How To Prepare Yourself for College Drop-off

How To Prepare Yourself for College Drop-off

Are you in the final stages of the college drop-off countdown? That was me two years when I first wrote this post about how to prepare yourself for dropping your child off at college. As it turns out, though, I had no idea how handy these tips would be when college drop-off weekend finally came. Now that I’ve actually gone through it, I’ve rewritten and expanded on the tips based on my experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

We’re in the final stages of the final countdown here now, y’all. Tomorrow morning we’re hauling our three giant suitcases to the plane and heading up to New York. And I’m going to confess that for a minute this week, I turned into this woman: scrolling through Pinterest images of elaborately organized college dorm rooms, watching YouTube videos of dorm hauls, and reading “What I Took to College” blog posts. (Every post says “You only need these five things” but the five things are always different).

I snapped out of it when I sent Charlotte a text from work with an elaborate plan involving bed risers and Ikea dressers repurposed into under bed storage and received the following response, “I don’t need any more drawers. They aren’t needed or allowed.” I’m not sure I completely buy that, but I got the underlying message: your overzealous help is not needed or allowed.

Time to back off. To help me actually follow through, here are the steps I’ll be taking to help me remember my role in her journey.

Remember this is her college experience, not mine.

This isn’t my opportunity to finally have the college dorm room I always wanted or to be the involved mom I always wanted. She will make the room she wants and that room will evolve as she does. This isn’t about me.

Someone (Me) Needs to be Emotionally Stable.

This will be an overwhelming weekend for us both. My daughter is going to be alone in a big city 1,000 miles from home. She comes from a southern family who went to state schools and then never left the state. I couldn’t be prouder of her, but not only does she have no role models, there’s no Aunt Martha in Connecticut to call if she needs help or in-person guidance. I loved this article in The Onion for its spot-on depiction of what I’m going through, but I need to remember that this is how it ends:

At press time, sources reported that Molly was channeling her overpowering fears about soon being on her own and without her mother’s unwavering support into petulantly sulking in the electronics section.

Poor Molly.

You can Cry a Little Bit.

Yes, I need to be emotionally stable but it’s ok and expected for the parent to be a bit emotional. If your kid is also feeling nervous, too, now they have a chance to offload a bit of that emotion before you leave them alone. And they’ll be reminded that they are a valued member of the household who will definitely be missed.

But Don’t Cry Too Much.

If your child is hesitant and worried, you can be the cheerleader they need. Let them know you have faith in their ability to handle any new challenges. And, if necessary, plan a visit that’s sooner than you might otherwise schedule. That way your child can look forward to a little spoiling from a parent when the world seems scary and overwhelming. You can look forward to the visit as well when you worry about how things are going. (And you will!)

Parent Different.

(With apologies to Apple and grammar purists everywhere.) This is my new motto. We’re partners now. In a non-confrontational way, I need to make sure she understands my expectations. This isn’t a cultural year in New York City, this is college and an expensive one. She needs to focus first and foremost on her grades. Other than that, I am available for advice, but I. Will. Not. Offer. Unasked. For. Advice. (Yes, cynics, I know I’ll make mistakes. But this is my goal.)

And finally.


Sometime on Sunday evening, I will be in a hotel room and my daughter will be in her dorm room. I will have had successfully raised three children into amazing adults who don’t live with me. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all three of them. And how awestruck I am at who they’ve become. And how astonished I am to have reached this point. I plan to have a glass of wine, or maybe even champagne, with my sweet, patient husband who has been living all summer with two women on the edge of a nervous breakdown and toast myself.

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  1. August 31, 2015 / 9:39 pm

    Awww…this is so sweet. I hope everything went well this past weekend when you took your daughter to college!

    • Katy
      September 1, 2015 / 7:34 am

      Thanks Marcia! There were a few bumps along the way but writing out rules for myself ahead of time actually helped a lot.

  2. August 24, 2016 / 2:27 am

    I remember this – how has the last year been? It’s pretty hard adjusting to this stage of motherhood even though it brings more personal freedom.

    • Katy
      August 24, 2016 / 10:50 am

      Hi Gilly! The last year went well but I feel like I’m going to go through all the same things all over again after I’ve had her at home for the summer. It will be tough to let her go for a second time!

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