There is a great expectation and exultation – as well as more than a little nervousness – awaiting both child and parent as preparations for college begin in earnest.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
They’ve lived under your wing and under your roof for 18 years. Just as high school has been a time for your child to assert his/her independence, the start of college is another important rite of passage. Your child will demonstrate all the ups and downs that one would expect with a major life change. The past will sometimes tug hard, and compete with, the present. Remember that the previous 18 years have given both you and your child common ground to share.
Use this common ground to develop a mutually beneficial plan for college: This can include academic and social goals, as well as expectations for financial constraints/limitations/budgeting. Be clear about what are plausible goals for all of the above. Ask your student what they hope to accomplish with their college experience. Teach your child about the responsible use of credit and debit cards. Encourage them to become involved.
The temptation will be great to directly involve yourself with every obstacle your student encounters in college. Although your counsel is key to your student’s success, encourage them to find positive solutions on their own. There are numerous campus resources, such as the advising center, counselors, tutoring, available to help. Familiarize yourself with the University’s resources so you, too, can become a resource for success.
Cell phone calls, email, texting and instant messaging are all at your disposal. Use all of these channels, but don’t overdo it. This will be one of the busiest times in your child’s life. Keep in touch, but don’t turn regular communication into a chore for your student.
They care more about what you’re saying than they’re letting on: You’ve been the anchor throughout the first 18 years, and although roles will evolve during college, remember that your child will always look to you for encouragement as they make the journey toward adulthood and independence. Whether they are seeking your advice or simply wanting you to listen, keeping connected and engaged with your student while they’re in college is important.
Remember how difficult it was to mine information from your student when they were in high school? Closed-ended questions such as “How was your day?” could often lead to one-word cul-de-sacs such as, “Fine,” or “OK.” When you talk to your student about college, focus less on grades and more on courses. Invite them to share new ideas, intellectual theories or newly discovered passions they’ve embraced. Who knows? You might learn something, too.
Remember that college today is different: Times change in 20 or 25 years. The odds are good that the Getchell Library of 1985 at the University of Nevada, Reno is vastly different than today’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. Again, it’s best to listen and discover the subtleties of experience, through what your child tells you.
Have patience, smile and laugh with your student often. Enjoy the ride.