Adjusting to College Life: Tips for Parents and for Students

Posted on September 20, 2016

College can open doors of opportunity for students, but for parents, sending their kids off to school can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if the kids are feeling nervous themselves. If that situation sounds all too familiar, here are a few steps you can take to relieve anxiety for you and your kids:

For Parents

  • Recognize that leaving for college can be an emotional experience for your kids, and provide them with the support they need to know you’ll be there for them, even if you’re hundreds of miles away. Avoid being “clingy,” and above all, don’t discount your child’s emotions; they need to know you understand and you’re not judging them.
  • Classes in college tend to be more challenging than those in high school, so don’t place unrealistic expectations on your child that can be difficult or impossible to attain. Make sure your child understands there’s no shame in asking for help, whether it’s from the professor during office hours or through tutoring or other support services.
  • Let your child know you’re proud of them for making it this far. Make sure they understand the need to balance their schedule with some downtime and that you know there will be a period of adjustment for them as well as for you.

For Students

  • College is a huge adjustment, so go easy on yourself and don’t expect to feel 100% comfortable right away. For many students, it takes at least a semester – and sometimes longer – to start to feel more at home.
  • Get counseling for really strong or pervasive feelings of anxiety or depression, especially if they interfere with your ability to do routine things like sleep, eat or go to class. Most colleges offer counseling services on campus, and if not, the health center should be able to make a recommendation.
  • Don’t shut your parents out. College is a time to be more independent, but don’t overlook the benefits of knowing you have people “in your corner.” Resist the temptation to drop everything and go back home; give yourself time to adjust, and ignore people who tell you things like, “These are the best years of your life” – kind sentiments to be sure, but when you’re feeling anxious, they can also set you up for feelings of failure or inadequacy.

Don’t let nerves get in the way of what should be a positive and rewarding experience – for freshman students as well as their parents. Spend some time to address feelings of anxiety and you and your kids will find it much easier to focus on the good aspects of college life.