You may hear (at orientation, and in every college parenting book you read or from every veteran college parent you talk to) that the first six weeks of college can set the tone for your student’s entire freshman year.
There’s truth to this, but it’s important for students and parents alike not to panic or despair if the start of the year is a bit rough either academically or socially.
By understanding what your student is experiencing during these early weeks, you’ll be better positioned to provide appropriate support and express your confidence that your student will rise to meet the challenges of freshman year.
We are still actively parenting our college freshmen even as we encourage their independence. Being in regular touch with parents can help students stay grounded during this time of enormous transition. Don’t send a flurry of texts “just to check in, but do schedule a weekly phone/Skype chat (especially if you are not hearing much).
There may be a lot of back and forth messages as they get settled in, and this is natural. They have a lot to share. If you’re on the receiving end of a what feels like an excessive amount of texting/calling, consider gently disentangling yourself.
If and when your student runs up against an obstacle — a problem with a roommate, or with her course schedule — resist the urge to get involved or tell her what to do. It’s an opportunity instead to remind her of all the great resources available on campus (the dorm RA, her academic advisor, the tutoring center, etc.).
For most freshmen, college is the first time they’ve been entirely in charge of their own routine and activities 24/7. Your student will make choices every day and night about how to allocate all those blocks of “free” time. When you check in with her, don’t overlook the obvious. Your student may need gentle reminders to:
Even students who took AP/IB classes aren’t always prepared for the many ways in which college academics differ from high school. A few things it’s helpful for parents to understand:
It’s common knowledge a lot of partying goes on during the first few weeks of the year at many schools. In addition, at some universities, fraternity and sorority rush kicks right in.
Ask your freshman about the social scene and the new friends she’s made. She may or may not be going to parties and may or may not want to talk to you about it, but you can still check in and make sure she knows that you expect her to follow campus rules about alcohol and drugs. Even from afar, you care about her being healthy and responsible.
On a related topic, you may have heard the first six weeks of college referred to as the “red zone” — a time when young first-year women in particular are at increased risk of sexual assault. By talking to our students, male and female, about healthy sexual relationships and consent, and responsible partying, we express our concern with their happiness and safety and our trust that they will strive to be respectful members of their college community.
Your student will find her place but it may take time. A few observations about “fitting in”:
Other recent articles by Diane Schwemm:
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