Advice For Parents of New College Students

Advice for Parents

The Time Will Fly By

Here we are 2021 and colleges are sending out acceptances.  Reading the Facebook posts and seeing the questions from overwhelmed parents brings back so many memories. It is only two years ago my youngest graduated from UF and joined her sister in adulting. For parents starting this journey, I have four words for you… the time will fly by. And, of course, I have advice for parents.

By the time your kids graduate, most of them will be independent and ready to take on the world. I certainly believe my daughters were ready when they graduated. And, they should be proud of themselves for what they have accomplished since graduating. Truth be told, before college, their life existed in a small bubble in a small suburb.

Advice for Parents

I remember dropping both off at UF. Tears were shed both times. Trust me when I say you will see enormous maturing and growth from the time you drop off your freshmen to the time they graduate.

Advice for Parents   Advice for parents

L to R: Older daughter UF freshman year 2010. Younger daughter UF freshman year 2015

  • High school is a pressure cooker but so is college. They may stumble; they may fall. Let them because most students figure it out.
  • Encourage your student to get involved. Many colleges have literally hundreds of organizations. It is a great way to meet other students while also having some fun.
  • Give them time to adjust. College is filled with distractions. From sports to Greek life or just to hang with other people, it is easy to get caught up in the fun aspect of college.
  • Don’t expect they will have the same grades they had in high school. Some will do very well but others will find that there is a big learning curve when it comes to taking college classes. Certain classes are what they call “weed out” classes; they are designed to have students rethink their major or career path because it carries a heavy course load filled with high stress and a fast pace.
  • Some parents feel that since they are paying for college, they should have a right to see their student’s grades. Your student will need to sign off on a FERPA waiver.
  • You probably won’t talk every day. Generally, we have found you’re more apt to hear from daughters a bit more than sons. The best time to talk is often on their walk to or from classes. However; do not sit by the phone.
  • You should have a life too and they need to know that. You’re still a role model. Remember, you are a parent first, but you are also so much more. Now is a great time to carve out your path whether it is a job, philanthropic work, travel, hobbies.
  • Be their coach, not their assistant. While it is great to alert them to various things that you suspect will benefit them in a way they have yet to discover; once you have made that suggestion, let it go. Ok, fine, suggest it twice, but don’t push beyond that. They have to learn to figure things out for themselves.
  • They may change their major several times. Students often do change majors. Actually, encouraging them to try out as many new things right from the start is a great way to discover what they love as well as what they originally thought was the way to go is not. College is all about discovery. Prepare for that call and remain calm. Better they figure it out now.

Prepare for this…

Prepare too for the independence that comes with college. Although they will make mistakes along the way because we ALL make mistakes along the way; take a breath before you judge. Usually, it is those blunders that teach them to do better next time. Expect change, realize it comes with the territory, and it is that very change that means they are growing and learning through their independence, which is exactly what college is about. Sometimes they will want your opinion, but sometimes they just need you to listen.

Plan visits, even if they don’t revolve around Parent’s Weekend. Prices usually skyrocket on Parent’s Weekend and Homecoming and sometimes you can’t even enjoy the local stuff because of the crowds. There is probably far more to do near their college than you know and it is fun to see them in their new setting and explore their new world together. If you don’t plan ahead, your trip could amount to shopping and eating out.

There is so much for them to discover without you holding their hand. Let the independence begin; both theirs and yours.

College is complicated so try not to sweat the small stuff or get too caught up with the Facebook group vitriol. We work with an academic advisor at a major U.S. university and she shares some great advice in her blog Advice to Parents from an Academic Advisor.

Encourage Involvement

Their four years at college will prepare them for adulting after college. Encourage them to be involved. Colleges have hundreds of organizations students can join covering a wide variety of interests. And, have them intern whether paid or unpaid. It is important for them to have experience in their field of interest.

My daughters’ involvement gave them the experience needed to get jobs. One did Study Abroad through her college. Both did an internship in New York City one working for an ad agency and one working for a national women’s magazine.  They were both in the same sorority and held leadership positions. And they did participate in Dance Marathon, Homecoming, and HerCampus.

Academically, I never looked at their grades; I simply asked how they were doing. That is a hard ask of parents especially when you are paying for college. My personal belief is they were accountable for their grades and the consequences of not doing well (for example academic probation, not getting accepted into the college of their major) Do they think they could have done better? Did they ever fail an exam? Drop a class? Skip a class? Party too much? That is not for me to answer (wink, wink). Suffice it to say, I think most figure out the balance needed to do well in college.

That does not mean I did not support them emotionally. If they needed me, I was always available. Those four years living in the college bubble go by so fast.  Before you know it those tears you shed when you drop them off will now be happy tears when you watch them graduate.

Advice for Parents Advice for Parents

L to R: UF Graduation 2014. UF Graduation 2019

Finally, I  would never believe my daughters would be living with me after graduating and moving out. I share my advice on Living With My Adult Daughters.

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2021-03-30T12:08:27-04:000 Comments

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