The transition to college can include various experiences for both you and your student. The following sections include information about this new season of life:
What You May Experience
- The college experience is a significant transition for family and guardians.
- You may worry about your student’s ability to effectively care for her/himself.
- You may worry about losing your student as s/he begins to function more independently and form deep attachments with peers.
- You may experience periods of happiness, excitement, and pride when your student leaves for college. You may also experience a sense of sadness and pain and be concerned about your student’s future and well-being.
- You may be concerned about how your student will deal with alcohol, drugs, and sexual relationships.
- You can expect to feel a variety of emotions.
How You Can Support Yourself
- Recognize that it is normal to have mixed feelings when your student leaves home. Feelings of pain and loss often accompany separation from loved ones. You may also feel a sense of relief at getting your student off to college, relishing some time alone.
- Talk to others who have already been through the adjustment period or those just going through it like yourself. They can often provide a sense of supportive understanding.
- Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise during this period of adjustment; develop and maintain your own support systems.
- Do your best to maintain your own sense of well-being. This may include eating and sleeping well, exercising, and setting new and creative goals for yourself.
What your Student May Experience
- For your student, college will most likely be a period of intellectual stimulation and growth, career exploration and development, increased independence, self-exploration and discovery, and social involvement.
- During this time, your student may forge new identities or seek to clarify his/her values and beliefs. This may require an examination of family, friends, and self. S/he may challenge the values you hold dear.
- The changes a student may experience can occur quickly, as he/she begins to develop new peer relationships, gain competence in new areas, and learn to manage her/his independence.
- It is important to recognize that every student will experience her/his own unique set of challenges and adjustments. Likewise, you might have different expectations for and reactions to your student’s college experience.
How You Can Support Your Student
- Maintain a supportive relationship with your student as this can be critical to her/his success in college, particularly her/his first year. Convey your support.
- Maintain regular contact yet also allow space for him/her to approach you and set the agenda for some of your conversations. Let your student know that you respect and support her/his right to make independent decisions.
- Know that your student may accept your advice one day and reject it the next – this is normal!
- Refrain, if possible, from burdening your student with problems s/he has no control over and can do nothing about.
- If possible, create as little change as possible in his/her home environment.
- Various university personnel can be helpful to you and your student in the future. These individuals can include academic advisors, deans, financial aid officers, and residence hall staff.