Over the years, I have had the privilege and honor of assisting thousands of students and their families with the transition to college life, and hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Below you will find some tips and thoughts I have gathered over those years. The transition has already begun (in case you haven’t noticed), so what should you expect this summer?
- This is a period of transition and excitement.
- You may see the onset of separation anxiety between family members, though no one will readily admit it. This often manifests itself in sibling relationships— you may see some new and unusual sibling conflicts.
- Remember your future college student is likely dealing with fears and anxieties about this transition, but don’t expect her or him to acknowledge it.
I always suggest that parents/families and their future college students have some “summer conversations” about the upcoming first year of college. Here are some proposed topics to cover:
Money, Money, Money
- Talk about the actual, overall cost of the student’s education, financial aid, loans, etc. Also try discussing your student’s personal finances — budgeting and paying for books, gas, cell phone, auto maintenance, etc. Sharing your own strategies or thoughts can help him or her recognize all these miscellaneous expenses.
- When will your student’s first visit home occur? Perhaps you should sit down and down and review the college’s academic calendar together to see what might work. Should the number of visits home be limited as she or he acclimates to college life? Remember, the road goes both ways! Will you be attending Family Weekend, October 10–12? “Yes” is a good answer!
Freedom and Independence
- With college comes freedom and independence. How will your student make this adjustment while also staying focused on academics, navigating the college social scene, and getting involved on campus outside of academic endeavors?
- The ways you communicate will change once your student is at Goucher. What type of communication works best for your family — texts, email, calls, Skype, etc.? And how much is too much communication? (Some college administrators refer to cell phones as the “digital umbilical cord!”)
I hope this information is useful to you as you prepare for this exciting transition. Of course, even with the best preparations, your student will face obstacles during his or her first year of college. I see those bumps in the road as significant opportunities for student learning and growth. At such times, I encourage parents and family members to serve as advisers and coaches to their students. My experience has taught me that, in the college environment, the best solutions come about when the student is the primary problem solver. By empowering your student to work through the challenges she or he may experience while at Goucher, you greatly increase his or her independence and capacity to succeed.
As the college’s chief student affairs officer, I provide leadership for many offices and departments, which exist to support students, and enrich their college experiences. Our assistant vice president for student life, Emily Perl, serves as our primary liaison to parents, and you can reach her at 410-337-6150 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing the fantastic things your student will do, and my team and I are here to help him or her achieve it!
See you in August!
Bryan F. Coker, Ph.D. (Dean Coker)