15 Things to Do for Your Teen Before Dropping Them Off at College

Being a parent of a new college student can feel overwhelming and stressful especially these last few days before your student heads off to college. Remember to take a deep breath and take time to relax.

You may have started (or finished) dorm shopping or begun packing up their things. You might also be thinking of last-minute things you can do to prepare your teen during their final days at home. If you are looking for some additional things to do and want to go the extra mile, here are some ideas.

mom and teen daughter
15 ways to show your teen how much you care before they leave home. (Twenty20 @dbpicado)

15 things to do before your teen leaves home

1. Take them to get a haircut

It can be hard finding a hair salon near campus and can also be a pain for them to have to Uber there if they do not have a car on campus. Getting a haircut right before leaving for school will ensure they don’t feel the need to get their haircut while at school and should be set until they come home again.

2. Take them to the dentist and doctor

Going to the dentist and doctor just before leaving is a great idea if your student is moving far away from home and won’t be back home until winter break.

3. Go shopping for new clothes 

Getting back to school clothes was one of my favorite ways to get ready for the new school year. I always felt so confident at the beginning of the school year because my mom would take me shopping for a few new outfits that made me feel good about myself! Also, if your child is joining Greek life, you may want to pick out new outfits for each day of recruitment when you do this shopping trip. 

4. Take them to get their nails done 

This is always a fun thing to do right before leaving for school. You can take your daughter to get a manicure and pedicure. My mom always did this with me right before heading off to college for the start of the new school year and I loved it! It is best to do this just a couple of days before leaving so that the nails last for the first week of school. 

5. Let them have a day when you take them to do anything they want

This is a really fun way to spend one-on-one time with your teen just before they head off to college, letting them choose what you guys do for the whole day! It can start by getting breakfast at their favorite restaurant, then going to a beach, amusement park, or lake, whatever they choose, then lunch together, going to another place they love or staying at the same place, then dinner, and you could end the night watching their favorite movie. During this day, you can also talk to them about any worries or fears they may have about college and can reassure them of how amazing college will be!

6. Do a family dinner 

If this isn’t something that your family normally does, it is nice to do a family dinner either at home or a restaurant just before your son or daughter heads off to school. This is a great way to bond as a family and talk about how exciting college is and all of the fun things they can look forward to. 

7. Pack them a small surprise

A fun idea is to pack your student a small surprise that they won’t notice until after you drop them off at college. This will make your student feel special and loved! Whether you leave $20 under their bed sheet or put a little gift in their closet, it will make them SO happy when they find it!

8. Pack their favorite snacks for college

They will be so excited to find a stash of all their favorite things to eat. Some ideas include Cliff bars, trail mix, their favorite candy, chips, popcorn, and instant oatmeal

9. Create a first aid kit

This is very useful because it is common for students to get sick while living in the dorms because there are so many students within close proximity to each other. My parents made me one and I used it throughout my four years at college. 

10. Make sure they have shoes and clothes for all types of weather in their area

Because move-in is at the end of summer, something a lot of people forget is to pack clothes for cooler weather during Fall and Winter. If your student is going somewhere where it snows in the Fall and they may not be visiting home in between now and then, make sure they are prepared for colder weather by packing an umbrella, a snow jacket, and winter boots. Even though they won’t need it when they move in, it will be good to have, and you won’t have to worry about shipping this to them later in the school year. 

11. Make an information booklet

This is helpful just to keep all their important information in one place. You can do this with a folder or binder and put any information that they may need in case of an emergency. Some things to include are extended families’ phone numbers (in case they cannot reach you), the non-emergency police phone number in their local area, photocopy of insurance cards and their passport, the closest urgent care address and phone number, important dates for the school year, the Netflix login and password, and any other important information you think they may need! It is always good to have a hard copy of things in case their electronics malfunction. 

12. Write them a letter of encouragement

If you are feeling overly emotional or overwhelmed, writing a letter can help ease your stress. You can talk about how proud you are of your child, and how excited you are for this chapter of their life. You can give this to them right before you leave when you drop them off at school. 

13. Make “open when” gifts

If you are nervous about the bad times your child may have in college, open when gifts are the perfect solution! Here are some ideas: open when… you are stressed (chocolate, candy, or a skincare face mask), you are bored (a puzzle book or cards), you are low on cash ($20), you are tired (a Starbucks gift card), you are sick (cup of soup or lozenges), you have a sore throat (tea bags), it is movie night (microwave popcorn), you miss home (family pictures and photos of pets), you are studying for your first big test (index cards or granola bars). These ensure that even on the toughest of days, they have something to look forward to. 

14. Teach them how to do their laundry 

While this might seem obvious or maybe they have been doing their laundry for years already, many students don’t know that they are supposed to wash white clothes separately or how some items are not supposed to go in the dryer. It can be beneficial to show them how you wash their clothes and have them do it a couple of times before they leave. You could even add how to do laundry to the information booklet, just in case they forget.

15. Tell them you love them!

It is important for kids to hear this before they leave. Oftentimes, students feel very isolated and lonely during the first few weeks of the school year. Make sure they know that you will be here for them no matter what and reassure them of how proud you are of them. 

Doing these things can be beneficial for ensuring your child feels confident and comfortable while they are away at school and that they are prepared for adverse situations. 

More Great Reading:

8 Things to Remember on the Road Back Home

About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the 2019 to 2020 school year, she was the advertising director for The Bottom Line newspaper at UC Santa Barbara. Prior to that, she was an intern for United Airlines in both 2018 and 2019, where she was involved in projects to improve the customer experience. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

Read more posts by Madeleine

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