Your College Student is Home for the Summer

This is not the same child you dropped off at campus last fall. 

by Anne Vaccaro Brady


Your teenager will be walking in the door with a new sense of independence, confidence, even a little arrogance, and hopefully some maturity.

I’ve covered the basic challenges of college breaks in previous posts. Summer vacation raises other issues.

Set expectations Most college kids need a little time to decompress when they first get home. They survived their second semester of finals, almost a year of living with a stranger and packing up their life into some boxes and a suitcase again. They need at least a few days without a schedule or a to-do list. Like on the other breaks, they’re looking for the opportunity to sleep in and eat home-cooked meals.

I know lots of parents who want their kids out working the day after they get home from college and don’t understand why anyone needs to sleep past 9 A.M. If that’s your expectation (and good luck with that), then make sure your teen understands this to avoid frustration on everyone’s part.

Be prepared for rising costs Those reduced utility and food bills are no more. Lights will be left on throughout the house, an electronic device will always be charging, the kitchen will never close, the washer and dryer will run at odd hours, and, because you’ll never have enough food in your house, trips to the supermarket will become more frequent again. I won’t bother reminding you about the extra visits to the gas station.

That summer job Maybe your college student lined one up while he was home for Spring Break or applied online from school. If not, have him search on the youth employment page on your county and town websites and contact summer-season businesses, like day camps, country clubs and amusement parks, to find out about any available openings. Checking in with the boss from his high school job can’t hurt either.

At this point, he may have more luck going the less traditional route. Talk to friends, family and neighbors about babysitting, lawn and yard work, car care, tutoring, etc. Anyone need help clearing out years of junk from their basement or attic, or with set up or clean up for a large house party? How about running errands, like picking up the kids from camp and the dry-cleaning? One job can lead to several.

IMG_0636The family vacation Despite what you may have heard, plenty of college kids like going on vacation with their families. Before you make plans, though, talk with yours about whether she wants to come along. Whatever the answer, prepare for things to be different—maybe in a good way.

On vacation, your teen might want more time on her own or with her younger sibling(s), leaving Mom and Dad the chance for a quiet dinner alone or a few hours to sit, read and relax on the beach.

If you’re vacationing minus one, set the ground rules well in advance for what can and can’t happen while you’re away. Figure out a way to enforce whatever guidelines you set.

The boredom factor You heard complaints over the Winter Break, but with a couple of months instead of a few weeks to be filled, anticipate more grousing.

Your college student and his friends don’t want to be doing the same things they did last summer when they just got out of high school. Plus, doing anything tends to cost more at home, and his bank account is probably close to empty. A job will keep him busy and put money in his pocket at the same time.

You can be brave and offer suggestions on how to fill his time, but if you want to be taken seriously, make sure your thoughts are worth mentioning. A free or cheap concert featuring a band you’ve heard him talk about is better than saying your car could use a wash.

We butted heads a lot with our daughter when she came home after freshman year, but her second summer went really well. So know there’s hope. We’ll see how this one goes with our freshman son who’s already worried about being bored.

Enjoy your college student.

Share your thoughts and advice on what to expect when your college student comes home for the summer in the comments section below. 

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