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5 Ways to Support Your Grad Student

Deborah Porter


If your child has recently started graduate school, CONGRATULATIONS! Whether med school, law school, or another discipline, their acceptance into a graduate program and commitment to earning an advanced degree is a huge feat.

In this new chapter in their life, they'll still need a support system. They may be handling their own finances at this point, or planning to be employed during graduate school. They've got a lot on their plate, and the demands can be taxing over time.

If you are not providing monetary support, there are still many ways to show your student that you'll be there for them as they continue their education.

5 Ways to Provide Non-Monetary Support to Your Grad Student

1. Allow them to live at home.

If possible, consider letting your graduate student live at home while completing their studies. Aside from tuition, housing is the next most costly expense. Additionally, they can contribute to the household in other ways — doing minor repairs, running errands, and house/pet sitting while you're out of town to name a few.

2. Keep them on your health insurance.

This is technically monetary support, but potentially it won't increase your premiums much to keep your grad student on your plan. Under current law, young adult children can remain on a parent’s insurance through their 26th year. So, in case they come down with the flu or worse, there’s no need to worry or pay out of pocket for medical or dental care.

3. Send pre-packaged meals.

If your student doesn't live with you or nearby, consider sending them prepared meals. There are several options to consider here. Some are fully cooked meals that only need to be heated or boxed meals with ingredients and instructions to walk them through the entire recipe themselves (I love the latter option as it teaches a necessary life skill).

4. Lend a listening ear.

Even if you attended graduate school yourself and feel like you know exactly what they should do, choose to be a listening ear, only offering advice when asked or allowed. Let’s face it, it’s a different world and much of what grad students deal with today wasn’t even invented when some of us earned our advanced degrees.

Be the soft place for your student to fall. In this phase of their lives, most of us as parents have moved on to a coach or advisor role. Encourage them to seek out resources available for grad students at their university.

5. Help with loan applications and the FAFSA.

Applying for scholarships, grants, and student loans on their own may be new (and possibly overwhelming) territory for your grad student. This is an area about which many parents gained knowledge and experience during the student’s undergraduate years. Offer to assist and then back off. Chances are your grad student is 21 years old if not older. The days of taking over and getting it done for them should be long gone. Your role here is to support, encourage, and coach. Make yourself available and let them accept or decline the offer.

This is the moment where you get to trust in everything you’ve poured into this very capable human being. They successfully completed their undergraduate studies and have taken the next step in their adulting journey. If they choose to move back home, refrain from falling into the old roles and habits of parent and child. Create a welcoming atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. Conversations about expectations and standards should be had sooner rather than later.

Lastly, I know the theme of this article is non-monetary support. However, as the parent of an out-of-state law school student, I know how much it means to get a random cash app deposit or receive a gas card in the mail. On a recent visit, my son and I made a trip to the grocery store and I offered to pay for everything. Final exams is another great time to shower them with a surprise. Last semester, I ordered a week’s worth of groceries on Instacart and had them delivered. To say he was thankful is an understatement.

Keep this in mind: no gesture is too small or too large.

Most students go to grad school because they want to, not because they have to. As they are giving their all and doing their best, a reminder that the folks at home are still pulling for them can make it all seem worth it.

Deborah Porter is The Ultimate Mom Coach — a life balance coach for dedicated moms who need home management systems and a self-care routine that goes beyond a good mani/pedi. She and her husband have three adult children and she believes that the woman you were before having kids still matters. Deborah is a regular contributor to "Virginia This Morning" on WTVR. Download her free ebook, "7 Habits of Confident Moms"!
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