The moment is upon us: your student is starting college. We have some tips for success whether your student is living in the residence halls, their first apartment, or commuting from your home.
Set shared expectations.
Talk with your student about expectations for communication. How often do you want to hear from them? If your student is commuting from home, do you expect them home for dinner every night? Keep in mind that in most classes, they won’t be able to use their cell phone, and many student organization meetings are in the evenings or on weekends. Encourage your student to socialize, study, and explore campus life. Talk about financial expectations, and if you want them to contribute to expenses like car insurance, gasoline, maintenance, or bus passes. If your student is bringing their car from out of state, be sure to let your insurance company know where the car will be.
Give yourself time to adjust.
You are proud of your student, and you knew this day would come, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy adjustment. You may experience separation anxiety or “empty nest” syndrome. Please don’t feel embarrassed, but do allow yourself some time to adjust. You may need to shed some tears, think about the good times, and go through old pictures or scrapbooks. Now is a good time to dive into the project you’ve put on the back burner like cleaning out the closest or reorganizing your space. Think about hobbies you’ve wanted to return to, or new areas of education you wanted to explore for yourself. Now might be the time for that cooking class you’ve always wanted to take!
Tame the “worry monster.”
Our minds tend to imagine the worst-case scenario. Use positive self-talk to reassure yourself that you’ve taught your student how to face obstacles and challenges. If there is a particular time of day where your anxiety is stronger, build a routine to help manage your concerns. Families have shared with us that their “worry monster” often visits around bedtime. They calm their minds with a routine of reading, listening to music, or other relaxing activities to decompress. Sometimes they feel better after sending their student a goodnight text.
Expect that homesickness or longing for the past may come and go.
As your student transitions to their new academic environment, they may miss their high school routine and friends. Whether they are 3 or 3,000 miles from home, they may experience periods of homesickness or longing for the past. Listen and validate their concerns, but encourage them to be forward-focused. Remind your students that it takes time to build a new network, and the opportunities to connect on campus are plentiful. The first six weeks of the Fall semester are typically the most challenging period of adjustment. Encourage them to attend an event, talk with their Resident Assistant, or set-up an appointment at the Counseling Center. They could have virtual visit with old friends over Zoom or Facetime or make Winter Break plans.
December will be here before we know it!