How Much Contact Do You Have with Your College Student?

Updated on October 15, 2013
M.T. asks from Stormville, NY
22 answers

Hi all. My oldest is now a college freshman, and I'm just wondering, for those of you with kiddults in college how much contact do you have with your son/daughter? How often do you talk on the phone/text/email and who usually initiates contact. Do you have any rules about how often you require your son/daughter needs to be in touch? I'm curious to see what is the norm for other parents and their college students.

Also, am I the only parent who does not provide spending money to my college kiddult? It seems like everyone makes comments about how she'll be contacting me a lot for money and similar comments that assume I'm like a human ATM/money tree, and they are shocked to learn that I don't provide any spending cash. My daughter worked last spring and all summer, and has a work study job on campus 6-8 hours a week. I had enough money put away to cover the parts of her tuition/housing/meal plan that her scholarships and grants didn't cover. Are you all horrified that I expect her to cover her textbooks, her spending money, her laundry, her snacks and toiletries?

Just curious. Thanks for your feedback and opinions.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences! DorisDay, perhaps I should have put an "LOL" after "horrified" - it was meant as a cheeky comment, since pretty much every person I've encountered IRL (such as coworkers with kids in college) seems to provide pocket money for their young adults in college. While I don't look for others' approval, I am relieved to see that I am not the only parent who feels that their college student should have some financial responsibility and who does not feel a need to have contact with the kiddult every single day. I let her set the frequency. People in my life seemed shocked that I did not initiate contact and let 2 days go by after we dropped her off (4 hours away) before she texted me. She was on the introverted side in HS and I am excited that she has come out of her shell, attending events on campus, going on outings with new friends, etc :)

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answers from Washington DC on

I went to college back in the early 90's. I called my parents every Sunday night (collect!) They didn't provide spending money, but they did pay room/board/tuition, and for that I an forever grateful!! I paid for my own beer :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I talked my son weekly via email. I put a little money in his student Bank of America account each month. Maybe $50. I did not want him to work. His 'work' was to go visit his grandparents once a week. He went to college in the town where they lived. My mama got a kick out of doing his laundry. Once she got ill and passed. I continued the pay and even added to it when he would go look at tv sports with my dad.

This was all a secret to my parents as I didn't want them to think he had to e paid to visit. They would try pay him to cut grass and I'd say no. I would pay him but would not allow him to take their money. Later I found out my dad would sneak him cash and tell him to not tell me...

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Springfield on

There are just so many right answers. You have to do what works best for you and your family. Heard that before, right?

My grandparents paid my parents tuition, my parents paid my tuition and room and board and I feel it is my responsibility to pay for my kids to go away to school ... I say go away to school, because I also believe that living away from home is half the experience of college.

Just about everyone I met in college had a different way of paying for it. Some people were on scholarship, some had everything paid by Mom and Dad, others were taking out loans. It's not quite accurate to say that people only appreciate their degree if they have to work for it. I knew many people whose parents were paying for everything and were working very hard to make their parents proud. They appreciated the sacrifices their parents were making and didn't want to let them down. Then again, I knew of some students who were taking out loans and didn't work hard at all. Did they not realize they were still going to have to pay those back ... even if they didn't finish?

I'm just saying, you do what works for you. Don't worry about what other families are doing.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

First off .. We planned for our daughters full education plus any MBA degree way before she was born. Our personal feeling is that we get our daughter out if college debt free so she can start her life out without worries of school loans, etc.

My daughter is in her 1st year of college and we purchased a condo for her which is about 20 minutes from our home. She commutes to college from her home which is a safe, gated condo complex.

I typically have lunch with her about once a week and she comes here about every other week or so per her schedule. She does babysit regularly for a few families in our neighborhood ( that's her extra $$ and it's pretty darn good at an average if $100 a weekend night) so when she's around the neighborhood she does leave laundry etc.

I personally have no issue with it because we've been tight knit for very long but at the same time she has always had a long leash from years ago.

Communication has always been key here and so far it still works well for us. She maintains her condo ( our condo) but we pay all utilities, HOA, etc. she has limited monies weekly which funds her food and gas. We occasionally pay an extra here or there but fir the most part she does quite well.

So no.. We did not send her out to live on her own with no experience and I would not deny helping or doing her laundry because she works hard for her good grades and she's a good kid.

Our daughter has the option to continue our family business if she chooses. If she chooses not to pursue our business, we plan to sell , retire , and she will be able to have funds to begin her own venture. She was raised with entrepreneurs and that's just in her blood.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Daughters 3 & 4 are both in college now. Since they're at least 10 years younger than daughters 1 & 2, things are very different now than when our first daughter went off to college.

We pay tuition, room & board (apartment & food allowance for the #3; dorm & meal plan for #4), car insurance & cell phone. Our daughters buy their books, their clothes, any entertainment and provide their own "living on" money. They each have a credit card off our account which they know is for emergencies only & they must run it by us (or at least make an effort to) BEFORE they use it; they've respected that & been responsible about it. They've both been very, very good about earning & managing their money.

As for keeping in touch, I've noticed with all my girls that the first year is the most up & down. When they're feeling insecure, they call a LOT. When all goes well, the phone doesn't ring as much. Even now, my senior (who is just that much more mature) calls more often than my sophomore (though she's more of a texter than her sister).

When my girls were younger, we had a "good night" ritual saying. Several times a week, I still text them their own good night before I go to bed. Usually, when I next check my phone (usually the next morning) there's a reply from them. It's just a nice way to keep in touch.

Last year, one of them had an 8AM class, three days a week. In a casual conversation, I told her she should call me on her way to class. Much to my surprise, she did -- and many mornings she still does. It's just a quick, 2 or 3 minute chat as she's walking to class but it's a nice way to touch base.

One thing, when either girl is walking home at night, either from the library or from work, we encourage them to call. Don't much care what time of night it is. Even though both campuses are very safe, it never hurts to have company and if you can't have someone physically with you, someone on the phone is a good substitute.

Like so many stages in childhood, the going off to college transition can be very, very tough -- and as much for the parents as the children!

Good luck.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

When I was in college, I talked to my parents at least once a week - sometimes more if something came up but once a week at a minimum. Sometimes they called, sometimes I did, I don't think there was really a "rule". This was back in the early 90s, before everyone had a cell phone and everyone texted each other all the time.

As for spending, I had my first credit card that was for emergencies only, and I did get an "allowance" every 2 weeks that I had to make last - it covered laundry, hair cuts, extra food, if we decided to get pizza one night, etc. (I was in a dorm with a meal plan that provided 3 meals a day, except for Sunday dinner - then we were on our own). It forced me to budget so it wasn't like I had all the money in the world to spend on whatever I wanted. As soon as I was done with school and graduated, I already had a job lined up and never expected Mom and Dad to continue to support me financially, so having that "help" did not hurt me any.

A big part of kids going away to college is teaching them independence. That means staying in touch regularly, but not having to talk or text all the time. And giving them some tools that allow them to make their own decisions while not giving them so much rope that they hang themselves.

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answers from St. Louis on

I contacted my daughter every other day. As long as I was paying the phone bill she needed to answer and give me an update. As far as extra spending money that was all on her, yes some parents gave their kids an allowance. But I'll say this when my daughter graduated she already had a job lined up, could stand on her own two feet. And I'm proud to say that 2 years after graduation she FULLY supports herself. Where as those whose mommy and daddys gave allowances are still living at home and can't figure it out. I'm one proud momma, this young lady wanted to get married next spring. Her wedding ideas are way out of my budget. Guess what she's already pd for 1/2 of it all. Sometimes the only way our chicks learn to fly is by a little push from us. She also graduated on the Deans list with a 4.0 and on the Nursing Deans list. I still had children at home and she understood this. VERY PROUD of my daughter.

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answers from Austin on

My husbands mom sent our daughter $200. per month. We did not ask, it was something she volunteered to do.

She was also very fortunate to be given money when she graduated from high school. So she had all of that money.

Our daughter also worked each summer for her "spending money".

But our daughter is so frugal, each spring when she came home, she had saved money usually at least $1000.. SO she put it in savings. Every year.

She paid for her text books (which she ordered on line through Amazon) , her laundry, and extras herself. But her housing and food were covered since she lived on campus.

I did send her care packages that included, different things. Tampons, coffee , gift cards to local food places, deodorant, treats..All of her grandparents also sent her care packages.. She and her friends loved them.

Her freshman year we texted her a lot. We asked her to call us once a week if possible. So she did this. sometimes even more often. Facebook was awesome. We could creep on her page and see what she and her friends were up to.

The first time she got sick, I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack. She had a really bad flu, went to the health center. My husband called the local pharmacy and had them deliver all sorts of things to her, including soup!

He is the one that texted her a lot, but she was sweet and always responded. She knows he is so worried about her at all times.

She never came home for Thanksgiving or Easter, it was not worth the money and amount of time it would take for her to come home, so she would call us while were with the large part of our family, so everyone could speak with her.

I think each family has to do what they can. It sounds like your daughter is doing fine. There is nothing wrong with sending her some money when you can, care packages (Halloween is coming up!) Or a gift card. Example, I sent a gift card for LL Bean so she could order a coat. She was up North and we had no idea what kind of Jacket would be needed, so her roommate helped her pick out the right one.

Her Junior year, we got her a Costco card, so she could go and purchase things she needed. She was the house Vice President and they had a budget for treats and gifts, a group of girls would make request for things.. so Costco came in handy..

If you want to speak with her more, just ask her to call. Set it up as a weekly thing or set a time.

I loved when she called just to say she was so happy or what her plans were, etc.. But I also did not want to drive her insane by calling her every day like I really wanted to do.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't provide spending money for my college kids. They both have jobs. The one who is away at college makes enough money to pay for her rent and food and takes out her own school loans. I only pay for her car insurance and phone. She is the only one of her three roomies who isn't fully supported by her parents. Once in a while she whines about it, but she's fully capable, and she has a heck of a lot more energy and stamina than I do at this point.

I doted on them their whole lives, now it's my turn. Anyway, my daughter loves her job, and she loves school, and when she's not whining about life's inequities she's pretty proud of herself.

So no, I'm not horrified at all. Anyway, on what else should your daughter be spending the money she earns? Should she be using it to play and amuse herself, while you continue to sacrifice? Not in my opinion.

I talk to my child who is away at school approx once every two or three weeks. We text occasionally in between. We have a good relationship, but we're both busy with our lives.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Depends on the kid and if money is involved. We kept in touch with SD more than SS but he's not the gushy type anyway. This year, SD has a heavy course load and is working more (she has an apartment) and we hear from her less. We try to meet the "kids" where they are - send a text or a FB message or an email vs calling. Then they can call us. Every now and then we set the laptop up at the table and skype a meal with SD. We don't have any rules about being in touch, other than "do not let us get nasty grams from the bursar's office because you are overdue." If you were very close with your student prior, you may find she calls more often than someone with a more independent child. I probably text SD more than she texts me, but she usually does respond.

We do not provide spending money per se. My SS got a scholarship. We had money saved for him so what we ended up using our money for was his meal plan and his books and incidentals. His job was to keep his nearly full scholarship by working hard.

SD has not gotten a scholarship of the same level. So she is working. We send her money for tuition (or pay the bursar) and books and are now sending her money directly so she can pay for an apartment (in lieu of living on campus - saves us money, actually). She works for her grocery money and takes out loans as necessary for her educational needs.

We made it clear to both of them that we weren't covering a full ride. They needed to kick in somewhere and make up the difference. With SS's scholarship, he chose to take some of the money we saved for him and go on a spring break trip when he was abroad for school. And we agreed that it was appropriate since he had maintained his scholarship and wasn't asking for the moon.

I am not horrified at your expectations. My mother had no money to send me for those things, so I mostly worked and did it myself. I had my financial aid and my campus job. It worked out fine. I considered books part of the whole managing my loans and grant money thing.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

My husband talks to my college son more than I do - he's in business classes and the particular ones he is taking are not my area of expertise. They are my husband's, so they have a lot of discussions. My husband is a good sounding board for my son's thought processes (better than me.) I figure that I brought him this far and dad is now better for what he needs.

I'm the one who asks him if he eats right LOL!

Probably they talk every week, and I probably talk to him every other week. I send little snippets on FB (private messages - he doesn't like me remarking on his wall) and then we spend time together when he comes home.

We do pay most of our son's college expenses. His unsubsidized loans are HIS responsibility, BUT we have given him the "carrot" of paying his loans off each semester that he reaches a certain grade level. If he doesn't, he will have to pay off that semester's loans. He has lovely scholarships, and the rest we pay for him. He has a meal plan and housing, we cover his books, and we let him be on our cellphone plan and pay "x" amount of his car insurance. If he gets a ticket and his insurance goes up, he will have to pay the difference. We do give him $150 a month stipend, mostly so that if he wants to cook in his dorm kitchen or go out on dates, he can. Otherwise, he will have to find a little job on campus (not work study - he doesn't qualify for that.)

He has not asked for money which I am proud of him for. He did tell us that dating was more expensive than he realized now that he's not a high school student anymore. LOL!

As far as your daughter is concerned, if you expect her to cover what you're talking about here, that is between you and her and I don't know why you are asking other people if they are horrified. (A little dramatic, don't you think?) If she works during the school year, she'll have the money for this. If she has a summer job, she'll have money for books. My son has summer jobs and it's the money he uses for anything that he needs or wants, including clothes, since I don't buy that for him anymore.

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answers from Chicago on

I'm not horrified lol. I did the same thing. Our kids worked not only in the summer but also all the way through college. They earned there own spending money. We did have a big grad party at the end of there highschool senior year. They also saved all of that money. Kids appreciate the education more when they have to work for it.

adding in this part cause I forgot it lol. We did provide the cell phone and car insurance. And sometimes gas money to get home to visit us. As far as checking in. Our kids called at least once a week but we texted and talked on facebook just about every day.

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answers from San Francisco on

Re communication, I think every kid is different. Our son skyped with us pretty much every Sunday night as a freshman, half as much as a sophomore, hardly ever now as a junior. But we still see each other on Facebook and text somewhat often. Our oldest daughter is now a freshman, and doesn't want to skype at all, but we have short texts back and forth, and have had about three or four phone calls in the first several weeks, mostly initiated by her.
Re the money, our son works full time during the summer, but much of his earnings go towards clothes, shoes and maintenance on his car and computer, etc. This year he paid for his first semester books, but we are still paying tuition and food/housing. We have always given him $100 a month for "spending" which really means laundry, toiletries, gloves/socks when the weather turns, new t shirts & underwear, stuff like that. Same thing with our daughter, $100 a month. But we do it because we can and we want to, not because we SHOULD. My husband and I both worked our way through college with NO parental support, so we know how nice it is to be able to give our kids some money for the little comforts. You'd be surprised though, around here some kids get more, some even get (basically) unlimited credit cards!
Just do what your heart, your personal values and your wallet demands, don't worry about anyone else :-)
Oh, and if she is going to school and working don't be surprised that she doesn't call often, she is BUSY!

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answers from Austin on

As far as college costs, my kids covered it themselves, although we covered their heath and car insurance and cell phones.

If something came up, we did help out..... but they paid it all through scholarships, grants, work, and loans.

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answers from Detroit on

My daughter and I talk/text at least 3 times a week now that she is in college. I would say both of us initiate equally. The funny thing is when she was a kid (12), she went to live with her dad and we rarely talked. Now, as an adult, she contacts me regularly to talk about school, careers, men, money, etc.

My daughter got grants to go to school, but I helped furnish her apartment, pay for her school books, carry her health insurance, and occasionally send her cash when she desperately needs it (usually $50 a month). Actually, her dad helps her out with money way more than I do since he feels obligated.

I understand what you mean, my situation is as follows:

My ex (her dad) and I did not want our daughter to go away to college since we have great colleges around the areas where we live. Plus, my ex is on a fixed income (disability) and I don't work since I am remarried and a stay at home mom. My ex and I were NOT happy about her moving away. It would have been way cheaper on all of us if she would have lived at home and attended a local community college. Additionally, my daughter barely passed high school; my ex and I struggled with her to get her to graduate high school.

We never thought she'd go to college quite honestly. We are proud of her decision to go to school; however, she decided to go away to school mainly to be near her friends and boyfriend. We our doing our best to support her. We just keep our fingers crossed and pray that she makes it. The good thing is that her boyfriend who is older than she is, is very smart and motivated...he's studying to be a doctor, so his educational standards are high. We hope HIS standards brush onto our daughter and she sets the bar high for herself too.

We can only hope and pray:)

That's my situation:)

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answers from Grand Forks on

I don't have college age kids yet, but we do it differently here in Canada. Normally, unless you live in a rural area, you live at home until you finish college or university. My parents paid for part of my tuition and I paid the balance. I lived at home for free, but had a job to pay for my own car, toiletries, clothes and spending money. I fully expect my kids will live at home until they graduate from university, and that I will see them every day. School is expensive enough, I can't imagine wanting to add all those living expenses.

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answers from Norfolk on

Everybody has different arrangements.
Some kids have little or no contact.
Other kids have a lot of contact.
I couldn't afford to live away from home for college so I commuted.
With my Mom working and my schedule, sometimes the only way we'd know we were both living in the same house was that food kept disappearing from the fridge.
I'd come home when she was asleep and she'd leave for work while I was sleeping till I had to leave for a class.
We left notes for each other on the fridge - it was our communication center (there were no cell phones back then).
My husband (then boyfriend) went away to college and he was pretty much on his own.
His father would stop in and visit him about once a month and take him out to dinner and that was all the contact he had with family.
Campus life is pretty busy - there is always something going on.
A lot of it is classes, labs, home work and study groups, jobs, laundry, housekeeping, and then there's football (pick a sport) games, frat parties, and all kinds of other stuff.
There's no excuse to be bored.
Your arrangement is only one way out of a million other ways people do things.
It's no better or worse than anything else I've ever heard of.

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answers from Washington DC on

When I was in college, my parents called me once a week at the same day, same time. Of course, that was back in the day before cell phones and e-mail. Sometimes it was a pain to have to be available for this phone call every single week, but it was also nice because it was the only way I could also talk to my sister for free.

I was also expected to pay for all my own non-tuition expenses. Tuition was ungodly expensive, so I wasn't ungrateful. But that did mean that I was completely responsible for rent, food, books, everything. I definitely was envious of my friends who didn't have to work as hard as I did to cover costs, but I was also very thankful that I was able to graduate without any student loans.

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answers from Honolulu on

The kind of relationship you have with your daughter or not, will determine how much contact you have with her and how.
The kind of person she is, will also determine how much or the type of contact you have with her.

When I was in college, I had contact with my parents a lot.
Because, I was close, to my Dad especially.
And we talked, at will. And with respect to another.
There were no rules, about it.
It was just a natural thing.
And if I was busy, I would just say I am busy but will call you back.
No biggie.
I was out of State, for college.

As for spending money, that is up to you.
Some parents help with that, some don't.

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answers from Houston on

Well it was different with both kids.

Our daughter (grad 2012 from university) went to college about an hour from home. She would come home most weekends to work. I spoke with her several times a week. About classes (her major was HR Management) and I'm an HR professional. Boys. So my contact with her was significant. We paid for school and a little extra spending but not much.

Our son on the other hand is a junior and goes to school out of state. Because he is in the military (national guard) he gets in state tuition. Also, the military does help with some of the costs. We pay for rent. He has a job as well. I don't talk to him as much as my husband does. He calls me when he is sick and hurt or money. He called last night because he wants us to help him (Christmas gift) for a ticket to Belgium in July for some concert. Ha!

So to answer, I talked to my daughter too much and don't talk to my son enough! =)

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answers from New York on

I applaud you for not just handing your kid money. I think in the long run you are teaching her responsibility and indepence! I dont have kids in college, but I would touch base with my mom once a week.



answers from Binghamton on

It might interest you to know that studies on the GPA of college students who worked vs. those who didn't have shown that working students tend to do better in school. It is a great way to learn to budget both money and time. I'm all for it.

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