Back-To-School: Why It’s Good to Be Hands-Off at the Start of Classes

Teaching College Students Problem Solving

By: Heather Huhman

College classes start up again soon—and whether your student is a freshman or senior, it can be a stressful time for both parties due to finances, moving, and new experiences.

You might think that because you’re assisting financially – tuition payments, rent, food, or other expenses – that you have a say in the career path or courses your child chooses. But here’s why you should take a backseat at the start of this new semester:

Your student should to learn to make decisions on their own.

You want them to be independent, right? If you control their decision-making process throughout their college career, they’ll have difficulties making tough decisions when you’re not available. Discuss class selections, their schedule, study habits, etc. If they are unsure about anything, guide them through the process by which you research and make decisions. It will help them much more than if you gave yes or no answers.

You may not have the same future goals as your student does.

Although you may have always pictured your child as a doctor, teacher, or marketing guru, it may or not be their best career choice. Don’t pressure your student.  Instead, encourage career exploration through the career services office on campus and taking classes in different fields. They could choose a different internship every summer and arrange shadow days, a day or less with a professional in their perspective field to ask questions.  Testing out different career paths during college is the best way to ensure long-term career happiness.

Being too involved can add to their stress level.

Taking on a new load of college courses is a lot to handle, particularly if your student is taking more than 12 credits per semester to speed up graduation. Not to mention the social aspect of college and with working part-time or volunteering with a student organization. Don’t add to their stress by being a “major mom” or dad—instead, sit back and let them learn from their decisions, whether they result in mistakes or not.

So, when the school year begins, resist temptation to wiggle your way into your student’s decision-making process. Instead, allow them to think for themselves when it comes to their future.

Do you have any advice for other college parents for the beginning of the school year? How did you handle taking a back seat when your child went away to school?

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.