7 Tips for Parents of New College Students

There is certainly plenty of support out there available to college freshmen, but what about the parents of first-year students? In the run up to high school graduation, parents may find themselves wondering if there is anything they haven’t addressed with their son or daughter in preparation for moving out of the house and into an academically challenging environment filled with distractions and temptations, as well as expenses. The seven tips below can help both parents and their kids with the transition from home life to college life.

  1. Set academic expectations:

    It’s not uncommon for a student who was at the top of their class in high school to discover, once they begin classes at a college or university, that they are quite average — like B- or C-student average. Selective, top-tier institutions can be especially challenging, but the academic demands of any four-year school in the U.S. can throw even the brightest freshman for a loop. As a parent, keep your expectations high, but be realistic, and be sure your child knows you are there for support as he or she gets used to the rigors of higher learning.

  2. Discuss financial planning:

    You and your child should be on the same page when it comes to how tuition is going to be paid. Decide if your child will have to work while in school, and discuss how doing so might impact the time they need to study. Consider how you and your child will coordinate to meet any necessary deadlines for financial aid. And since freshmen students are like fresh meat for credit card companies, you should also discuss the pros and cons of responsible credit card use.

  3. Be a coach:

    When your child calls you late at night, upset and obviously feeling a degree of pressure that they’re still learning how to handle, remember, you can’t solve their problems, but you can coach them on how to find support from the resources that are available on campus. Review any information about on-campus resources forwarded to you from your child’s school, and guide them to those resources as necessary. It’s possible it just never occurred to your kid that someone other than mom or dad could help them out!

  4. Don’t be a helicopter parent:

    It’s one thing to be present as a positive source of support for your college-bound child. It’s another thing to stalk your child on Facebook, or call and harass the school’s professors or anyone else who gives your kid any grief. However, removing yourself entirely from your child’s affairs can be just as unhealthy and counterproductive as hovering over them every day of a semester. Experts suggest parents “let go,” just not too quickly.

  5. Send care packages:

    Even the most alpha male of first-year bros will tear up when they crack open a cardboard box from home containing microwave popcorn, quarters for the laundry machines, and a photo or two of a beloved pet. A care package is a great way to remind your child he or she has a family who, while thankful that there is now an extra room in the house, cares enough to put together and mail out a box of goodies.

  6. Talk about communication:

    Before your child leaves for college, establish how and when you will be in touch. Many parents imagine the worst and freak out if they don’t hear from their child at least every other day. Give your children some space, and don’t worry or take it personally if they forget to call you once a week like they said they would. In the meantime, make sure you know how you can reach your child in the event of an emergency, and what resources (such as a school’s public safety department) are available to parents who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of their children.

  7. Talk to other parents:

    It’s completely normal for you to be proud of your child for graduating high school and getting accepted into a four-year school, and simultaneously feel a pang of sadness and a sense of loss during this period of transition. Reach out to your fellow parents and share your emotions. You’ll find out that you’re not alone. Refrain from posting your emotions on your child’s Facebook wall, and you’ll be just fine.

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