Family at graduation

Transition to College

Parent and Family Relations

It’s Their Time to Launch

The summer before a student’s first fall semester is usually busy with graduation (and grad parties!), shopping, vacation, family obligations, and completing the final paperwork for enrollment. It’s also a period of transition as your student prepares to launch a chapter in his/her life.

If you are the parent or guardian of a traditional-aged student, you are probably accustomed to knowing a lot about their school activities, who they hang out with, and their grades. For a variety of reasons, one being the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the flow of information from the institution is vastly limited.

Learn more about FERPA

The best thing that you can do is to have advanced and honest conversations with your student during the summer transition so that they understand your expectations, and you understand their perspective. Some families even make up a type of informal, personalized contract that both parties sign. 

Initially, some students experience homesickness as they adjust to new surroundings. Although you may be missing your student as well, be positive when communicating with them and try not to dwell on the negative side of separation.  Let them talk, and certainly be compassionate but remain positive. Offer to come to campus for a scheduled visit, if possible, so that you can reassure them in person. Encourage them to attend Welcome Week activities, join clubs, accept offers to each a meal with a new friend. Remind yourself that part of their maturing is learning how to make their own way.

You gave them roots and wings. Now it is time to let them launch their first solo flight.  

Your role in their life is transitioning from a "director" to a "support specialist." When you receive a distraught call (and you probably will), be prepared to ask clarifying questions and encourage your young adult to look at all options and pursue a solution. Unless you feel that the situation is a safety concern, resist the urge to solve their problems for them. Students who can advocate for themselves in college will be better equipped to advocate for themselves in the workforce and in life.

Parents and Family of a Commuter Student

Although your student will still live at home, you should still expect a transition. Afford your student the freedom to remain on campus to study, go to the gym, or participate in student organizations or lectures. As much as is possible, resist asking them to provide childcare and to come home immediately after class each day. And, just like a residential student, have advanced, summer conversations regarding your expectations regarding potential curfews and other expectations; let them provide you with their perspective.