The Summer Before College Drop-Off: 10 Things NOT to Do

Graduation came, graduation went. Now what? If you’re like me, you may find yourself wandering around aimlessly, wondering how the heck that date on the calendar that’s been coming at you in warp speed since September finally got here.

mom and teen daughter
What not to do the summer before drop-off. (Twenty20)


For the past few months, you’ve had such purpose! Such drive! And whether you checked the 157 tasks off your graduation to-do list efficiently or did it all at the last minute (and ignored like 154 of them), you might find yourself at a bit of a loss right about now for more than the obvious reasons.

It’s okay, friend, there’s still plenty to do before August that will occupy your time and mind, so you don’t have to face reality…just yet.

The final countdown to college is now ON, and it’s real.

By now, you’ve surely received the lists of dorm necessities, the confusing meal plans, and the dreaded emails full of financial information and tuition deadlines, but what might prove more vital for you right about now is a list of things the colleges don’t send out: a list of things from someone who’s been there before and is back there once again. And, because mistakes were made the first time, it’s a list of things NOT to do. Because, let’s be honest, that’s how we learn.

What NOT to do before you leave your teen at college

1. Don’t over-insert yourself.

Let your graduate handle class schedules, roommate decisions, and other logistics. Offer your suggestions, but make sure they are just that: suggestions. Let their decisions stick. This is their experience, not yours.

2. Don’t decorate their room.

No matter how much you want to hide the depressing cinder blocks with a cute gallery wall or throw 12 fuzzy throw pillows on their bed, this is their space. Sadly, it’s not an excuse for you to unleash your inner Joanna Gaines. But having said those things…

3. Don’t let them leave you out entirely.

It’s a fine line between giving them the space and respect they need and still participating in their choices. Walk it carefully, like a tightrope, but still walk it. I mean, especially since you’re the one who’s paying for all of it (But don’t use that fact as a weapon.)

4. Don’t get too caught up in the checklists.

Make sure to take time to ENJOY things with your graduate this summer that has nothing to do with college. (We just made a bucket list of family favorite restaurants to make sure to eat at before August, but I mean, a jog or a bike ride works, too.)

5. Don’t spend all summer worrying about how you’ll feel at drop-off.

Be present. Listen, you may cry buckets in August, or you may not: leave whatever emotions you’ll have for later, or you’ll rob the days you have left.

6. Don’t forget to make reservations for their Thanksgiving trip back home.

If they are taking the train or flying, reservations at this key travel time will book up quickly.

7. Don’t leave everything (i.e., dorm room shopping, packing) until the last minute.

There will be no fewer than 12 things to take care of the weeks before move out that you haven’t even thought of yet, so check off the things you know about by mid-July if possible.

8. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

After 18 years, you’ve learned things that seemed insurmountable have a way of working out. Don’t forget. You’ve got this, and you’re doing great!

9. Don’t bring your graduate down.

Highlight this one. It will rub off on them if you’re already mourning their departure. You need to be positive about your feelings and lift them. Don’t forget they may be feeling apprehensive about leaving home too, and while it’s okay (and important) to address it, do it positively without dragging them down.

10. Don’t forget that this is all good.

Sure, you may get overwhelmed with all the new information and complicated feelings coming at you at lightning speed, but try to take a moment regularly to acknowledge all of the good things this new adventure means and will bring for both of you. Because I promise, there are many!

You Might Also Want to Read:

College Move In Day: 12 Things That Will Save Your Life

About Michelle Newman

Michelle Newman is one of the hosts and producers of The Pop Culture Preservation Society, a podcast dedicated to preserving the pop culture nuggets of our GenX childhoods, from Barry Manilow and the Bee Gees to Battle of The Network Stars. She’s spent the past nine years writing for publications like Grown & Flown, Entertainment Weekly, and The Girlfriend, as well as for her (now silent) blog, You’re My Favorite Today. A recent empty nester, Michelle finds immense joy connecting with others through the memories of their 70s childhoods. Follow the Pop Culture Preservation Society on Instagram and listen wherever you get podcasts!

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