Working with new college students is a privilege and a puzzle. They are eager and excited, yet they’re also just learning what independence looks like. Over the past few years of working in a college dorm, I’ve learned a few things about student success during their first year.

New college students come in and face lots of new challenges. Academics, relationships, finances – it all takes some time to navigate. As trial-and-error as that first year can feel, I believe there are a few ways you can help set your student up well.

When your college students comes home for the holidays, make sure to get them an amazing Christmas gift just for college students.

4 Tips For Parents Of New College Students

New college students come in and face lots of new challenges. Academics, relationships, finances, but there are a few ways you can set your student up well.

Pre-College Conversations

Whether your student is going off to a big state school or staying nearby at a local college, you want to prepare them for change ahead. If you’re already having conversations about school, great. Keep it up! If not, start asking your son or daughter what most excites them about college. Talk through their expectations, especially if they’ll be living on campus. Living with a new person will bring it’s own challenges, so start talking about interpersonal skills now.

It’s also helpful to discuss their expectations for you while they’re at school. This doesn’t mean they get to call all the shots, but ask them how they want you to be involved. If they’re more independent and prefer some space, schedule some regular phone calls to stay connected. Consider their personalities and their desires as they walk into a new phase. When you walk into those first days of college life, you’ll be thankful you had these conversations ahead of time!

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The Month Rule

As I’ve interacted with parents and students over the years, I’ve come across some very wise families. One set of parents gave a great piece of advice: don’t let your kids come home for a month. This may sound harsh, but the heart behind it is beautiful. As hard as it may be to think of not seeing them for a long time, this is a great decision for your student. The first month is a pivotal time for them. It’s full of campus events, first projects, and opportunities to connect with their peers. If they’re close to home, the back-and-forth of home and college can get in the way of making meaningful connections.

You don’t have to be rigid with this rule, but strongly encourage your students to stay put for a while. Let them get a good taste of campus life. I promise, it’s worth it.

4 Tips For Parents Of New College Students

Help Them Get Uncomfortable

When your child is away from you and facing new challenges, you’ll most likely want to do whatever you can to help them. You are an awesome parent! In their first year of school, though, they’ll have opportunities to learn a lot. In the classroom, obviously, but also in almost every other aspect of life. When they are struggling with a roommate or irritated by loud music down the hall, help them get a bit uncomfortable. Encourage them to talk with a leader, a Resident Assistant or a Hall Director. Talk them through respectful ways to deal with conflict. Meanwhile, remind yourself that this is a chance for your child to grow and develop. All these uncomfortable moments, as tough as they seem, will put them in healthier positions going forward.

Encourage Them

College is awesome. But it’s also hard. Even if you have a student who immediately thrives in this new setting, there are plenty of challenges around them. Send care packages, surprise them with a pizza delivery every now and then, or put an extra $20 in their bank account. Write them cards or send a text. Even in their new independence, your kids appreciate your care for them.

Parents, rest assured, your son or daughter is walking into a great stage of life. New college students will learn and grow a lot, and though they may not need you like before, you have a large role in their college career. Set your student up for the best possible first year, and know that it’s a learning process for all of you.

Jess Lyons
Jess Lyons
Jess Lyons is a wife, mom, and Resident Director to 100+ college students. Her days are filled with dorm events and bike rides with her family, and she loves the overlap of it all. In her free time, you can find her reading a book or enjoying good food with friends.