Families: College Checklist


College Checklist

Your student may need extra support as he or she transitions from high school to college. There are many academic and other support services at the college that can help.



  • Do well in school.

    Encourage your student to do well in school and earn good grades—they will matter in the future and it may impact his or her financial aid.
          Be vocal about your expectations for school.
          Absences make a big impact on student learning. Reiterate the importance of going to class.
          Advise your student to participate in classes and keep up with assignments.
          Remind your student to get help from professors, advisors or classmates. Suggest finding a study partner or group, going to office hours and using the tutoring services available on campus.
          Ask questions about your student's classes, professors, homework and midterms.
          The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that all academic information go directly to the student. Therefore, ask your student about his or her academic progress.

    Encourage your student to get to know professors.
          Suggest going to office hours even if he or she doesn't have a specific question—building a relationship may be helpful in the future.

    Encourage reading for pleasure.
          Reading improves your focus, concentration, imagination and knowledge.

    Reiterate the importance of good written and oral communication skills.
          Advise your student to check school e-mail daily. The college will use this as their main method of communication.
          Encourage your student to write professionally when e-mailing professors or other college staff. No txtspk! Use capital letters, spell words out and write complete sentences.
          Guide your student to self-advocate by being polite and clear about what he or she needs.
  • Challenge yourself.

    Help your student set academic and personal goals for the year in order to stay motivated and focused.

    Discuss ways to take on challenges. Help your student understand that failure is a learning experience and an opportunity for growth.

    Recommend your student take an interesting class unrelated to his or her major or program.

    Ask your student if he or she is interested in spending a term studying in another country or at another college.
  • Take the right classes.

    Stress the importance of meeting with an advisor to make sure your student is taking the classes needed in order to complete a degree on time.

    If your student is planning to transfer colleges, remind your student to check that the classes he or she is taking will transfer as well.

    If your student is planning to attend graduate school, including law, business or medical school, prompt your student to learn what the required classes are for admission. They may not be required for your student's major, so he or she will need to make a plan to take additional classes.
  • Get organized.

    Your student is in charge of his or her own time.
          Suggest using a paper or digital planner or calendar to keep track of assignments, deadlines and other commitments.
          In college, students usually spend less time in class and more time studying on their own. Emphasize the importance of studying daily a nd u sing time between classes wisely.

    Remind your student to read the syllabus for each class and make note of when big projects or exams are scheduled.

    Encourage your student to keep notes and papers organized with a binder or online system.

    Ask where your student studies best—his or her room, library, student center, coffee shop, etc.
          Check in with your students about good study habits like turning off unnecessary technology.

     Remind your student to create or update his or her résumé with college activities, jobs and awards.
          The career center at the college can help. This will be useful when applying for jobs and more scholarships.
  • Prepare for and take graduate school admission tests.

    If your student is interested in graduate school, medical school, law school or other professional programs, he or she may need to take an entrance exam before applying.

    Encourage your student to use resources on campus to prepare and study.

    Remind your student to check deadlines for the specific programs and exam he or she is interested in.

Conversation Starters

  • What are your academic and personal goals for the year?
  • What is your favorite class this term? Why?
  • What is your most challenging class this term? Why? Who can you ask for help?
  • What professor have you connected with? What have you talked about with him/her during office hours?
  • Tell me about a group project you're working on.



  • Get involved.

    Recommend your student try something new and practice leadership skills by joining student groups and community activities, volunteering for organizations or causes and getting a part-time job.

    Help your student make a plan for summer.
          Consider summer classes, internships or research, special programs or a job.
  • Spend time with good people.

    Ask about your student's friends at school. Talk with your student about hanging out with friends that share positive goals and interests.

    Be supportive by communicating regularly and even sending care packages.
          It can be difficult to make new friends and adjust to a new place; it's normal for students to feel homesick. The best remedy is to get involved on campus—remind your student to keep an open mind and join student groups in order to meet a wide range of people.

    Encourage your students to join study groups or find a study partner.

    Ask your student about possible mentors: a professor, advisor, coach, other trusted adult or older student that he or she can talk to.

    Encourage your student to be a role model and mentor for younger students.
  • Make good choices.

    Encourage your student to take care of him or herself.
          Share the importance of eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
          If your student gets sick, remind him or her to use the college's health center. If your student must miss a class, remember he or she should e-mail the professor and notes from a classmate.
          Most colleges have counseling services available if your student is feeling anxious, overwhelmed, depressed or has other concerns.
          In most cases, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that student health records remain confidential to the student and providers. Therefore, talk to your student about his/her health concerns.

    Help your student understand appropriate, safe behavior online and on their phone.
          Encourage your student to set appropriate privacy settings on social media.
          Suggest that your student to only share information with people he or she knows and trusts.
          Remind your student that information posted can live online forever and to always ask him or herself: would I want my grandma/teacher/religious leader to see this?

    Talk to your student about the risks of behaviors like drinking, doing drugs, and having sex.
          Encourage your student to attend workshops or presentations to learn about safe sex, consent and the dangers of binge drinking.
          Most colleges have health centers to ask questions, get free resources and get help when needed.

Conversation Starters

  • What student group or clubs have you joined?
  • Who are you spending time with? Who do you study with?
  • How are you feeling? Who on campus can you go to when you're not feeling well?
  • What do you do on the weekends?



  • Discover support services at your college.

    Colleges have many people whose job it is to help you. Urge your student to use them!
          Refer to this directory if your students attends an Oregon college.
  • Explore career and advanced educational options.


    Talk to your student about his or her future goals and plans.
    Ask about the classes he or she has enjoyed the most and the program, major and career options related to those classes.
          Encourage your student to talk to professors, advisors and the career center about jobs related to his or her major or program.

    Remind your student to visit the career center to find volunteer opportunities or internships and get help with resumes, interviews, and the job search. 

     Suggest attending a career fair.


    Review with your student what is most important to him or her in a college.

    Encourage your student to develop a list of colleges and universities that he or she is interested in and that has his or her program or major.

    Remind your student to research admission requirements and make a list of deadlines for each college including any graduate level entrance exams he or she will be required to take.

    Get to know your student's top colleges.
          Encourage your student to visit his or her top colleges if possible. He or she can sign up with the admissions office or graduate school department to take an official tour, go to an information session and potentially sit in on a class.
          Explore colleges online with your students using college websites and social media.
          Advise your student to attend a college fair if there is one in the area.
  • Make a plan for paying for college.

    Talk to your student about managing college costs.
          The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that all financial information go directly to the student.

    Your student must re-apply for FAFSA or ORSAA every year.
          Work with your student to complete it as soon as possible after October 1.
          The Student Aid Report is a summary of what your student filled out on the FAFSA—remind him or her to make sure that all of the information is correct and make any changes if necessary by March 15.

    Encourage your student to apply for scholarships.
          Your student may be eligible for more scholarships now that he or she is in college. Urge your student to use a scholarship search engine, check with the college financial aid office and keep an eye on department newsletters or bulletin boards for opportunities.
          Your should review the scholarships for which he or she is eligible and submit an OSAC Scholarship Application by March 1 each year.

    Help your student keep track of money.
    Help your student make a budget and stick to it.
          Discuss using credit cards responsibly.

    Help your student understand student loans.
          Your student may be offered larger loans than he or she needs to pay tuition, room & board and other educational costs. Accept only the amount of loans he or she really needs. Remember—loans must be paid back!
          Suggest attending workshops about financial literacy and student loans.
          Advise your student to make interest rate payments on unsubsidized loans while still in school.
          Remind your student to start paying off student loans within 6 months of leaving school. Help your student look into loan repayment, consolidation or other payment plans if needed.

Conversation Starters

  • What are you struggling with? Who on campus can help?
  • What are your career goals? How can your college's career center help get you there?
  • Let's review your budget together. What are some unexpected costs? Where can you save money?