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Welcome your college student home

Diane Schwemm

What are some of the ways families celebrate the return of their college students for summer? My two sons, ages 18 and 21, will be greeted by clean sheets (possibly for the first time since January). A party in and of itself!

We’re pretty low-key and that was a theme I heard a lot as I spoke about this with friends and relatives. One thing many of us have in common...

We like to celebrate with FOOD.

All-you-care-to-eat college dining halls lose their charm over time. Whether home-cooked or at a restaurant, we love to treat our returning college students to a special meal. “Our long-time tradition is to go straight from the airport to our favorite local restaurant, mounds of luggage locked in the car,” Lucy says. “Our children insist on it. We catch up over chips and salsa.”

The most important piece is giving the returning college student a chance to talk. There is so much to cover, from classes to friends to plans for next year.

Something else that’s important is simply the physical space of home.

“When my kids come home at the end of the year, they want things to be the way they left them,” Laura says. “I think it’s because they may not be home for long and they want to know that home is still home and that it will still be home when they’re away for summer jobs.” She does stock up on snacks, new bath products, and a new novel or two to kick off the season of reading-for-pleasure.

Cathy says, “For the girls, I will clean their rooms and do any laundry that has been left since the last time I opened the door, which was the morning they left. Then I let them sleep for two days!”

Other fun ways to celebrate their return:
  • “We play mini golf — a quick way to bring everyone together for an evening of fun.”
  • “My daughter and I kick off summer by going out to lunch and getting a pedicure together, to show off our ‘summer toes’ for flip-flop season!”
  • A traditional trip to the mall to shop for wardrobe necessities for summer jobs and internships doubles as a good chance to talk.
  • Some families make a visit to the grandparents a top priority.
  • "When our daughter comes home from college for the summer, we take her to a show. She’s a theater major and will see anything. It gives us a chance to spend the evening with her, hear about her semester and to share something she’s passionate about."
  • “Our family runs and walks the Bolder Boulder [5k road race]. We sit together in the stadium afterwards to watch the elite runners finish and catch all the Memorial Day festivities.”

We all agreed that celebration is really about reconnection. “The most important piece is giving the returning college student a chance to talk,” Laura says. “There is so much to cover, from classes to friends to plans for next year.”

If you won’t have time to celebrate because your student is immediately zipping off to a summer job or internship in another location, you’re not alone. Janet notes that her daughter will only be home for one day before leaving for her summer job on a cruise ship. When students have more than one household, that can complicate things as well.


As always, thank you to my parent experts from Brooklyn to California!
Diane Schwemm is a writer and Managing Editor at CollegiateParent. She and her husband are parents of a college student and two recent graduates. In her off hours, she likes to read, hike and garden and, thanks to the influence of her family, appreciates ballet and basketball equally.
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