Updated on August 3rd, 2022
Seeing your student head off to college is exciting but also a bit scary. It doesn’t just mark a major milestone in a student’s life; it’s a transition for parents, too. That’s why tips for parents of new college students are so important.
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Often, the advice for parents of college students is designed to help students succeed, ensuring parents can give ample support. Plus, it allows parents to embrace their new paradigm, whether that means having one less student at home or an entirely empty nest.
Here are ten tips for parents of college students that can get you on the right track.
- 1 10 Tips for Parents of New College Students
- 1.1 1. Prepare to Help Them Navigate Academic Challenges
- 1.2 2. Have a Conversation About Disclosure and Privacy
- 1.3 3. Don’t Take It Personally If Your Student Can’t Chat
- 1.4 4. Make a Plan for Visits
- 1.5 5. Send Care Packages
- 1.6 6. Remain Supportive If Your Student Changes Majors
- 1.7 7. Resist the Urge to Solve Every Problem
- 1.8 8. Make Sure You and Other Family Members Support Each Other
- 1.9 9. Spend Time on Yourself
- 1.10 10. Take a Deep Breath, and Let Go
10 Tips for Parents of New College Students
College is vastly different from high school for several reasons. First, parents aren’t overseeing all of their students’ activities, so there may be less external motivation to push them to handle their responsibilities. Often, this is the first time a student has this degree of independence, and there will be hiccups along the way.
Second, college courses often move at a much faster pace, and while professors are accessible in some cases, they aren’t available to the same degree as high school teachers. As a result, students may not know where to turn if they’re struggling academically.
If you want to support your student, help them explore the various resources at their disposal. Remind them that tutors, study groups, writing centers, and similar options are available. Additionally, encourage them to turn to the syllabus and to even make copies that they can keep on their desks. That way, that touchstone is always available.
2. Have a Conversation About Disclosure and Privacy
When your student heads to college, you may have expectations about what they’ll share with you along the way. Additionally, your student might have strong feelings about maintaining their privacy. As a result, disconnects can easily occur.
One piece of advice for parents of college-bound students that’s critical is, before your student starts college, have a conversation with them about disclosure and privacy. Talk about what you’d like to know and why, and give them a chance to respond. Get on the same page about what’s appropriate for you to ask about along the way. This creates a framework for stronger communication, ensuring everyone agrees with the expectations.
3. Don’t Take It Personally If Your Student Can’t Chat
Many parents want to talk to their students regularly after they head to college. However, one crucial piece of advice for parents of college students is to remember that students are often incredibly busy. Along with their studying and classes, they may have a job. Plus, they might sign up for extracurricular activities. Maintaining a social circle also takes time, and it’s vital to have local support.
If you want to talk to your student, discuss a check-in schedule with them. Listen to the demands on their time, and see what works for their schedule. That way, you can catch up without the calls seeming overly disruptive.
4. Make a Plan for Visits
The occasional visit can help you and your student stay connected. Whether it’s them coming home during a break or you heading to their city during a lull in school activities, like during family weekends, it can create opportunities for bonding.
What’s important is to create a plan for visits with your student. Their needs and preferences should be taken into account. Additionally, coming by spontaneously is never a good idea, as it may be disruptive to their academic life.
Worst case, start with a single visit. Discuss when during the first year makes sense for your student, giving them ample say in the timing. That way, they’ll be happy to see you when you get together again, making the reunion more meaningful.
5. Send Care Packages
Care packages are a fun way to show your student that you are thinking about them. It’s a chance to brighten their day, too, particularly during more stressful periods like final exams. It can even ease symptoms of homesickness or depression, as you can add treats that remind them of home and demonstrate that you’re there to support them.
Consider making care packages a part of your plan. If possible, see if you can get an overview of your student’s schedule, allowing you to time the deliveries to potentially stressful periods. You can also send one each season, ensuring they have a few comforts as the weather shifts.
6. Remain Supportive If Your Student Changes Majors
A critical piece of advice to parents of college students is to remain supportive if your student decides to shift course and change majors. Eighty percent of students choose a new major at least once, and many will do so several times over the course of their academic careers.
What’s important is for your student to find a subject that genuinely ignites their passion. By doing so, their odds of career success are much higher. Part of the college experience is exploration, and there’s a good chance they’ll find that another major resonates with them more than their initial pick. Embrace those discoveries as a parent, as your support can be a critical key to their overall success.
7. Resist the Urge to Solve Every Problem
Parents want to help their children thrive, but college is also an important transition into adulthood, a period of life where self-sufficiency is ultimately important. While responding to genuine emergencies is undoubtedly fine, make sure you don’t try to solve every problem that arises for them.
Instead, point them to tools that help them find their own answers. That way, they learn how to navigate various situations, which will make their transition out of college and into the “real world” easier.
8. Make Sure You and Other Family Members Support Each Other
One piece of advice for parents of college freshmen that many people need is to remember that you aren’t the only one going through this transition. If you’re married, have other children, or have other family members in the area, everyone has seen their life change.
Make sure that you and your family members support each other during this journey. Don’t put that burden on your college-bound student, as that can make them feel guilty for leaving and could make college harder for them. Instead, turn to other family members who are in your position, offering support and accepting it in equal measure.
9. Spend Time on Yourself
If your student’s journey to college leaves you with an empty nest, you may feel like your identity as a parent isn’t the same. While that can be saddening, it’s also wise to see it as an opportunity for reinvention. You may have the time to take part in activities that never fit into your schedule before, and that’s exciting.
As you decide where you want to head, use the time to practice self-care. That will help you reduce stress and introduce new joys into your life. Then, if you find an activity you’d like to try, an old hobby you’d like to revisit, or anything else, embrace that idea. This is an amazing time in your life where the focus is now on you as an adult, so make the most of it.
10. Take a Deep Breath, and Let Go
As mentioned previously, a student heading to college is a significant transition for parents, too. You may want to hold on very tightly, particularly in the beginning. However, you letting go is good for you, and it helps your student, too.
Holding on too tightly causes stress. Ultimately, there’s no way for you to track everything happening in your student’s life, and trying can cause turmoil. Along with increasing your anxiety, pushing too hard can drive a wedge between you and your student. By letting go, you’re giving the relationship a chance to blossom into something new, which is important.
For your student, you letting go shows that you trust the adult their becoming. That can be a major confidence boost. As a result, make sure you remain available in ways that matter, but let them have the freedom they need to grow. That helps you both navigate this part of the journey successfully, making everyone’s transition a positive one.
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