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Going to College: How to Prepare

Here are some important tips to make the transition to college a little easier.
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WebMD Feature

As senior year of high school comes to a close, so do the parties and proms. Usually during the last weeks of summer, fear, anxiety, and excitement set in about the year to come. If you're the proud parent of a college-bound kid, you might be worried about the responsibilities and freedoms they are about to take on. While there are steps you can take to help prepare your kid for what's to come, you don't want to come off as overbearing or controlling, do you?

One of the biggest challenges for parents is letting go when their kids first leave home. "It's about walking that fine line between helping your kids and at the same time letting them grow as adults," says Melissa Kenzig, a certified health education expert and the director of the health education program at Columbia University in New York.

"Parents often want to let go but are scared they haven't prepared their kids well enough. In most cases, they haven't," says Susan Rothstein, who is the co-founder of the Captio Corp. and the College Case, a tool that helps students take control of and organize their lives.

The good news is you can pack more than clothing and school supplies into the weeks leading up to freshman orientation. Start by taking an organized approach to the information and topics that you need to cover before they hug you good-bye and have them store important information in one easily accessible place. From going over financial and medical information to talking about sex and drugs, here's the lowdown on what to cover from several experts who spoke to WebMD.

Let's Talk About Sex

"This idea that there is a sexual liberation that goes on at college campuses is an imaginary one," says Patricia Fabiano, PhD, who is the director of Prevention and Wellness Services at Western Washington University in Bellingham. Unfortunately, she says, it's an idea that most students and parents subscribe to.

According to Fabiano, about 28% of students surveyed in 2003 by the American College Health Association (ACHA) say they've never had a sexual partner. In addition, about 46% of the nearly 20,000 students surveyed said they'd had only one sexual partner in the last year.

While the great majority of students don't have multiple sex partners, a lot of students are going to have sexual relationships at college, and for many it will be their first time.

"It's important to keep the lines of communication open, especially during the first year of college," says Kenzig. Hopefully, you've talked to your kids about safer sex; however, some students might not want to involve their parents when it comes to sexual health issues, and you might be more than willing to respect their privacy. That's why on-campus resources are so important.

Part of the health program at Columbia is an online service called Go Ask Alice!, where students and parents from all over the country -- including you -- can ask questions about anything from sex to drugs and alcohol, relationships, and more.

Most schools offer health services that include birth control and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Students over 18 need to give written permission for the college to share any medical information, or even notify parents when students are ill.

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