Share This

Great Expectations

“College is amazing! You’re going to love it!” No phrase is heard more by fledgling college students before they head off to school. We’re not saying it won’t be the wonderful experience you hope it will be for your child. But college is a whole new ballgame, and you might want to rein in your expectations – and help your student manage their own.

Why? Here are five reasons:

1. College = Starting Over

Change is good. But change is full of challenges for new college students. Once the big fish in the high school pond, suddenly they’re freshmen again. Students who were super-involved at high school might find themselves, at least in the short term, feeling less connected to life on their college campus. It’s ok. Kids often need time to evaluate what they want from this new experience, and it takes time for them to acclimate and then forge their own path. Give them the space and time to adapt — it really is up to them.

Homesickness is also pretty common during first semester of freshman year. Typically, it’s not about missing home as much as it’s missing what home represents: routine, love, security (and a fully-stocked fridge). Remind your student (and yourself) that these feelings are normal and temporary. Give them encouragement, listen when they want to share their feelings, and follow these KnowsyMoms tips.

2. College is about being open to new experiences, new people and new opportunities.

Newness can be scary — but newness can also be transformative. College provides a wealth of brand new opportunities for your student to meet people and have experiences they like. Encourage them to participate in something — there are plenty of opportunities to choose from: club fairs, dorm floor meetings, intramural sports, Greek life, and religious organizations – all offer chances to meet people with similar interests. If they feel a bit shy about joining in, remind them that everybody is ‘that new person’ freshman year. Even seemingly simple actions, such as saying hi to someone down the hall in the dorm or inviting a classmate to lunch, provide valuable chances to connect.

3. Classes may seem harder…much harder.

It’s not uncommon for students to feel that college coursework is substantively more difficult. The pace is often much faster than in high school (especially if your student is on the quarter system) and grading systems are vastly different. ‘A’ students in high school might struggle to make B’s or C’s in college. This is normal. It takes time to fully appreciate the amount of work and time necessary to be successful in the college classroom.

You can help by reminding your student about the many resources available on campus and that it is up to them to seek out help when they need it. From meeting with professors, teaching assistants, and academic advisors during office hours, to enlisting the help of tutors, a wealth of support is available.

4. Staying healthy directly impacts college success.

Lack of sleep and poor eating, coupled with a good dose of stress, can take a toll on even the hardiest student. A worn-down student can have difficulty both academically and socially. We often need to be reminded just how important physical and emotional well-being is in the totality of our student’s college experience. Developing healthy habits in college can make a world of difference.

And when they do get sick at school (and they will), in addition to directing them to the campus health center, here are some great ideas on what you can do to help comfort a sick student from afar.

5. College is a journey, not a race.

College is typically a four-year experience, offering plenty of time for your child to find their footing. Time is an ally here, not an enemy; rushing into activities for the sake of being busy is not always the answer. Encourage your student to take the time to explore and learn as much as they can about this new place they now call home. If it took time for your child to find their niche in high school, it probably will take them a little time in college, too.

Trust and give them space to own their college experience. Becoming the college student they will ultimately be is an ongoing process — if one opportunity doesn’t work out, there are other ways for them to achieve their goals. One of the best things we can do as parents is encourage our emerging adult children to enjoy and savor the journey, complete with all of its twists and turns.