Prepare Your Teen for a New Social Life at College (page 2)
A whole new world awaits your soon-to-be college freshman! In addition to academics, there’s a new social life at college -- dorm life, a roommate, parties, and clubs to join. As you’re making lists of what to buy and what to pack, take time to talk with your teen about how to make friends in college, the pitfalls to be aware of, and how to take advantage of all that college has to offer.
Connecting with Her New College Roommate
Your teen and her college roommate don’t have to be best friends, but it helps if they can get along. Your teen probably wonders what her roommate will be like. Will she be friendly or shy, messy or neat? Will she study a lot or party hardy? Will they be best friends for life or just tolerate living together?
When it comes to dorm life, it pays to be proactive! Encourage your teen to:
- Reach out to her future roommate as soon as she receives her contact information. If she can arrange to meet her roommate in person before heading off to campus, all the better. If not, email, phone, and video chat are all good options.
- Clear the air about shared expectations. In addition to figuring out what each plans to bring to their shared dorm room ( “You bring the fridge, I’ll bring the microwave”), your teen and her new roomie should talk over their expectations about staying up and waking up, partying, having guests over, cleanliness, and borrowing each other’s things. (These are the most common conflicts, but they may not be the only ones.)
- Don’t fret about her roommate becoming her best friend. Many students wonder if they’ll become good friends with their roommates. The reality is some are and some aren’t. Some start out the school year spending a lot of time together and then drift apart. The important thing is to learn to get along in the small space they’ll be sharing, and to be respectful of each other.
- Research her resources for resolving roommate disputes. Remind your teen to check in with her dorm resident advisor ( “RA”), who can help resolve any disputes between roomies, should the need arise. Your teen can also check her student handbook to find out what the college’s policy is on resolving disputes between roommates.
Prepare for the Party Circuit
Once on campus, your teen will likely be amazed by the partying that goes on. Remind her that, just because there’s a keg and a great party doesn’t mean she has to drink till she drops! Even though it’s illegal, your teen may have already been experimenting with drinking and/or drugs in high school. At college, there’ll be more of those opportunities, so you’ll want to alert her to the dangers. According to recent statistics, more than half of college freshman find themselves in a situation of high-risk drinking within their first week of college. In fact, over 159,000 of today's first-year college students leave school every year for alcohol or other drug related reasons.
To help your teen prepare for the party scene, find out:
- What alcohol-free activities are available on campus. Many colleges actively encourage and promote them.
- What services are available on campus if alcohol or drugs become a problem. Many college campuses offer free rides to students who find themselves too drunk to drive. And some colleges offer drug counseling services to students.
Join the Club!
Many colleges offer a mind-boggling number of clubs and activities to choose from. The college years are a great time to explore new interests. Here are some tips to pass along to your teen:
- College is a great place to branch out and try new activities. Her college may offer activities she’s unfamiliar with or has always wanted to try.
- If she already has a passion, she can pursue it at college. For example, if she loves to sing and was active in the high school choir, she might want to join an a cappella singing group at college. Many a cappella groups create CDs, perform at on- and off-campus functions, and provide a social network for their members.
- If there isn’t already a college club devoted to her passion, she may be able to start one. Encourage her to learn about the college’s policy or process for starting a club. Usually all a student needs to do is submit the signatures of a few interested students, complete some paperwork, and a new club is born!
Encourage your teen to limit her involvement to just two or three extracurricular activities during freshman year. While she may want to join every activity or club of interest, remind her that it’s better to be a contributor, not just a joiner.
Striking a Balance: Social Life, Studies, Activities, and More
College offers a rich array of activities, clubs, concerts, parties, and, of course, academics, to keep your teen busy. The trick is to avoid getting overwhelmed and to find the right balance of time and energy to pursue her studies, social life, and interests. Remind your teen that throughout her college years, you’ll always be available to cheer her on and help her work through the challenges she’ll face.
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