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What are some of the ways families celebrate the return of their college students for summer? As we surveyed friends and relatives, we gathered that "low-key" was usually the theme. It might just mean a clean, quiet room with clean sheets (which your student may appreciate more than you can know).

Here are other things many families of returning college students 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.”

After more than a year of pandemic, we're in a better place and that may mean your favorite restaurant is open for business, or that you can safely invite a few friends and relatives over for a welcome home BBQ!

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 a summer 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." Performance venues are reopening and outdoor concert and play series are back — check out what's happening in your area!
  • Active families may look for a road race to enter together, or plan a camping or backpacking weekend.

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.”

As always, thank you to our parent experts from Brooklyn to California! Join our Facebook group, College Parent Insiders, and tell us how you'll celebrate your student's return!
CollegiateParent supports you on your own personal journey during your student's college years. We answer questions, share stories and connect you to life on campus. Reach out to us at any time!
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