10 Things To Know Your Child’s Freshman Year

college-drop-off Image via Shutterstock

My son returned from his freshman year at college last May. When we unpacked his bags, the overwhelming stench of teen spirit once again filled my house. If you have a son in high school you probably know the smell; it’s the smell of dirty laundry, old soda cans and dirty sneakers that have been stored a little too long in one place. As I opened the bags that he brought home, my senses were assaulted and I laughed as I helped him unpack dirty dishes, dirty laundry and unused cleaning supplies.

For those of you facing your own college drop-offs soon, here are ten things to be prepared for:

1. Your child will not clean their room. Go see their room on move-in day and never return again.

2. Even if your student has a meal plan, they will blow all of their flex points and hard earned money at Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and on Chinese food. 

3. It’s just better to throw away the bathroom mats you bought. Do yourself a favor and buy cheap ones.

4. Buy a foam pad for their mattress; it makes a HUGE difference in how they sleep. I took my son’s home during Easter and he said it was a completely different feeling when it was gone.

5 If you do make the mistake of visiting your student halfway through the school year, bring LARGE trash bags. Chances are there will be donut boxes and empty Gatorade bottles stacked in the closet.

6. Buy a safe for your son/daughter and attach it to their bed on the first day of school. They can put their laptop, gadgets or wallet there when they leave the room or dorm. You’d be shocked at how many kids are affected by theft.

7. You are not allowed to get their grades. Yes, I know you may pay for their tuition, but they are legal adults now. Make sure you make it clear to your child that if you pay for school, you see the grades.

8. Forget the university-sponsored care packages; they are garbage. My son said he was so sick of getting candy and bad food he asked me not to re-order second semester. Send more socks, underwear, and anything else they may have forgotten and now realize they need.

9. Stock their refrigerator with tons of water. It will be the last time it is full of water.

10. Realize that when you pick up your son or daughter from college, you no longer have a “child.”  Your baby has become a young man or woman. That will not stop them from taking their dirty dishes and sealing them up in a garbage bag.

Remember: Freshman year is a time of adjustment. Sophomore, junior and senior year are really the memories that college is made of. Don’t be discouraged if your child has a slow start!

Related post: Dropping Your Child Off At College




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  1. 2

    Tracey Howard says

    No matter how prepared emotionally you think you are for your children leaving home, you are not. stock up on tissues and be READY for the roller coaster. Just ended my first year with my oldest going off to college.

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  2. 4

    Wendy says

    Realize, too, that many 18 year olds are not ready for college. Many will fall apart half way through, or two weeks in! It’s more common than you might think, and some schools really aren’t that good at helping those kids cope. A gap year can be the best thing for some!

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  3. 6

    Kelsey says

    This makes me feel SO young. It was only 5 years ago that I myself was headed to my freshman year of college. I came back home halfway through the year and have been a commuter student ever since. Best choice I ever made. Going away to college was NOT for me. I had no job and no car. My roommates and I got along well and I had a couple of other friends but I just didn’t want to stay. My daughter is 2 1/2, my husband and I have been married for 2 years, and in October we’ll be celebrating 1 year in our first home. I will be graduating in December :)

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  4. 9

    Toni says

    Your child (ok, young adult) still needs you! Finding the right level of communication is going to be a challenge — no one wants to hover over their newly independent college student, but let them know that it’s ok to call / text / touch base. Check in with them, too. Most conversations won’t be deep or meaningful, but once my son left home every communication became precious.

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  5. 12

    Shadia says

    As a college student and young mom I’m laughing at this article. This is the reason people live at home until their thirties. If my ADULT CHILD came home from college bringing dirty dishes and laundry, I wouldn’t laugh it off. It’s not CUTE. In fact it’s downright unacceptable. I don’t do shit like this and the people I go to school with don’t either.
    Oh and referring to the foam for their mattress, im sure the friends they bring home for groupsex thank them for how thoughtful their helicopter mommy is. Ugh.

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    • 13

      chill says

      Hahaha! True! And I agree about the laundry and dirty dishes. I never did that (or if I did bring home dirty laundry, it was to save on money and I did my own laundry at home). I don’t care if you have sons or daughters, teach them how to clean up after themselves and make THEM do it!!

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    • 14


      Point taken and I agree about the dishes. I was a single mom for many years and with my first child, have struggled through my first experiences. The dishes won’t be coming back that way, but I can assure you, in the rush to pack up their dorms they will sometimes be less than clean. As far as the groups sex comment, I can see you don’t know much about mattress pads and covers, they are laundered with his sheets. Also I’m not sure he is into group sex but if that was your thing, I can see your concern.

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  6. 15


    If they decide not to go back the next semester they better tell you and withdraw properly or they will be charged a full semester and never be able to go to another college unless the balance is paid and they get the transcript!! I just had to go through this with myself.13 yrs ago I dropped out after a semester but didn’t withdraw properly so they held my transcript(which every college needs,even without credits) until I paid my balance. So infuriating!!

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  7. 19

    Andrea says

    I cured my son of bringing home dirty dishes & dirty laundry (expecting that I would do it FOR him, hahahahaha) when I forbade it coming into the house until he was ready to clean the stuff- immediately- himself. After 3 days home with it all sitting in the backseat of his car he was sick of it enough to take care of his own problem. And he hasn’t tried that one since.

    My advice to parents of kids who are growing up is to be consistent and make them ACT like grownups and be responsible for themselves, even at home. Anyway, wasn’t the first 18 enough?

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  8. 21


    Oh yeah, that bed-in-a-bag I was so excited about getting at Target in August went right into a the trash at the end of my son’s freshman year. In a word: Ew. Glad I wasn’t the only one throwing things away!

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  9. 22


    My conversation with my oldest: “You are either an adult, or a kid. If you are an adult, it comes with all the responsibilities of adulthood, including paying for your room and board, if you are a kid, then you accept the inconveniences that go with the privileges of money for school. I respect you enough to make that decision.”

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  10. 24


    You CAN get your college kid’s grades (they just need to sign a FERPA release and provide the parent their FERPA password. The bigger issue is SHOULD parents be tracking their student’s grades. I would hope that your young adult would share these with you on their own. If they do not, there may be a bigger issue here. Oh, and DO NOT call their professor unless the student is unable (unconscious or in jail). It singles them out as being immature and incapable of the adult expectations of college. You can certainly encourage and coach your kids to speak with their professors, deans, administration, but allow them that learning opportunity to do these things for themselves.

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