Preparing Your Teen for College Life

Preparing Your Teen for College Life
August 4, 2016 North Jersey Marketing

Ask Lourdes

Volume 3 Issue 9 August 2016

Preparing Your Teen for College Life
Ask Lourdes

By Lourdes Cortez

As a parent, it is important to take a proactive role in getting your teen ready for college. College may seem daunting not just for the student, but for the parent as well.

Undoubtedly, the summer before the start of the freshman year of college is full of preparation and transition.  Move-in day can arrive very quickly but there are several steps you can take to make the transition for both you and your teen as smooth as possible.

Dorm life is an amazing experience and most people can recall that first day away from home. That feeling of freedom and anticipation can be overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. By following a few fail-safe tips you can help your teen adjust.

First, there are several administrative tasks that must be complete before your teen arrives on campus, such as meeting with academic advisors, selecting courses, and acquiring financing and/or paying the term bill.

Next, be aware of the college’s policies pertaining to moving-in. Confirm arrival dates and times and use the suggested checklist provided by the housing department.  These checklists usually include must-have items every new college student will need to live on campus.

Privacy can be particularly difficult when sharing living space and communal restrooms.  Ensure your teen finds a personal space that will allow them to focus on study or alone time.

During the first few months away from home, your child will be tested socially, emotionally and academically. Your teen will meet many new people and will encounter all types of personalities and culturally different individuals.  Having an open mind, being positive, and using good conflict resolution skills are crucial, especially when it comes to roommates.  Your teen should discuss expectations with their roommates from the first day including cleaning schedules, having a list of “shared” snacks/food, and being open to sharing study and sleep habits.  Discussing these things from the beginning will make the process much easier.

Being independent may be difficult at first, so equipping your teen with basic and essential life skills will be beneficial. For example, knowing how to do laundry, how to prepare simple meals, time management, and how to clean up after yourself are important skills that you, as a parent, can teach your child.

Also, with this new found independence, your teen can benefit from the assistance of deans, professors and especially resident assistants. Encourage your teen to establish a good rapport with their resident assistant since they are a resource for information and advice.

A major part of being a responsible adult is managing your finances. Parents should focus on teaching their teens how to create and stay on a budget.  Learning how to live on a budget while at home will prepare your teen for money management in college. Additionally, warn your teen about credit card companies which often prey on first year students offering “special” deals and free gifts with sign-up. Your teen should understand that there are other ways to build credit and to not take on any unnecessary debt.

Aside from the academic element of college, the social aspect is where many parents fail to educate their children. Balancing an academic and social life can be challenging for most first year students.  Using time management skills such as planners, smartphone apps and calendars will help your teen stay on track with studying and staying organized.

As a parent, we worry about the many lures and pitfalls our children will face on campus such as partying, underage drinking and campus safety. It is normal for young adults to let loose and explore.  However, it is necessary for your teen to recognize the importance of maintaining the values and morals that you worked so hard to instill.  While trying to fit in, you want your teen to be prepared to avoid and say “no” to risks such as alcohol and drugs.

Remind your child to take precautions while at parties and to recognize the dangers and legal implications of drugs and underage drinking.   Consequences can range from expulsion to jail time, so be honest and upfront before they go away to school. It is important to have open dialogue and use those “teachable moments” to explain to your child the importance of being responsible. By setting expectations based on communication and trust, your child will make decisions that are more informed.

Make sure to stress campus safety, particularly when students are walking back from a late-night class or an evening out with friends.  Common sense tactics such as being aware of your surroundings are crucial. In addition, your teen should familiarize himself/herself with campus safety resources and procedures.

Make the most of orientation activities geared towards preparing everyone for this new life experience.  Ensure your teen researches ways to get involved on campus via sports, extracurricular activities as well as clubs and organizations.  There are many resources for academic assistance including career services, libraries and office hours with professors.

As your teen transitions into a college student, remember to support your child and trust that you have created a strong foundation.  As the year progresses, be sure to take advantage of parent days organized by the college and share in their experiences.

The skills and lessons your child has learned over the years influence their pre-college, in-college and post-college decisions. Before you know it, your baby will be waving goodbye as they enter that dorm room, and emotions will be at an all-time high. If, as a parent, you prepared for this day alongside your teen, saying good-bye and allowing this journey to take its course will be much easier. College is an amazing experience and being a part of this experience, as a parent, is truly rewarding. 


Lourdes Cortez began her professional banking career in 1984 as a representative at the North Jersey Federal Credit Union (North Jersey Federal). After progressing through several positions, she became CEO in 2005.  In the past 10 years, North Jersey Federal’s assets have steadily grown from $168 million to $233 million.  As the first Latina CEO of a major credit union in NJ, not only has Lourdes’ stewardship increased the assets of North Jersey Federal, but her commitment to giving back to the community has been tremendous. This has included building the first student-run credit union in NJ. As CEO, Lourdes crystalized the credit union’s community involvement with the creation of the North Jersey Federal Credit Union Foundation.  Organizations that have received support from the foundation include Autism Radio, the Boys & Girls Club, Boy and Girl Scouts, Eva’s Village, and the Marines Care Organization.
Lourdes has been honored by NJ Biz magazine as one of the Best 50 Women in Business in NJ, the 2015 Brava Awards from SmartCEO and the 2015 CIANJ/Commerce Magazine Best Practices Awards, among other accolades. Recently, Lourdes was appointed to the Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve