Decisions that You and Your Parents Should Make Before College

Decisions to Make Before College

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The summer between your senior year of high school and your freshman year of college feels like the end of an era, and it is. When the summer is over, you’ll be starting a life in which your parents take a backseat role, especially if you’re attending a college that’s far from home. That being said, your parents are still your parents, and chances are they will want to know how you’re doing. You don’t have to check in with them every day, and if you want to learn to live on your own, you probably shouldn’t, but you should lay some ground rules before you arrive on campus so that both you and your parents know what to expect. Decide on the following:


  • Do your parents expect to see your grades?
    • FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, protects educational records and the rights of students. Because of this, all academic information goes to you, as the student, for you to do with as you choose. Unless you give written consent or your parents petition the school to release your grades because you are a dependent for tax purposes, you are not legally obligated to share your educational records with your parents.
  • How much academic advice do you want?
  • Are there any expectations about what major or classes you will choose?


  • How often will you visit home?
  • How often will you call, text, or email?
  • Conversely, how much will your parents call, text, or email?
  • Will you have a standing Skype or FaceTime date each week?
  • Who should you call in an emergency?

Family Visits:

  • Do you want your parents or siblings to visit you on campus?
  • Would you be okay with it if your family showed up unannounced?
  • How often will you travel home?
  • What’s going to happen to your bedroom?
  • Are you expected to go home for the holidays?
  • Where will you stay during winter and summer breaks?


  • Who pays the phone bill?
  • Do you have to pay for your own Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc.?
  • Who is responsible for spending money?
  • Will you get a credit card in your own name?
  • Will you get a backup credit card tied to your parents’ account to use if there is an emergency?
  • Are you expected to work while you’re attending school?
  • Does money earned from a part-time job or work-study have to go toward tuition?
  • What happens if you can’t cover all your expenses one month?

Personal Life:

  • What do your parents expect you to share?
  • What’s the policy for partying and drinking?
  • Do your parents want to hear about your relationships?
  • How much space do you need?
  • Will your parents be your friends on social media?
  • Are you okay with it if your parents comment on or like your photos and status updates?


  • Who will pay for travel to and from campus?
  • Are you bringing a car to campus? Who is responsible for paying the insurance bill?
  • What if you want to travel with friends over break?
  • Is it okay for you to travel with friends without an adult present?

Tuition and Fees:

  • Who is paying for tuition?
  • Are you expected to contribute toward your educational expenses?
  • Will you take out loans in your own name, or will your parents take out educational loans on your behalf?
  • Who is responsible for paying for room and board?
  • Who is going to buy your books and supplies?

This list of questions may seem overwhelming, but not every one of them is going to apply to you and your family. Pick out the questions that are relevant and then schedule a dinner date with your parents. Getting to the answers together will ensure that you’re all on the same page about travel, academics, and money matters before you get to college. Take it from someone who’s been’s easier that way.

What other conversations do you want to have with your parents before arriving on campus?

About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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