Is your teen ready to come home at a minute’s notice?
Guess what? We are living in the day of weird circumstances, and we need to be prepared. Our teens need to be prepared. Is your teen going back to college? What if campus suddenly closes down again? What if there is a family emergency that your teen needs to leave for on a minute’s notice? Here are some ideas for an emergency road trip kit for your teen.
Colleges are preparing for the return of students, for whatever that may look like. Is your teen preparing to head back to college? Is your teen headed for the first time?
We need to help our teens to prepare for any type of circumstance so that in the moment of an emergency, they won’t need to think about it. Here are tips for packing an emergency road trip kit. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
This set of 4 mesh bags. These will need to be filled with all of your teens favorite personal items. When purchasing things for this next school year, whether it will be a dorm room or apartment, go ahead and purchase some travel size items for this bag. Don’t forget a brush, and toothbrush with toothpaste. And, make sure your girls don’t forget some personal hygiene items.
These packing cubes will provide a little bit more room. Maybe use these for a quick change of clothes, dividing by category.
Medications and/or medical supplies
Please remind your student to keep their meds locked up in some sort of a safe. We found out the hard way that this type of theft is very common on college campuses. Here is another size safe for this type of situation. Remember to remind your teen to have a few over-the-counter drug items in their car as well, such as Advil for a headache that will come with stress.
Germ-free door opener -These are handy little tools to have when out and about during a pandemic especially. They can open numerous types of door handles, and press elevator keys as well. This is a 2-pack–one for you and one for your teen:)
Face masks -Sign of the times we live in, but having a pack of these in the car is something we all ought to be doing now, especially if traveling.
Disposable gloves -Another item to have in your car for pumping gas, exchanging money or even going in to use a restroom on a road trip.
Anti Touch, No-Touch Door Opener -This thing is a stylus, hands-free button-pusher, cool little gadget! We should all be carrying this in our wallets. This is one of the most multifunctional tools that I have seen.
Food for the road
Have a few snacks on hand, just in case. Even just one or two in one of the above bags is a great head start for a quick trip.
This is super important. They should put some cash in small bills, 20s or less in their safe to grab on the run. Also, if they have a credit card, they need to be sure to have that with their driver’s license. Having a few gift cards would be great if they need to stop for food or gas anywhere!
The Amazon Rewards card is great because you win when they spend. Having a credit card will be peace of mind for you if they do end up on the road. Our oldest got his first credit card his junior year of college. I think that this depends on the teen and their responsibility level.
Some things to think about at any time
Help your teen to learn to know where the nearest exit is no matter where they are. Movie theater, mall, restaurant etc. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that you can take nothing for granted. Our kids and teens need to be able to think on their feet. When we notice out loud things like seeing where exit signs are, keeping track of directions on the way to a new place or even reminding them that they really shouldn’t open a door to strangers-even now that they are older, we are helping our teens to be more prepared for emergency situations.
I am not saying that we need to become doomsday preppers, but helping our teens to be ready for anything will reduce their stress in the event of an emergency.
Be sure that your teen knows to have their car regularly maintained. Another thing that we have told our teens is to always have at least half a tank of gas these days, just to be sure they can get out of town at the very least.
“Through readiness and discipline, we are the masters of our fate.” -Bill Paxton
This was a different type of post for me. As I was researching this idea, it made me feel a little unsettled. But, I wanted you to think about what your teen may need in certain circumstances. This is not something that we might have thought about even 6 months ago. But, being prepared is never a bad thing. This preparation will take some of the extra stress away if something were to happen when your student is away at school.
For the first time, I hope that this emergency road trip kit is not necessary, but I hope that your teen takes one as they head back to school!
Middle school is a time of transition and growing. Your child leaves elementary school, and has three years to be ready for high school! How is this possible? Here are some hard-won lessons learned from getting three kids through these years for middle school success.
Both you and your teen have lots to learn. It is a challenging time, in fact, this might be the most challenging age since they were toddlers! These years can be difficult, but you can help your child start some forward thinking with some of these strategies, and you guys can survive.
Quick update: I am now teaching middle school. I can tell you that these kids are savvy! They already have ideas about what they want and don’t want. Take advantage of this time! It goes so quickly… *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
What types of things do these adults like, and/or dislike, about their jobs. What are the expectations at their workplaces? Do they have really long hours, or maybe just a four day week? How much did they make starting out? How much school was required?
Adults usually love it when a kid is willing to talk and have an actual conversation with them, so encourage them to ask away. Plus, it’s an added bonus to that adult that your child is asking questions and interested in them.
Think about future job possibilities.
Help your child to start looking around at different jobs that people have wherever you all are. Even when watching a show, try to notice how many jobs there are on that show. Watch the news for different stories about people’s lives and what they do during the day.
These conversations can be very interesting to say the least, it’s amazing what they know and think that they know. Remember, though, that it’s a conversation, not time to lecture!
Try new things.
Middle school is the perfect time to try some new things.
Try a club if it sounds interesting. Try to stick with it for the year. Sometimes these start out a little boring because no one knows each other yet. Give it a chance. If it is just not a good fit, then try something else.
Run for an office in a club or be in charge of a particular event. This is good practice for more leadership in high school.
Try out for a sport. This is the time to do some of these things to get a taste to see if it is something that might be a good fit. Most kids at this age make the team. It’s a good time to learn about a sport, especially if your child hasn’t played it before. There are lots of beginners at this age as well as other kids who have played for years. You will see it all in middle school!
Try out an instrument for all of these same reasons.
Again, if your student doesn’t just love something, then they have tried and now they know! The great thing about middle school is that it’s practice for being in high school without the pressure of grades counting and everything being super competitive.
Take the aptitude tests seriously.
As the future gets closer, tell your student not to just blow these tests off. These tests are really a tool to help decipher personality traits, likes and dislikes, and many other factors which might help steer your child in a direction they have never even considered. Many give really good ideas if honest and thoughtful answers are provided.
Middle school success does not depend on these scores, however the information that can be gained from these results if your teen takes it seriously might be really helpful!
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If I could go back and do one thing differently, it would to be to have more conversations about all of this. We are trying this a lot more with our youngest son. No decision needs to be made at this point. But, just having these sort of conversations will really help with everyone’s mindset as high school is looming just ahead.
One big mistake is to wait until junior year to start all these conversations and by then your kids are so super busy and there is a lot going on in general. Give yourselves the gift of time. Here’s the link to a post with 5 tips to improve communication with your teen.
This is also a good time to start keeping track of all activities because as your child moves forward, especially by high school, a good record of all this needs to be kept from the beginning of freshman year.
Check out my parent toolkit for this and other ways to help your teen through these busy years!
Apply for scholarships.
One thing that I wish I had known with my oldest son, is that this whole process could be started in middle school. Many scholarships are available starting for students when they are 13! These are good ones to try for, because who knows this? No one that I have spoken with about this process has known.
As a parent, you need to set up a specific email just for scholarships, and so should your child–even if you are the only one checking them. Sign up for scholarship websites, and fill out the profiles. (These can be edited down the road as your child learns more about themselves and their likes and dislikes.)
These websites will start to send lots of emails about different scholarships that are available. They will be organized in many ways. Stay up with them and create a list of ones to try for. Many can and should be deleted. Don’t go crazy with this. Maybe try for one a month, more during the summer or over holidays.
Look at these websites.
Here is a list of scholarship websites for you to look at: Chegg.com, ScholarshipOwl.com, Scholarship Points, Fastweb Scholarships, Scholarships.com, Cappex.com, Niche.com, and Scholly.com
A couple of good resources for helping with all of this are:
How 2 Win Scholarships Monica Matthews is a former teacher and a stay-at-home mom of three boys. She’s a mom who worked with her son to earn enough scholarships to attend college for free. Monica has parent, as well as student guides which are extremely useful and worth the $27.00. I’ve signed up for her newsletters and she’ll let you know when to apply for scholarships. She always has up to date information on her blog.
The Scholarship System– Jocelyn Pearson. She has a free webinar you can register for here. She paid for 100% of her college expenses through scholarships. Jocelyn has definitely done her homework and creates a yearly Scholarship Guide. I liked her webinar. Very honest and tells it like it is.
Practice writing a few essays.
Good topics for essays are: goals and aspirations, how to help the environment, safe driving habits (such as no texting and driving), and where do you see yourself in 20 years. Just having these few essays in their pocket will be super helpful in the whole process because they can be tweaked and used more than once.
There will be more and more writing in high school, so this is good practice. Also, many colleges require an essay on their application, so these could be used again for that.
Set up a calendar for college related items.
This can be a dedicated calendar for scholarship due dates (pretend that they are actually due earlier than actual date, so they are never late) and also test dates like the ACT and SAT. Eventually, in high school, due dates for applications can also be added. There are many due dates, so a calendar dedicated to just college can be super helpful.
This is a lot!!!
Do not try to do this all at once! Middle school lasts three years, so give yourself grace. Try one thing at a time. Get to know your child as they mature and grow into young adults. The main thing is to keep the lines of communication open with your child so that all of this planning and prep work is done together.
It’s too much for any one person. Get on the same page as your spouse, significant other, or ex– or as close as possible because it is your kid’s future that is important right now. There will be times that you don’t work on any of this because you are busy and have a life. When you can, take baby steps into this whole process, the chances of middle school success will increase. It is a really exciting and fun time for all!
Have you read my book? It helps with the whole process of college and life prep. It really is applicable to all teens, and starting these conversations now before high school would be such a head start! Here is a link to a blog post that goes with the book. Included in the post are the downloadable printouts that I couldn’t figure out how to get into the book!
Packing an organized backpack for high school or college is essential to academic survival. It is much smarter to plan ahead for classes, emergencies, and daily occurrences than to just throw a bunch of stuff in your pack and go. Grab this list of backpack essentials before your teens head off for college!
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One thing that all the students I asked had in common, was that they didn’t think about any of this before they were in high school or college, depending on the age of student I asked. Now that they have been in school, these are the things that they make sure that they always carry.
Each student and schedule will be different. Sometimes even from one semester to another, so think carefully, and readjust as the semester continues. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
Here is a list of college student backpack essentials
I gathered this list from six current college students. There were no differences for the high school students I asked. It just depended on their class load at the time.
Wireless earbuds– These will come in handy for walking across campus, working out, and listening to music while studying.
2. Chapstick– This is long-lasting and has both UVA and UVB protection. It comes in a tube, not a stick, so it won’t melt.
3. Water bottle– This bottle is great with many features. It folds up, has a wide mouth, leak proof, and is BPA free.
4. Planner- Basic or bullet, makes no difference! Just make sure you use one!
5. Jacket or sweatshirt-This is always great if there’s a cold classroom or you are just cold in general.
6. Portable charger– You will need one for your phone for sure, but an extra charger for your laptop is a good idea as well. You never know what kind of day you will have! Here is a smaller option.
7. Small office supplies- I asked a number of students what this would include for them. These are the things that they listed. Small stapler, post-its, graphing calculator, tape, pencils and pens.
8. A small pouch for personal items-Kleenex, hair ties, your favorite pain reliever, feminine products, and gum.
9. Last but not least, an umbrella!-Don’t get caught out in the rain with one. This particular one is windproof, which also comes in handy.
This is by no means a complete list of college backpack essentials!
However, when you are planning on your first semester at college or your last semester, the biggest takeaway I have gotten from the students that I spoke with is to be organized and be prepared for a long day. One thing I forgot from this list would be hand sanitizer, (these are cute and clip onto your key ring). Don’t forget it!
Hey, it’s approaching soon–moving your kiddo into their freshman dorm… That bittersweet day when your baby-not-baby heads off to college. How can this be? Just yesterday he was crawling around in his diaper! Just yesterday she was playing with her baby doll and twirling around the house in her little tutu!
You blinked, and now they are practically grown! Seriously, we have to think about moving them out of our houses and into a dorm room at college. It’s not so bad if you are organized to begin with. I am here to help! *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
Our teens are no longer babies crawling on the floor
Now that your teen is on his or her way out the door, here are the top 10 items that they will need for their dorm room.
Second, if you have a girl, then she will probably want to decorate and make her room super cute. If you have a boy, then for the most part, he could probably care less. My 2 boys are of the care less sort.
The following items are not decorative, but super useful for any college student.
They are in no particular order of importance, but all will be necessary!
Please check out my comprehensive lists on Amazon. I created lists for Dorm Room Essentials and College School Supplies, These are pages we created on Amazon’s website where you can actually go shop right from the list! Check them out!!
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Grab everything all at once and have it all delivered right to your door! You are welcome:)
Rug–This is for comfort, as well as style. It can be a basic monotone rug or multi-colored or patterned one. Stepping onto a rug is so much nicer than a plain, tiled floor! Don’t forget a rug gripper pad to keep it in place, and a small vacuum to keep it clean:)
Command hooks–many different sizes for hanging everything! Small, medium and large are all available. These can be used for a million reasons around the dorm room.
Shower caddy–So handy for the dorm shower, even if you have a suite setup, it keeps all your “stuff” together! Don’t forget to pick up a pair of shower shoes while you’re at it!
Prop-up bed wedge–great for sitting up to do homework or watch a great movie! Get comfy:)
Laptop computer–Every school is different, so you need to have your student check to see which computer is recommended. My oldest son got this for graduation, and he loves it. My middle son got this for his 18th birthday, and he loves it.
Laundry basket –Don’t forget to grab detergent, stain stick, and dryer sheets while you’re at it. Also, check out this tiny air purifier that just plugs into an outlet and is the size of your fist. It does not require a filter, and would be great in a dorm room for freshness. It will eliminate odors, bacteria, and allergens.
Fall semester is quickly approaching. Enjoy your last month of summer! Get some hugs in if your kid will let you, and make family time happen! We are thinking of you because we have been there. I am going through it for a second time this fall, so I know how quickly this all goes. Sending my love to you all in this really bittersweet time!
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Another place with good gift ideas for teens, some of which would be good for dorm rooms, is this post.
Have you got a teen headed back to college in a few days?
Have you had a great holiday/summer together? Are you ready for them to go back? If you have a teen headed back to college then here are some tips for success that can be discussed with your student.
Our break been such a great time together! It is amazing how “smart” my boys now are! The opinions keep on rolling out about everything! Evidently my husband and I aren’t really in the know about anything! (Insert rolling eyes here!)
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All joking aside, going back to school can be stressful for many of our kids. They might not have had a very good semester/year scholastically. There may be roommate drama.
The food was probably not what they expected:) There may also be social issues that are bothering them. Maybe they didn’t make as many friends as they thought that they would.
Have they changed majors? Not had the experience that they were hoping for? It’s never too late to try some new strategies for improving life at college!
Before they leave, sit down and talk with you teen about what their expectations are for the next semester. Do they have any worries? Do they need some different strategies to move forward? Honest conversations and a listening ear might go a long way towards easing their minds.
Going to college is stressful, even under the best of circumstances! Classes, roommates, scheduling time for activities and studying are all considerations. Encourage your teen to think through some strategies for success before they head back to school. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
(As our teens head back during this time of COVID, be sure that you have some of these conversations that you might not otherwise have to think about. Let them know of any plans that might need to be if their campuses are suddenly closed down–what should they do?)
Get more sleep
Sleep is a great healer. It helps our bodies to reset for the next day. Adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep helps our brains to think–seriously, fewer mistakes are made after a good night’s sleep. Creativity and attention span are also improved after the right amount of zzzzzzz’s. Encourage your student to set a schedule and include enough time for sleep, including time for the occasional nap!
Create a working schedule
Note the use of the word “working”. That means that the schedule is a work in progress. Tweaks and adjustments can be made at any time to make it more functional. If something isn’t working, then change it.
As your teen is headed back to college, they need to schedule in plenty of time for studying. If your student has a part-time job, then maybe it needs to be more part time. Keeping track of grades is a great indicator of any adjustments that need to be made.
Have a frank discussion with your teen about your expectations for grades versus the amount of partying that you might be seeing on your teen’s Instagram. If you are paying for their education, then it is all right for you to set the parameters.
If they are paying (or have taken out loans), then the discussion still needs to take place. They need to know that the bill will be arriving as soon as they graduate, and even if they quit, they will owe the amount of the loans. This might be the piece of sobering information that they are needing.
How many of you are addicted to Marie Kondo’s show, Tidying Up? I binge watched the whole first season! Tidiness is not my strength at all. But, I do know that when my space is clear and things have their own place, it is so much more relaxing and comfortable.
Encourage your teens to try to keep their space back in the dorm/apartment fairly clean. It will help with their concentration for studying and with their sleep as well!
I know my boys have enjoyed having their own rooms for the break-space and room to really spread out! Of course, their rooms are complete messes right now, so I will be happy for those rooms to be clean again.
Talk to the roommate
Your teen is headed back to college, so encourage them to have a discussion with their roommate about next semester now. Let your teen know that their roommate may have things that they want to say to them as well. It is a conversation that could relieve a lot of pressure on both sides.
Start the conversation with the roommate by asking if there is anything that they would like to be different for the rest of the year or for the upcoming year. Hopefully, that will open up a dialogue. Remind your teen to stay positive, and not accusatory. Try to find compromises for the main things that are bothersome to each roommate. They might even try to write a roommate agreement for this next semester.
One more thing for your your teen headed back to college to remember, is that exercise is one of the best stress relievers there is! This is a great thing for them to add to their working schedule, and make a real effort to fit it in at least 3 times a week. Going to the gym is a great place to meet up with friends or to make new friends.
They should try different classes, different workout times, and different workouts to see what works best for them. There is no perfect answer, but switching things up is good for their body and makes things more fun, too.
Heading back to school should hopefully be better if your teen considers trying even a couple of these strategies. Let them know you are always at the other end of a phone call or text, and that you love them no matter what.
Also remember that these kids will dump their buckets on us, and move on, so don’t take their stress on yourself either. Keep the lines of communication open, and keep encouraging them to take baby steps toward relieving their stress. Every little bit helps!
Do you have any good ideas for student stress relief? Please share this post with a friend, if you think that it would help someone’s child away at college. Remember, you can always pin it for later as well.
“How do I apply to college?”, your teen asks. This post covers how to make this process easier for your teen, starting the summer before their senior year. There are many things to keep track of, so get organized! Check out this post which will help your and your teen stay organized throughout high school. If you haven’t been doing all of these things, it’s not too late to start!
Schools are sending information to prospective students via email and snail mail. It is such fun for your teen to receive all of these! Now, it’s time to begin the process of applying to colleges. *This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.
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Throw away any unwanted information!
Have your teen throw away any packets from schools that they are not interested in. This will eliminate over half of what they receive. Your student needs to use both the trash can and their email trash. Tell them to stay on top of this because the stack will grow, and their inbox will get to be overwhelming!
This is one job that you can help with. I would go into my sons’ email inboxes (with their permission) and delete any that my they knew were too far away or too expensive or too whatever…
And, here is a blog post that goes in conjunction with the book and the information in this post. Many of these discussions that I write about in my book address the very things that your teen will need to know when thinking about “How do I apply to college?”
When Do I Apply for College?
The actual process of college application is in the fall. That is when application due dates typically begin. Each college will be different. Most will accept your teen all the way until school starts the next fall based on the number of applicants. Just beware that financial aid is rewarded first come, first serve. The later that your child applies, the less chance of monies. They will also run the risk of the freshman class filling up, and being waitlisted.
Prioritize By Due Dates
Some college application due dates will be immediate, others not for awhile. There may be an early decision date which is binding, others have early decision which is non-binding. Others will have rolling decision dates, which means that your child may have more time.
Have your child look on each college’s website. What is the tuition package? What sorts of scholarships are available? Is there a tiered fee structure? Where does your student fall in all of that?
One more thing to look at as far as applications go, is whether or not the college charges an application fee. These can add up, so be sure that if you spend that money, it is really a place that they can see themselves going to for the next 4 years.
The FAFSA due date is October 1. Do not wait until the first to fill it out! It can take hours to get it filled in, double-checked and completed! Read about what the FAFSA and what it actually is here. (If you are able to link through the IRS, the time will be greatly shortened.)
Have your child register for the ACT and/or SAT again, if those scores are something which they are wanting to improve upon. They can still apply for colleges, and can just update the score for the college either yourselves or via the test center. They can even take these tests after being accepted, just be sure that they update the college with any improvement to their score! (It might make a difference to the financial aid package that they might receive.)
Ways that ACT and SAT are scored
Some schools ask for the ACT composite score. This is the score of each subtest which is then divided by the number of subtests. The composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) ranges from 1 (low) to36 (high), and is the average of the four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up.
Another ACT score that a school may ask for is the superscore. This is made up of the best sub-scores regardless of test date. Be sure to send in all test scores for consideration. This creates a new superscore using only the highest numbers. Not all schools will ask for either of these, but look out for these options.
Visit campus if possible!
One of the best ways to know if a school might be a good fit is to visit the campus. The best time to go is during the school year so that your teen can get a true feeling of what life is like during a school day. Go anytime during their early high school years if possible. (During these days of COVID-there are online versions of college visits–just check out the college’s website.)
A lot of people wait until junior year, which is fine, but by then most teens are super busy. If you can take them for a visit during their freshman or sophomore year, it gives them time to think about things. Your teen can start to make decisions and eliminate some of their choices earlier.
Visit a variety of colleges if possible!
Visit small and large schools. Visit state schools and private. Visit one that is a little further away than is comfortable to them. Visit the school that is in their hometown because it’s different to actually experience it, than to just think they know about it.
Try to visit one college from each of these categories to give your child a good variety to choose from. They won’t know until they try what might be a good fit! Plus, it’s fun to see all their different choices.
Essays can be tweaked for each situation as needed. One essay that your teen needs to write is, “What are your plans for the future?” Most schools want to know this information in some form or another. It is a good way for your child to actually think about this, and get their thoughts in order.
Tell them when filling out applications and writing essays that they need to be honest and thoughtful. There will be questions that will cause them to really think, and there will be others that seem ridiculous. Most questions are asked for a certain reason, so your child should think and answer carefully.
Get Letters of Recommendation
This is a step that should not be ignored. Go to teachers that have been supportive. Tell your child to really foster good relationships with their teachers throughout high school, so that when they ask a teacher for a recommendation, it’s not a big surprise! This is a big one for answering that question, “How do I apply to college?”
Search the College Website
Go back to each college’s website. Look carefully through each tab. Search through student life, take a virtual tour of the campus, look at the available clubs and activities.
Google the nearby town to find out information about the size and what is available to do outside of school since it is where they would be living. Again, visit colleges if it is at all possible! Some tips for visiting colleges are here.
Your child should do everything that that they can to inform themselves about each college as a possibility. This way, when it comes time to really decide where they will end up, they can make an informed decision with all the pertinent facts. This way, when they ask, “How do I apply for college?”, they now know some facts to start this process.