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Families of Current Students

Easing the Adjustment to College Life

Tips for New College Students & Their Parents

The transition to college is a challenge for the new freshman both academically and socially. Parents also face transitional challenges as their son or daughter takes a giant step toward independence. Here are some tips we hope will help to make the transition an easier one for both student and parent.

New College Freshman

1. Realize that college is not the same as high school.
Never before have you been associated with as many students who are as bright and motivated as yourself. Because of this, students who were academic leaders in high school sometimes find themselves in the middle of the pack in college. Similarly, students who struggled in high school may continue to struggle, although they could also discover new areas of study in which they are both interested and capable. Regardless of your situation, expect to learn to do the best you can without comparing yourself to classmates. Ultimately, the best predictor of academic success is personal motivation.

2. Realize that college is a major life transition.
Most freshmen feel nervous, excited, and homesick about the new college experience. If you feel this way, realize this is normal and talk about these feelings with other freshmen. If these feelings become overwhelming and distract you from your school work, use campus counseling services or other campus support services. These campus professionals will understand and are there to help.

3. Be sure to balance your schedule.
Many freshmen make the mistake of spending all their out of class time studying, OR playing. You need to do both. Purchase a daily planner and write in all of your daily responsibilities, including classes, work, meetings, and study time. Then, be sure to schedule personal fun time too! If you study all the time, you’ll burn out. If you play all the time, you’ll fail out.

4. Beware of the myth that the “thing to do” on the weekend is to party.
Recent studies indicate that the use of alcohol is inversely related to grade achievement. The more college students drink, the lower their grades. Use of alcohol also increases the risk of violence, date rape, depression, and dropping out of college. Despite state law and campus regulations, many college freshmen drink alcohol. If you are tempted to drink, go to parties with friends, watch out for one another, and leave the party together at the end of the night. Never drink to become intoxicated. Be aware of the potential legal and personal consequences of consuming alcohol when you make your choices.

5. Keep an open mind.
College will present you with opportunities to meet people from many different backgrounds, challenge your beliefs, explore new subject areas, and become involved in many varied activities. You should seize this opportunity to learn more about the world around you, as well as yourself. You will learn much more in college than what is taught in the classroom, or in your texts.

Tips to Parents of New College Freshmen

1. Letting go is difficult, but necessary.
Particularly if it is your first child going to college, you may have a hard time letting your child go as he/she becomes more independent. Your son or daughter will need to know you believe they can venture out into the world and succeed. Examples of ways to do this are: letting them decorate their room, but helping if you are asked; calling no more than once a week, but allowing them to call as often as they need; sending an occasional care package or card ( students love to get mail).

2. Keep in mind that grades in college may not be as good as grades received in high school.
Parents may be surprised by lower grades, particularly during the first semester while your son/daughter is adjusting to the new rigors of college and the campus social environment. Encourage your son/daughter to use tutorial services, speak to professors, and work out a study schedule. Be supportive without doing the work for them. Let them know the important thing is that they try to do their best and learn as much as they can.

3. Talk to your son/daughter about the tough topics of sex and drugs/alcohol.
Help your child to think about their limits and values. Discuss how to say “no” and not “just say no.”

4. Realize that life for your child is changing while yours is remaining relatively the same.
When your son/daughter comes home for a holiday visit, the rules regarding such things as curfews will likely be a source of conflict. Be ready to discuss and compromise, letting them know that you expect them to do the same.

5. Be proud of yourselves.
You have successfully raised a child into a young adult. They will take what you have taught them and continue to grow, now on their own initiative. This is also an opportunity to move into a new phase of life for yourself. You may feel some sadness during the transition, but if you remember that this is an opportunity for both you and your child to grow, this can be a rewarding time for all.

Preparing Students for the Campus Social Scene

1. Clearly identify dangers that are related to intoxication.
Does your child recognize the inherent dangers of accidents that are associated with a high level of intoxication? The most significant threat to college students from alcohol is accidental injury. These injuries aren’t just from drinking and driving. The majority of contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and broken bones that occur late at night are related to drinking. A simple fall can sometimes have serious consequences. Does your child also recognize the consequences of alcohol altered behavior? Lowered inhibition is one of the most frequently cited “favorable” effects of drinking. But much of the violence that exists on college campuses is alcohol related. The phenomenon of “beer muscles” leads many individuals into situations that can result in negative consequences. The incidence of sexual contact, unprotected sex, and sexual aggression occurs more frequently under the influence of alcohol.

2. Ask your child to share their values/standards regarding drinking.
While the ideal is to abstain from alcohol until legal age, data indicates that the vast majority of students experiment with alcohol prior to their graduation from high school. Certainly, their values regarding the use of alcohol are well formed by the time they are high school seniors. Not all use is abuse and the majority of students use alcohol in a responsible manner. Where does your child fall?

3. Create realistic expectations.
For most students, their freshmen year is the first time that they will live away from home. Talk about the temptation to do all the things they couldn’t do if they were at home. How will their social life affect their academic goals?

4. Lay down the ground rules.
Tell your child if he/she decides to drink and gets into trouble that results in fines or other discipline, they must pay the attendant penalties. You will not “bail them out.” Research shows that while people are aware of the possible negative results of the abuse of alcohol, they do not believe that these problems can happen to them. Protecting your child from these consequences only fosters this erroneous belief.

5. Support their growing independence.
Discuss this step as emancipation. Show them that you care for and support them without “smothering” them.