By: Betty Lochner
Your new college student will experience a lot of different types of stressors as they transition to life away from home such as new academic pressures, living situations, friendships, and financial worries. Without your support, they’ll quickly feel overwhelmed.
Try these five ways to reduce their college transition stress without increasing yours:
Get Oriented to the Campus Early.
Helping your student get comfortable with their new setting is key to relieving concerns about the unknown. Attend orientation sessions and visit the campus before the start of classes at least once. Ask questions of the tour guide about where things are.
If feasible, visit campus again for an unguided tour to:
- Check out public transportation.
- Look closer at the housing they will be staying in.
- Gain as much on site information as you can about where classes are and support services ranging from budgeting help to the career services office.
Plan Study Spaces.
If your student is used to having quiet study spaces in their own room or at your kitchen table, they’ll need your help planning for a study space both for in their rooms and on or near campus when dormmates are noisy.
Planning should include:
- Creating a checklist of necessary items for a portable study space. For example, fill a study backpack with supplies, snacks that don’t expire, and a mini-light.
- Helping them set up their in-room study space. For instance, purchasing a comfy chair and a small desk.
- Searching for on and off campus study spots from libraries to coffee shops and cafes.
- Discussing how to calmly deal with a noisy dorm or roommate. Brainstorm where they can go to study away from the distractions they may not be used to.
Talk about Personal Finances.
Once tuition and basics are out of the way, discretionary spending and credit are the big paying for college budgeting decisions. To avoid stress for both of you, set a budget together that includes their everyday spending. The best way to start is by sending your student on a phone or on-campus scavenger hunt. Ask professors about required textbooks and supply purchases. Review local restaurant menus. Find an on-campus student money management office or credit union money management officer.
Determine how they will get money. From work to you to scholarships. Set realistic expectations together of what they can spend their money on and what happens when they run out.
Most importantly, never give your student discretionary money or access to your credit cards without helping them budget. After all, without living on their own in the past, they are bound to break it. Didn’t we all?
Talk about Mental Health Challenges.
Discuss mental health challenges that are common among young adults as they transition to college such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Research and share how to contact the college counseling center and other campus resources if they need help.
Encourage your student to be self-aware of when they can’t handle stress or their emotions on their own. Then, request they call you or the on campus counseling office at the first sign of a problem.
Drop Them Off at School but Don’t Drop Out of Parenting
When you drop your student off at the dorm for the first time, reassure them that you’re here to support them through the transition. Discuss a mutual schedule and pathways for communication.
We suggest the following be included in your plan:
- Regular Skype or Zoom visits, so your student can see what’s going on at home and talk through any issues they’re having
- Space. Don’t take it personally if you don’t hear from them as often as you would like. That’s generally a good sign. Do check ins to confirm at least every week or two that they are happy and safe.
- Send care packages with goodies and essentials like favorite foods or toiletries every few weeks or so, at least through the first semester.
As independent as your student is, mom and dad are still needed in their new roles. The primary goal is being an open source of communication and guidance throughout their college career.