Parents of soon-to-be college students may not realize that they need to take some time, between outfitting the dorm room and pricing used textbooks, to prepare themselves for the upcoming transition, too.
After all, sending a kid to college is a big shift for the whole family, not just the student.
Experienced parents can pass along plenty of common-sense, pragmatic suggestions: Don't call professors on your child's behalf. Clarify with your student who will be paying for what -- from the cellphone bill to incidentals like shampoo and toothpaste. Expect some tearful, homesick texts and calls.
Valuable advice also comes from those who have lived in the world of academia and who have witnessed the college scene evolve.
Karen Levin Coburn, senior consultant in residence at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of "Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years," offered these keys tips that every parent of a new college student should know.
Before your child leaves for college:
-- Be prepared to see less of them -- even before they leave home. The closer it gets to departure time, the less you can expect to see of your child. He or she will probably be spending every waking hour with friends. Allow them this special time together before they all go their separate ways.
-- Recognize your child's conflicting emotions. Your child, like you, is being pulled between past, present and future. One day, it's "Leave me alone; I'm 18 years old," and the next day, it's "You're never around when I need you." Your child's ups and downs are a sign of the ambivalence of this transitional time.
-- Make a financial plan. Develop a tentative budget and be clear about who will pay for what. For example, some parents pay for books and supplies, while their child is responsible for expenses such as snacks, movies and social activities. Other students are responsible for earning a percentage of their tuition. Teach your child about the responsible use of credit and debit cards.
-- Discuss academic goals and expectations. Remember, many first-year college students do not do as well academically the first semester as they did in high school, and many change their minds about their proposed course of study.
-- Talk to your child about how you'll communicate. A cellphone can be a great way to keep in touch, but it can also be, as one student described it, an "electronic leash." Both sides need to set and respect boundaries. Talk about Facebook communication and other social media. Set ground rules and expectations together.
After your child arrives at college:
-- Be a coach. You're likely to hear more than your share of problems. When you get those late-night phone calls -- and you will -- instead of jumping in to solve the problem yourself, encourage your child to use the appropriate campus resources, such as the health services or writing center.
-- Be an anchor. College students want their parents to accept all the changes they are making, but want everything at home to stay the same. So keep them informed about changes at home, whether it's a younger sibling moving into their room or a more serious issue, like an illness in the family.
-- Acknowledge that college today is different. Although century-old buildings may look untouched by time, college life today is very different from the campus scene 20 or 30 years ago. Think twice before beginning a sentence with, "When I was in college ..."
-- Don't tell your child, "These are the best years of your life." No one is happy all the time, even between the often-glorified ages of 18 and 22. When a student is homesick, overtired from studying all night, or hurting over a romantic relationship that has fallen apart, it's not reassuring to have parents imply that this is as good as it gets.