Health & Safety

Talks to have before your student leaves home, Part 2

A college perspective

By Jo Calhoun

As parents, you have invested years in preparing your students for this “independence day” when they start college. You are still their most important influence, their touch point and role model.

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High School Parent | College Parent

Here are more suggestions for pre-game talks to help them be ready (click here to view Part 1).


The availability of drugs and alcohol is a given in college. (It was a given in high school!) Finding a new group of friends means heightened peer pressure. In every first-year class, a small group of students will choose to experiment with extreme behaviors. They just don’t handle their new independence well. Understand that your students will encounter them and initially may be tempted by this free-wheeling behavior. Your students need to know what you expect and how to keep themselves safe.

  • Be sure they know how to set personal boundaries, travel in groups, and protect their friends.
  • Most campuses offer workshops on safety — your students should attend.
  • Help your students rehearse responses to inappropriate invitations and to actions and events in which they do not want to participate.
  • Coach them to be assertive bystanders and to confront offensive behavior when it occurs.
  • For more tips on having this conversation, check out this article.
story-icon-bar-convo-3Help your students stay grounded. Continue to remind them of who they are — of their strengths, of the family circle of love that surrounds them, and of your confidence in them.

Truth and consequences

Living in the close quarters of residence halls requires compliance with community norms that can seem arbitrary but which help students grow to self-govern.

Be sure your students understand the consequences of residence hall violations and accept responsibility appropriately (as parents, you do NOT want to be intervening here). Fake IDs are illegal. Underage possession of alcohol? Yes, that, too. It should go without saying, but do not support your students in securing a fake ID even if you hear them say that “all the other students have them.” Students are not immune from prosecution just because a behavior violation occurs on campus. In case of a conduct violation, encourage your students to tell the truth and to accept the consequences of their behavior.


One of the wonderful things about college is that students have a new, wide-ranging buffet of choices and opportunities. They discover their academic passions, develop professional skills, find lifelong mentors and friends, and explore new geography. They also try on new identities and new “looks” (some of which can be disconcerting for parents). Know that tattoos and piercings just might happen.

Help your students stay grounded. Continue to remind them of who they are — of their strengths, of the family circle of love that surrounds them, and of your confidence in them. “You can do this” may be the most important wisdom you impart before you send your students to college with your love and your blessing.

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our Community Forum and College Parents’ Facebook group.

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