Care Services

Make sure your student knows where the nearest health center is located when they arrive on campus—it’s important to know this before they get sick or need help. Knowing the location is just the first step: Encourage them to learn about the service fees the heath center charges, as well as the services offered.

Vehicle Restrictions

Can your student take their car to campus? Some colleges do not have the space to allow every student to have a car, or they may restrict parking access to certain levels of students (juniors and seniors, for example). Be sure to check with the school’s parking office for vehicle restrictions and guidelines.

Cell Phone Coverage

Check beforehand to make sure that your student’s wireless phone will work on their campus. If their phone won’t work (or if they don’t have a phone), look for student discounts provided through the school or local companies. Special student rate plans can definitely help your student’s budget.

Roommate Basics

Know that conflicts are likely when your student moves away from home to share a small living space with one or more new people. Conflict is natural, so your student and their roommate should be prepared with ways of resolving problems. Encourage your student to talk through their problems with their roommate to find a resolution. Resident assistants and other staff members can also assist with conflicts as needed. If conflicts cannot be resolved, you student can seek a room change, though that request will depend on available space.

Alcohol Policy

All colleges and universities comply fully with federal and state laws governing alcohol—students under the age of 21 may not legally possess or consume alcohol. Every school has their own disciplinary action for students who violate the alcohol policy. Some include meeting with staff members to discuss the situation at hand, while others include participating in classes. As a parent, it is important that you speak with your student about your expectations regarding alcohol use since they will be in a new environment with new freedoms and responsibilities.

The Dorm Room

Check with the school to find what items are included in your student’s dorm room. All dorm rooms will have at least a bed and a desk for each student, plus a closet and sometimes a dresser/chest of drawers. Students are responsible for cleaning and decorating their rooms. If your student is able to talk with their roommate before the school year starts, they can coordinate what items each of them will bring to furnish the room.

Family Weekend

Check your student’s campus event calendar to see when family weekend occurs. Parents and siblings can visit campus during these special events to learn about the school, and special events such as sports, fine arts, movies, and games are often planned.


This article was written by Hannah Purnell

Hannah Purnell is a staff writer for CollegeView.com. Hannah writes extensively on the topic of undergraduate studies and the college search process.


  1. PJ

    While this list is somewhat helpful, citing some “official” stated policy of full compliance on alcohol use is not. Nearly every college/university that is commented on or rated by various Internet sites has alcohol usage rated often 4-8 on a 1-10 scale. Nearly every college visited, when tour guides were asked, acknowledged underage drinking. Nearly very schools rates medium to high on partying, which involves underage drinking. Every college student home on break agrees that alcohol is available at weekend parties, often meaning Thursday through Saturday nights, at least. Many colleges state their policy but do little beyond it. Drugs follow similarly, though may be a notch or two less frequent. The stats on attempted rapes (male and female) of college age men and women is staggering — often alcohol related. Not only parents but college students looking to enjoy social time without the pressures of alcohol and drugs can find this challenging to do at best.

    What every parent AND first-year student should know goes quite a deal further than this list.

  2. Latonia Ross

    Hello, this is a known fact kids that leave home and go away to college they start drinking thinking that it’s okay to party and have fun everyday that’s when kids drop out of school because of their grades:

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