How to Annoy a College Student
They've given you years of teen angst, frustration, and attitude. They're finally off to college, and it's time for payback. (Or, you could read this as a list of things not to do so as to avoid alienating your college-aged child. Hopefully, the latter is your choice.) But, either way, enjoy!
The subject of Finances offers a plethora of opportunities to drive your college-aged child crazy. You've got:
- Their bank account
- Their credit account(s)
- Their college account
- Loans from family
- Other loans
- Federal loans/grants/scholarships
Oh, the opportunities are endless! Here's what's most important:
Their online bank account: It's important to check their balance at least once/day. If you don't know their password (shame on you!), you can always ask them for it under the guise of wanting to transfer money into their account. Be sure to check that their balance meets your expectations, has accrued no overdraft charges, and that all withdrawals are acceptable (i.e. the liquor store or bars are reasons for serious talks, especially if they are underage). Now, understand, that if you've called them out on these items before, there may now appear several cash withdrawals instead of bar charges. You can rightfully assume that some deception is going on here.
It's important to educate your child about bank charges. Even if they take out a mere $10, the ATM will charge them $2-3 and their own bank will charge the same, with a net withdrawal of $4-6. Be sure to drive this fact home repeatedly, every time you see a cash withdrawal on your daily checks of their account. This will encourage them to take out larger withdrawals to minimize the percentage of service fees - those college kids are smart!
It's important to keep track of your college student's credit accounts because credit is a very complex issue and any misstep can result in lower credit credit scores and large penalty payments. With all they have to do, they surely can't keep track of due dates and interest charges. It's your duty to help them.
Just because you've educated them all about credit and the importance of establishing a high credit score and how to do so, doesn't mean they can handle this responsibility. It's best to mark the due dates on your calendar and remind them of the payment due date starting about 10 days out. Then, keep checking their account online - they don't need to know you're doing this - again, if you don't have their user names and passwords, gain them someday by saying you'd like to make a payment to their account. If the payment is not made a week out, a phone call is in order. Keep checking the account every couple of days. If the payment is not made, keep calling them, and remind them of the importance of good credit.
In addition, since they are adults, they may accept credit card offers without your knowledge. Since you have all of their information, including social security number, you can periodically check their status through the online credit reporting agencies, thus helping them keep spending within reasonable limits.
Thankfully, as a paying parent, you probably will have access to their college account and will receive e-mail notices when new bills are due or when payments have been made. Now, if for instance, an over-payment has been made to their account (perhaps from another parent or from an unexpected scholarship), you need to jump right on this. Call the Financial Aid Department of their school and determine when the overage will be transferred into your child's checking account. Now, contact your child and develop a budget for exactly how those funds will be distributed. Remember, you are the one with the majority of financial expertise, so your advise is very important at this point. Think carefully before setting up a phone conference with your college student, and be prepared to be firm.
Loans from Family: Even if you or other family members have gifted your student with college funds, be sure to remind your student that it is best form to attempt repayment of these 'loans' as soon as possible. Even if the funds are clearly not to be repaid, subtly remind the student that they are indebted nonetheless and will need to be at your beck and call from here to eternity.
Federal Loans/Grants/Scholarships: Be sure to keep in the forefront of your student's mind the fact that they are probably in debt to the government - a debt that can never be forgiven. Even if they don't technically have to pay these debts until they have established themselves in a well-paying career, they need to keep this debt ever in mind.
In addition to financial forms of intervention, the following are good areas in which you can demonstrate that all your attention equals love:
- Personal Mail
No doubt, you're the kind of non-judgmental parent who has kept the lines of communication open throughout adolescence. You can continue this pattern despite your child being a long-distance college student. What you need to do is to call every day (even if they say you're "blowing up" their phone) to let them know you care and are thinking about them. Be up-to-date, and use any form of communication that they are using: text, e-mail, phone messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. However you can get your message across, is the way to go.
Be sure to comment frequently on their Facebook page about how cute they are and how this reminds you of when they were a toddler, with the attached detailed description and photos. This way, all their friends can enjoy the reminiscence with you.
If ever you can't get ahold of them within a few hours, be sure to ring or text their friends - they'll know where he/she is or if she's missing. If all else fails, contact the school administration and local police to help track him/her if you are out of state. Book a flight to her school's nearest airport as soon as possible.
It's important to keep track of who your child's current friends and roommates are, along with their contact information. This is vital in instances where you need to reach your child before noon when they may be wasting time just sleeping. Having friends' contact information programmed into your phone will ensure that you can track down your college student whenever you need to.
In addition, you can chat up your child's friends to see how their lives are going, share funny stories about your child, and maybe get more inside information.
Although some say that college is the time to explore, experiment, and meet new people, you know what's best for your child. You've probably determined the best type of man/woman for your child. Be sure to ask for descriptions of the people he/she is seeing and point out the discrepencies between who they are seeing and who they should be seeing.
Although your child is technically an adult, you have kept careful watch over their important deadlines since they were 6 - don't stop now.
Be sure to keep a calendar at hand to record any deadlines revealed by your child, such as: tuition payment deadlines, course registration deadlines, FAFSA renewal deadlines, and many more. If your child does not readily reveal all deadlines, be sure to check the university's website to determine the most important.
When deadlines appear, it is your duty to remind and ensure that these deadlines are met - therefore ensuring your child's stellar reputation. Check with your child frequently to ensure compliance.
Be careful in this instance: professors do not like to have their standards questioned. However, if you know that your child is a high-achiever, and you learn that she/he has earned a below-deserved grade, this is the time to step in. Often, college-aged children have not yet developed the ability to stand up for themselves, so it's up to you to do so.
Determine who the child's professor is online (your child may not want to reveal his/her name), and call to set a phone conference as soon as possible. Although you haven't actually seen the work your child turned in, and you don't actually know the preset standards by which such work would be judged, it's important to make the professor understand that your child is unusually gifted and talented, and that if a poor grade was given, other circumstances must be at play, such as the standards of the professor.
When gifting a college student, be sure to give them what they need. They may compile a list of their most wanted items, but you know what's best. After all, you were a student once, and you know what you would have loved to receive: a charm bracelet or a college sweatshirt - certainly not what they've left a discreet note about: a yoga pass, a digital camera for next semester's photography course, an Urban Outfitters or Anthropology gift card, or tickets to the upcoming hottest concert.
Believe it or not, your child is an adult.
Although your child may now reside somewhere else, some of their mail will still end up in your mailbox. It's important for you as their parent to keep track of what's going on in their lives. So, even though it's illegal, it's your duty to open this mail and talk to them about its contents. Be sure not to tell them how to submit a change of address notice to the post office, or this stream of inside information will cease.
If your student is still on your cell phone plan, carefully examining their call history is a great opportunity for a lengthy discussion.
Think about an adult friend of yours. Would you apply the above standards to her/him? Would you call his/her friends if you couldn't reach them within a few hours? Would you track their financial details and remind them of due dates and consequences? Would you set standards for the person you think they should be dating?
It may be very hard to wrap your mind around, but your child is now an adult. Whaaaat??? Yes, and you need to trust that you've equipped them with the tools to find their way and suffer the consequences of their mistakes (or achievements) as their own.
If you are not an overbearing parent, you will be delighted at the number of times your child will come to you for advice. If you are, you and your child are likely to learn most things the hard way.