What We Learned about First-Year College Students
Ways Parents’ Support Facilitates Adjustment
- Students acknowledged that parents’ willingness to pay for college was encouraging because it freed them from worrying about college expenses.
- Students described the emotional support they received from their parents.
- Students also valued the support they received from parents’ letters, packages, and phone calls. Although letters and packages were not as common as phone calls, the students all expressed joy and excitement when they received a package or letter in the mail. Students indicated that they appreciated the time family members put into preparing the packages because they demonstrated how much they cared.
Ways Parents’ Support Hinders Adjustment
- For these students, parents’ phone calls were a source of pressure.
- For example, one student described how his mother called him while she was going through a difficult divorce, while another student discussed how her mother often asked why she did not choose a school closer to home.
- In these instances, students felt their parents were calling to receive, rather than provide emotional support. As a result, students might have felt obligated to return home to spend time with their families than spending time on campus settling into college life.
What Can Parents Do To Help Children Adjust To College?
- Accompany your child to new student orientation and visit throughout the semester.
- Provide ongoing support by emailing, texting, calling, and sending letters and care packages.
- Show interest by asking questions about your child’s college experiences. For example, ask about his favorite classes, what he likes most about college, and if he has joined student organizations or met new people.
- Even if you are unable to pay for college tuition, try to cover expenses like books, groceries, or everyday necessities.
- Have a conversation with your child and ask her how she would like to be supported once she leaves for college. This can begin a dialogue with your child so the relationship can best meet each of your changing needs.
- Encourage your child to solve his own problems. Help him to set his own goals, make responsible decisions, and accept responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
- Encourage your child to spend time on campus rather than pressuring her to frequently return home.
- Focus more on providing support for, rather than receiving support from, your children.
*The findings from this study are based on research previously published in Yazedjian, A., Purswell, K. E., Sevin, T., & Toews, M. L. (2007). Adjusting to the first year of college: Students’ perceptions of the importance of parental, peer and institutional support. The Journal of the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 19(2), 29-46.
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