Also from the perspective of a student(-athlete), there are some things that parents should(n't) do, and some things that kids should(n't) do in the process of actually preparing to go to college. Not in applying to college, but in preparing to go!
Disclaimer: I go to college (Stanford University) on the other coast of the US from where I grew up my entire life (Northern Virginia), and I'm also a college athlete, so, some of my experiences are things that most other people won't experience. I've tried to incorporate my friends experiences too though.
First, what parents should and shouldn't do! (From my perspective, at least):
- Don't do everything for your kids. Its embarrassing to go to a school with so many brilliant people who don't know how to do their laundry or write a cheque just because their parents always did it for them. My roommate doesn't even know how to do the recycling or take out the trash, which is pretty pathetic.
- Give your kids some space. It's fine to call your kids once a week, and send the occasional email, and by all means, its fine to do so more often if they invite you to do that. My parents however, are in the habit of calling me once every 2 days, and sending me 3 emails a day. Its not that I don't want to talk to them, its that I'm really busy. Please understand it when I say that I'd rather you only call once a week because I am doing work every day.
- Give your kids some spending money, if you can, or at least, pay for essentials. I know that most parents are already paying tuition, but in addition, I'd hope that parents would pay for essential things that their children need too, even when they're at college. Of course, a lot of this depends on the circumstances, how much money you have, etc. but I got yelled at for putting a taxi cab ride from the airport to school (It was a $100 cab ride) on my parents credit card after I came back from Thanksgiving.
- Support your kids academic choices, but don't be too lenient. College is a time to discover what you are interested in, but its not a time to waste your parent's money. Let your kids explore what they're interested in, instead of forcing your kids to be a doctor or a lawyer. However, don't let your kids just blindly fuck up. Its important to be sympathetic, but its more important to be harsh when you need to be.
- Make your kids learn what it is like to be courteous to the people you live with. Once again, with my roommate, he's a terrible roommate. He's a total slob, and I think I do his laundry about as often as he does his, because he always mistakenly throws something into my laundry basket. He sleeps until 4 PM, when I have to wake up at 8 AM for classes. It's not to say that he's necessarily a bad person, but I think that his parents could probably have been a bit better at teaching him how to share space with another person.
Now, things that people going OFF to college should do:
- Think about what you want to get out of college, and do some planning. I was lucky, because I had a teacher my senior year of HS who told the entire class about how important it was to plan. I've known since I was 10 what I've wanted to study (electrical engineering) so it's not like it really made my choice of major any clearer, but it's helped when signing up for classes. My girlfriend, through her sophomore year of college at William & Mary has gotten locked out of registration many times, but I haven't. That might just be due to differences in how we register for classes too, but, planning can't hurt.
- Get involved in clubs: As a freshman, if you approach the officers of a club, sometimes they'll be really receptive to your interest, and will actually give you a low level officer position. Not only is that great for resumes but its also a really good way to get into life on campus.
- Be willing to compromise with your roommate where you can. If you're lucky, the two of you will get along really well. If not, please don't be like my roommate, who has decided that the appropriate response to me having an early schedule is to go to sleep an hour before I wake up. It'll just generally make things easier.
- Learn the laws. Ignorance isn't an excuse. From alcohol and sexual assault laws, to traffic laws, you should know the important things. Not just because it makes your life less of a hassle, but also because it's just the right thing to do and can really increase your safety. Most laws are there to protect you.
- Learn about security. This way, you don't have to worry about your laptop getting stolen or about someone taking the bike you just bought. It saves you money and a hassle.
- Also, kind of along the same thread, learn to fix things. In college, invariably, something in your room gets broken. You can either buy something new, fix it, or live without it. In most cases, the 2nd is the best choice.
- Dress appropriately. If its 2AM, you're hungry, and it's December, wear enough clothes to keep you warm, because that way, you're warm, and I don't have to listen to your damn bitching. I'm comfy outdoors in a t-shirt and shorts when its 45 degrees, but you're probably not. Take that into consideration.
The first few months of college are kind of a learning experience, but you know, there are some things you can do to just make them easier.