Jacqueline, a bright young woman with a stellar grade point average and an impressive list of extracurricular activities, is graduating soon and plans to attend college. After completing a grueling application process, she received acceptance to many institutions. Her parents, Patricia and Glen, were not shocked when their daughter’s top choice was located across the country, nearly two thousand miles away. As with every ending comes a new beginning – so as the high school years wind down, the excitement of college campuses awaits. A new chapter begins for both graduates and their parents. Once they toss their mortar boards, your tears are dried, and the celebrations are finally complete – it’s time to begin anew.

We frequently hear from parents embarking on this chapter both uncertain and with an overwhelming number of decisions. Jackie and her parents don’t quite grasp what to expect regarding campus life, particularly her spending needs vs. wishes.

With students away from home, parents and students need to expect financial hiccups and mishaps, especially for those living away for the first time or those moving to locales where costs and campus norms differ. The best thing you can do before they leave for uncharted waters is to prepare yourself—and your student—for these snags.

Can she order DoorDash every night or continue to shop frequently online? Will she still have access to—and free reign over—Mom and Dad’s credit card?

Spell Out Spending Limits & Set Guide Posts

Establishing and enforcing these guidelines is part of the transition for everyone involved. Your student’s spending habits and cash needs are likely very different. Avoiding the uncomfortable conversation “that things will have to change next semester” is the goal.

  • Define what constitutes an emergency or a desire from each of your perspectives. Agree on each and set a guide for handling both situations.
  • Decide whether parents provide a fixed allowance or if unlimited spending money is available. Pick only one to avoid misunderstandings and arguments down the road.
  • Will a parent jump through hoops to send money to your student? Busy schedules and time zone differences are often culprits causing headaches for both.
  • Agree upon one funding method before departing to campus. We suggest utilizing a bank account like Zelle rather than a mobile payment app such as CashApp or Venmo.

Living in an off-campus housing arrangement is often new territory for students; with responsibility for paying rent and utilities (like essential internet service). Splitting other costs with roommates is a crucial skill to develop. They might need to set funds aside for groceries, gas, and social membership dues, something they never had to do before. They’ll need to be mindful of these responsibilities once under their new rooftop.

Consumer awareness and knowing the pressures of social media influences are much-needed skills to teach your student before hitting campus. These skills are vital when they no longer have unlimited access to your credit cards. Jacqueline might want the expensive bag or the cute, strappy shoes everyone is buying for her next sorority social, but is shopping within the budget? Discussing smart spending choices ahead of time is essential.

Know When Your Student is in Trouble

The decades-old campus hazing rituals and media reporting once focused on excessive alcohol consumption or risky physical challenges, but a new breed has emerged. A disheartening reality is when a few students prey on classmates via financial hazing. Older or emboldened students take advantage of a fresh-faced student; especially vulnerable are those new campus arrivals wanting to fit in or be a part of a new crowd. Freshly minted financial independence and less parental oversight offer a playing field filled with potential victims. If your student’s spending suddenly shifts in dollar amount, frequency, or location, keep this scenario in the back of your mind. Be aware of this potential risk, as this hazing can often cost thousands of dollars and cause emotional traumas.

It’s best to educate your student before they leave for college that they might encounter bullying or harassment at the hands of fellow students. If it happens, formulate a plan for what they can do, who they can trust, and who they should tell.

Talk About Money Before They Leave

For parents with students heading to college, having conversations ahead of time is key. Take the summer to set expectations, what is and what isn’t smart purchases. Banking education is essential, so it should go hand-in-hand with teaching your child about credit, credit cards, and other financial topics.

A wonderful tool for financial literacy is an entire lesson plan through this free resource at incharge.org. These lessons will teach your students essential knowledge such as budgeting, living independently, credit cards, car loans, saving and investing, and much more. It is the perfect lesson plan for your Gen Z walk through the summer before college begins. Don’t let your student leave home without this vital higher education.

At Organized Instincts, our seasoned team of daily money managers helps you define and deliver knowledge to your college-bound student about finances. Schedule a conversation today to learn how we’ll promote your student’s financial education and boost their campus confidence.