My College:

Spring Prep for a Fall Head Start

Vicki Nelson

Coronavirus campus closures and the temporary transition to remote learning have dramatically changed students' spring term experiences.

It's too soon to say whether fall will bring a complete return to normal operations on campus, but either way your student needs to prepare for the next academic year. Making plans for the future may also get them re-excited about the courses they'll be taking and all the fun things that will come with being a sophomore, junior or senior in college.

Help your student get ready for a running start in the fall with these conversation starters.

1. Is your fall course schedule confirmed?

In addition to making sure they preregistered successfully, your student should check that they have the appropriate number of credits, courses that will help them progress, and prerequisites for courses they want to take in future semesters. (A four-year plan is essential — here's why, plus how to make one if they haven't already.)

If your student isn't sure what they need, they can email their academic advisor to set up a phone or video appointment.

2. Make sure your fall housing arrangements are in place.

If your student had to move out of their campus residence hall abruptly this spring, double check that they returned their room key and did everything else needed to ensure that they'll receive a partial refund for their spring on-campus housing (if the school will offer this). If they left belongings in their room, they should understand the process for returning to the room to empty it out.

Students transitioning to off-campus housing this summer should review their lease and make plans with roommates for furnishing their place. There are many conversations you can have about how to be a responsible tenant and neighbor, grocery shopping and meal prep, and more.

3. Finish strong in all your classes!

Remote/online instruction is being handled differently at every institution, and some students have adjusted to it better than others. Many schools are making pass/fail an option.

Even if final projects and exams are being administered in a new way, your student still needs to be sure they've completed all the work required for each class.

If there’s a chance there’s something they can’t finish, and they’ve made arrangements with the instructor for an Incomplete, they should continue to communicate with the instructor to make a plan to submit unfinished work over the summer.

4. Settle plans for a fall internship.

Is necessary paperwork done? Could your student communicate with a site supervisor now to have a head start in the fall?

5. Investigate a fall on-campus job.

Even if they can’t pin down the position now, your student can get ahead of the September rush by researching available jobs on the college's student employment webpage and making contact with the office or person who will be hiring. It can't hurt to show their interest and learn more about when and how to apply.

6. Get a jump on textbooks.

If your student knows anyone currently taking the courses they’ll take next fall, they can ask if that person will sell their textbooks directly. Everyone wins; your student will get the books for less than they’d pay for used books in the bookstore and can offer more than their friend might get selling back to the bookstore.

If they know anyone who will be taking a course in the fall that they’re taking now they can try to sell their books.

Did your student rent new or used books from the campus bookstore this semester and bring them home when they vacated campus? They'll need to mail them back to the bookstore during or after finals week. Instructions on how to do this should be on the campus bookstore website.

7. Prepare for fall leadership positions.

Although student clubs and organizations had to disperse, your student should be able to meet virtually with the club or organization’s advisor or outgoing officer to lay some groundwork.

8. Address any anticipated changes for the fall.

Will your student bring a car to school for the first time? Are they changing majors? Will they have a new advisor? They can take care of some of the details now, or at least get the information they need. If there are things that must wait until fall, they can make a to-do list while it's fresh in their mind.

Vicki Nelson has more than 35 years of experience in higher education as a professor, academic advisor and administrator. She has also weathered the college parenting experience successfully with three daughters. She established her website, College Parent Central, in 2009 to help college parents achieve the delicate balance of support, guidance and appropriate involvement as they prepare for and navigate the college journey with their student. Vicki also serves as co-host of the College Parent Central podcast.
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