By Lael Oldmixon, Executive Director, Education Trust of Alaska

August 15, 2023

Navigating the first year of college can feel overwhelming, not just for your first-time college student but also for you. This might be a familiar feeling. After all, you’ve coached your child through many firsts in their life. Like those other firsts, there are abundant resources and people to offer advice and guidance, including me.

The most apparent guides will be student enrollment professionals, academic advisors, faculty, staff, and peers who will help facilitate your student’s transition into college. There will be checklists and tasks to complete before arrival, and in the first six weeks of the fall term, students will be encouraged to get connected, engage with their peers and housing staff, and check in with their academic advisors. Staff will facilitate orientation, first-year experience programs, academic advising days, student activities, wilderness immersion, and other similar programs to ease the transition and meet the new students’ cognitive, social, and emotional needs.

Mark and Quinn Oldmixon navigating the trails of Alaska. Photo credit: Alaska 529

My experience as a higher education professional (having worked in residence life, career counseling, enrollment services, and finance), along with feedback from current students, parents, and colleagues at the University of Alaska, helped inform this list of advice I’d like to offer as an additional resource. While the tips may be most beneficial for your student, they may also be helpful for you! 

Navigating the First Year of College: A Guide for Both Beneficiaries and Their Parents

Before Arriving

  • Read all communications from your university or college. 
  • Review your admissions and financial aid status. Are all outstanding documents submitted?
  • Watch for instructions about logistics like deposits, housing deadlines, fee payment, and class registration. 
  • If you have a documented disability, review the services available to you at your university, which may include testing support, assistive technology, sign language interpretation, classroom support, notetaking, etc. Keeping your documentation up-to-date is critical.
  • Request your 529 distribution at least ten business days before the fee payments deadline. 

Continue reading and print the complete list here

Parents, you’ve already coached your child through 18 years of firsts, and like those first wobbly steps or the first day of kindergarten, this one will result in great things! 

About the author:

Lael M. Oldmixon, M.Ed is the Executive Director of the Education Trust of Alaska, which offers Alaska’s three 529 plans, Alaska 529, the  T.Rowe Price College Savings Plan, and the  John Hancock Freedom 529. She lives in Alaska with her spouse, two children, and two dogs.