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9 College Prep Tips: How to Get Ready for Freshman Year

If you have a teen, these college prep tips will help you get them ready for Freshman year!

I want to prepare you for what’s coming – the honest & brutal truth — your kids will grow up and leave you.

I’m sure you know this but as it quickly approaches and becomes an absolute, the thought hits you like a ton of bricks.

If you’ve read our first post in the ‘get ready for college series, you’ll recall that I started talking about how we had 48 Saturdays left with our oldest. 

We are now down to our last 2 Saturdays

… just 2 more weekends as we pack & prepare to ship him 1000 miles away. 

… to a great school and an awesome college life — but he will be gone until Thanksgiving

… and I’m told life will just never be the same.

Insert sniffles & tears here!

Getting your teen ready to move their entire living space (and life!) to another location is not an easy task! 

There’s the shopping and the packing, discussions about what life will be like, trying to organize everything and get them to decide what to take.  Plus fitting in some fun family time too!

So it’s wonderful that Caribou Coffee has sponsored us to be part of their #12hrAdventure — for us, it’s a College Prep adventure day!

College Prep: How to Get Ready for Freshman Year

Our job as parents is to put in all this work so that we can raise AMAZING kids and then send them off to some wonderful opportunity (while our heart breaks a little).

I truly think that this is one of the hardest things a parent has to do – not PREPARING them to leave (that’s pretty hard too) but shifting how you live without them at home.

But I will tell you, the actual “getting ready” part — the shopping, packing, deciding and moving — takes some REAL stamina!

You and your child will be putting in some long (but very fun!) days together which is really a great thing since they will soon be gone for a while.

So grab some coffee (and comfortable shoes) and join us on “A Day in the Life of College Prep“!


College prep checklist - what you need to bring

9 am — Wake ‘Rising Freshman’ and Organize a Checklist

What’s a ‘rising Freshman’ you ask? 

I thought the same thing when I first heard the term — ‘rising’ refers to a college student who has not yet started their next academic year.  So rising Freshman is a high school senior who has graduated and has not yet started college classes.

Insider Secret:  Colleges use this term and parents should too!  Start referring to your teen a ‘rising Freshman’ so they can get use to the idea that college is very near.  It makes it a little more real for kids who live day-to-day 😉

While my son gets ready, I review our list — The inevitable “what do you need for college” list!

There are so many versions out there that I refuse to create another. 

Instead, I’ll let you in on how we determined what he would need for school:

• First, check with your child’s college as many of them will already have a good, solid list!  I know – I had no idea about this until our college visits.  It’s super helpful to have since it’s campus-specific but it’s also a little bare-bones. 

• So we compared it to another very detailed ‘what you need’ that we found at one of the stores and just transferred any additional  items he wanted to the school list.


Here’s how we track things:

→ If we need to buy something, we highlight the item.

→ Once the item is purchased, it gets a “√” on the list.

→ And when the item is packed, we cross it off the list.

Only one list for all the buying, organizing & packing (woo hoo!).

So before we head out the door, we grab our ‘master’ list to take with us so we know what we need to look for once we’re out shopping.  We’re including affiliate links in the post to a few of the items we really recommend & like!

 Tips for getting your teen ready for college

10 am — Grab a Coffee & Chill

Seriously! If you have teens you know that it can be SLOW going in the morning but also a great time to catch up and chat about things.

Insider’s Tip:  Mix the shopping with something fun like grabbing a bite to eat or coffee together!  Teens are always more willing to go when there’s the promise of food 🙂

Take this opportunity to sit down together to talk about the day — What do they want to do?  What do they still need to buy?  What other things need to be taken care of before they leave?


10:45 am — Off to Shop ’till you Drop (literally!)

College prep is NOT for the faint of heart!

I’ve decided there are 2 types of teen shoppers –

  • those who walk into the store and want to buy everything in sight, color-coordinate with their roommate and then pack way too much forcing Mom & Dad to return home with a carload full of items.
  • OR the 2nd type – my son fits this group – who walk into the store, find one AWESOME thing they like, take a look at the long list of things they need and then fall asleep on the floor of the store while they beg Mom to finish the shopping.


Checklist of how to get ready for college


All I said was “What do you think about this pillow?

He told me the only way he would know was to try it out 🙂

Insider’s Tip:  There is SO MUCH shopping to be done that it’s a good idea to break it up throughout the summer if you can manage it. 

Focus on a specific area each week:  bedding, bath/laundry items, appliances, tech gear, school supplies, etc.


Things you'll need for college - prep for teens and parents

12:30 pm — Time for a Tune Up

Whether it’s the bike or a car, chances are teens will take one to college.  Be sure to get it in for a tune up so there’s no worrying about things once they arrive on campus. 

For us, it’s off to the bike shop for a new tire. We also need to check on a mini bike pump so he’ll have one on campus when it’s needed.

Insider’s Tip:  Be sure your school allows Freshman to bring a car on campus – many of the colleges we visited only allow upper classmen to buy parking spots due to limited space issues.  And parking is expensive at college! 

If a car is not practical & your child is attending a geographically large campus, ask current students if they use a bike to get around campus as it’s a good alternative if your student has a long way to walk between buildings for classes.


Tips on what to bring and how to get ready for moving to college

1:45 pm — Focus on The Gear

Ok parents — this is an all new area and totally different from when we went to college (you know, when the internet was just invented and not everyone had an email 😉 

Kids need a LOT of tech stuff! 

Yes, the college will give you a list. 

In fact, when we attended college orientation sessions, they had a mandatory Technology Session for all parents & students — with a detailed list of what you’ll need! 


They will talk to you about making sure that students have a computer lock, cloud storage, virus protection & back-up software, what type of internet connections are available in their dorms, whether you’ll need a printer, etc.

And once you know what’s needed, you’ll then have to think through how you will store/carry all these items.  A good backpack is a biggie!  Here’s the computer backpack my son finally decided on after doing a TON of research — it’s TSA friendly and padded. 

UPDATED:  He’s now a sophmore and this backpack has held up really well for him – highly recommended!

Insider’s Tip:  DO NOT BUY ANY TECH GEAR until you check with the college and your child’s major!!!!!

We found out that our son’s major (Engineering & Computer Science) required a specific type of computer & software bundle. 

We also learned that many colleges have really good protection plans on their computers if you purchase them on campus (and no, the prices aren’t much higher than if you buy them at a store).

Here are a few of the other tech items we highly recommend for college:

Headphones/Ear buds with a mic — these will be used a LOT especially if they call home via their cell or computer

Computer Lock – kind of like a bike lock but for your computer — you need to get one that fits your model to be sure to buy the computer first 😉

A first aid kit – you can see how we put ours together and get a free printable First Aid Kit list to do your own!

Power cords/Surge protectors — most dorms do NOT allow extension cords!


4 pm — Schedule Those Appointments

This is what many teens will dread but it’s so necessary — schedule all those doctor, dentist, orthodontist and hair appointments along with any others you think are needed. 

For us, it’s a visit to the eye doctor to stock up on contacts so he will have enough on hand at school.

Insider’s Tip:  Make sure it’s your teen who is calling and scheduling the appointments — if they are not yet doing this yet, it’s high time!  Most of the teens I know aren’t crazy over CALLING someone so this is great practice before they head to college and have to do this all on their own.

 Important things your kids should know before college

5:15 pm — College Prep & Life Skills

Time to get in some laundry practice!

Re-learning a few of the ‘must do’ life skills is a big thing in the weeks preceding college.  It’s a good idea to go over items like laundry, money management and dorm room cooking.

For a more comprehensive list of skills teens will need in college, visit our list of 48 Things All Kids Need to Know Before College

Insider’s Tip:  Be sure your teen knows which ATM will charge fees and which will work with their bank card.  Most college campuses will have a variety of ATMs for multiple banks and you don’t want to pay a $6 fee for your own money. 

And be sure they know where the health center is located just in case they do need it one day!


7 pm — Dinner & Cards

No, not the playing cards type of cards — I’m talking insurance cards!

Be sure your kids have their own copies of medical and dental cards before they leave. They’ll also need a copy of their Social Secruity card if they plan to work or apply for a job on campus. 

Dinner is the perfect time to go through their wallet and access what duplicate cards you need to order — and also talk about where to keep the various cards so they are safe!

Insider’s Tip:  Kids shouldn’t carry a Social Security card or any other important ID in their wallet, purse or backpack. 

Storing them in a locked drawer in their room or a small safe (here’s a dorm-size safe with cool designs!) in the closet will protect their personal information and keep the cards safe until they need them.

 tips for getting your kids ready for college

8:30 pm — Enjoy some Down Time Together

It’s been a long day and we’re a big ‘get outside’ family so time to try out the new bike tire!  Whatever it is you do together — family movie night, board games, etc — take some time to just ‘be’. 

Insider’s Tip:  Snap photos & take selfies together! 

Take some time to laugh and relax. 

It is a stressful time for everyone so the every day routines are so important right now.

There you have it — a 12 hour College Prep adventure! 

I know you can do it! 

And leave me a note or comment if you need help along the way.


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Caribou Coffee.


More College Prep Tips:

DIY First Aid Kit list {with free printable!}

48 Life Skills Teens Should Know Before College


Fun Ways to Spend Time with Teens:

5 Tips for Kayaking with Kids

Creating Family Traditions

5 Ways to Unplug & Connect at Dinner