Parents and Guardians Page
Parents and Guardians
All of your hard work and support over these past years has paid off! Your student has finally made it to college - Congratulations!
It is certainly an exciting time. We at the Counseling Center recognize that with all change comes adjustment for you and your student. You may have questions as you enter this new phase with your student. We hope the following will provide helpful information to some common and important questions.
You may also visit our Self Help Library for information about a variety of other topics relevant to college students.
How Is Your Student Doing?
During any particular day or week, your son or daughter may seem to be handling everything wonderfully. You may wonder "Why was I so concerned?" Then again, the next time you talk to him or her, they might paint a completely different picture. "I hate it here!". "I don't have what it takes". "I'm not like the other students." These are very common concerns and feelings expressed by students. Just keep in mind that with any change, there is always a period of adjustment. And with adjustment, there may be both excitement and distress. Remind your student that these are common feelings, and share with them how their existing strengths will help them get through this period of adjustment.
How To Tell If Your Student Is In Distress?
As mentioned, there is a normal period of adjustment to college that includes both excitement and stress. Sometimes this adjustment can be as long as 6 months to a year. However, if over time you notice that your student is not coping well (e.g., is not acting like her/his "normal self," grades are declining, withdrawal from family and friends), you may consider suggesting that she/he seek assistance from a mental health professional at Counseling Services.
Warning Signs That Your Student May Be Having Trouble:
For many young adults, this is the time in an entirely new environment where they are away from everything that is familiar to them - friends, family, home, and community. According to a UCLA study, more than 30% of university first years reported feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time during the beginning of college. Unfortunately, research reflects that 2/3 of the students who feel this may never tell anyone and never seek help!
One way in which you can be enormously helpful to your student is to maintain regular communication, and ask how things are going. When you talk with him/her, take note if he or she mentions:
- Being sad most or all of the time
- Feeling life has no meaning, or there is no hope for the future
- No longer enjoying things he or she once liked to do
- Sleeping a lot more than usual, waking up often, or having trouble falling asleep
- Excessive drinking or partying
- Loss of appetite, or developing odd eating or exercise habits
- Having trouble concentrating
- Being tired all of the time
- Having low self confidence
- Thinking about death or suicide
If your student experiences any of these signs, please do not assume it is a phase he or she will outgrow. Feeling stressed or sad for weeks and months can indicate more than just difficulty adjusting to life's changes. Encourage him/her to get help from the school's counseling center.
Fast Facts about SCSU's Counseling Services Center:
1. University Counseling Services is free of charge to matriculated students.
2. Counseling Services offers workshops and services that facilitate and enhance your student's academic success and emotional well-being.
3. All counselors are bound by a legal and ethical code of confidentiality and privacy:
No information concerning the student will be shared with anyone without consent. Confidentiality does not apply in instances of suspicion or knowledge of child, elderly, or disabled person abuse; intent to cause harm to self or others; order of a magistrate to submit documents to the court, or required by law or ethical obligation.
4. CounselingServices follow Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) guidelines.
5. Counseling Services offers a wide range of referral resources for a variety of topics and issues.
How can you help your student Adjust to College Life?
Those who make the best adjustments get out of their residence hall rooms.
Meet other people and get involved- in addition to classroom work and study.
Getting involved on campus tends to be associated with greater satisfaction and higher retention.
Home for the Weekend
Students who go home every weekend and are not involved in extra-curricular activities tend, on average, to drop out of school more frequently and to be less satisfied with college in general.
Keep your student informed about what is going on at home and in their hometown community. Some students may have resentful feelings and thoughts about being "protected" from unhappy news, like a grandmother's illness or the death of a pet.
Discuss financial issues in a realistic and specific manner (i.e. what you will and will not pay for, your expectations for how money should be spent, etc.). Check with the Career Services Center to find out about on/off campus work and work study positions.
Credit Card Debt
This is one of the fastest growing problems among college/university students across the country. Credit card vendors are common at universities and lure students in with "free stuff."
Credit card companies see students as prime targets because of their future earning potential and are happy to issue card after card.
It is critical to discuss finances and responsibilities about credit card interest, monthly payments, penalty charges, etc.
What are some Helpful Academic Hints for students?
(Adapted from the Texas State University Student Counseling Center)
- Its Not the 13th Grade: College is likely to be more demanding academically and there is more competition for grades than before. Students may quickly realize that they are now competing with other students who were all in the upper half of their high school classes. Students may have been able to make straight A's in high school without much effort or study and without developing the learning skills (e.g. note-taking, textbook reading, study skills) necessary to succeed in college. It can be demoralizing to struggle in an area in which you used to feel competent.
- Larger Classes: Classes may be larger and there may be less individualized attention than in high school. In high school, students seldom have classes larger than 30 or so. During the first year at a university, it is not unusual to enroll in introductory classes that hold 100 students or more. It is easy to feel disconnected and unimportant. In order to counter such feelings, students must be able to advocate for themselves. That is, they must ask the professor questions in class or during office hours and they must take advantage of tutors and graduate assistants for additional help.
- Academic Advising: Registering for classes and choosing a major can feel overwhelming. However, it is your child's responsibility to meet with his or her academic advisor on a regular basis to determine the courses necessary for the next semester and register appropriately.
- Career Services: If a student is unsure about a major or career direction, he or she should take advantage of the school's career services department. The majority of students either do not know what major to pursue when they initially enroll in college or they change majors at least once during their college career as they learn more about themselves and their true interest, values, and abilities. Career services can be of invaluable assistance in choosing a major, uncovering interests and abilities, helping students who are looking for part-time work, resume writing, etc.
- Time Management: In high school, most students spend nearly 35 hours each week in class. In college, they may spend 12-17 hours in class a week. Some days, they may not even have any classes. These periods of non-class time during the day (and evening) can easily be spent in a variety of non-academic activities. Many students are not aware of the general guideline that, for every hour of class time, a student should spend approximately two hours studying and completing assignments and projects. In order to perform well academically and also have time for socializing, exercising, and leisure activity, both time management and organizational skills are critical. The school's counseling center offers workshops and individual counseling, which address issues of time management, effective decision-making and other personal issues.
- Feeling Overwhelmed by Course Work: The constant studying for quizzes and exams, reading assignments, completing projects and papers and other responsibilities can be overwhelming and can sometimes lead to procrastination. Procrastination often worsens the problem. Some students reveal perfectionistic tendencies, or unrealistically high self-expectations, which can further immobilize their efforts, add to their discouragement and impede their effectiveness. These issues are frequently seen in the university student population and may be discussed with a counselor.
How Are You Doing With The Change?
It is not uncommon for parents and guardians to experience the well known "empty nest" syndrome when their loved one leaves for college. You may have feelings of sadness, loss of control, and concern for what your student may be exposed to at a large university.
At the same time, you may feel conflicted when these feelings are mixed with excitement that comes with possibly having more independence and time. It is common to feel a wide range of emotions with this new change - from happy to sad. As is the case with your student, the adjustment to change can be difficult and may take some time. Feeling sad during this transition, however, should not prevent you from taking care of yourself. Consider viewing this change as an opportunity to focus on what you really like to do.
What Can You Expect Over the Next Few Years?
Parents can consider developing an adult relationship with their student. This is a new and important way of connecting with her/him, as it recognizes and acknowledges the transition of your student from child to adult. This will convey to him/her that you are aware and appreciate this transition, as well as provide opportunities to relate to them in new ways. As they transition to adulthood, keep in mind that your student may not want to share every detail of their lives with you at all times. Though this may not be what you would like or are used to, it is actually developmentally appropriate as your student gains a greater sense of identity and self.
How Can You Provide Support For Your Student?
Providing support now will not be drastically different from how you have been doing it. Listening, communicating, and sharing are all important ingredients in letting your student know you care. Relaying these messages in a way that acknowledges the adult-to-adult relationship can build an even stronger bond. Again, keep in mind that at times they may not want to share everything with you - this is normal. But making sure they know that you care is the key (e.g., sharing your views on difficult topics, providing encouragement during times of stress, etc.). A balance of advice, encouragement, independence, and room to make mistakes can be important in conveying our support AND respect.
Though your student, may not request it, it is important that you keep in touch. Have a plan for keeping in touch. Care packages, phone calls, e-mails, pictures of special events (both at school and family fun) may be some of the nice things you can do for each other to show you may be out of sight but not out of mind.
What Resources Are Available For You and Your Student?
There are many resources available to you and your student. It is helpful for parents to be familiar with our services at University Counseling Services, as well as available Campus Resources. This way if your he/she needs some type of assistance, you will at least have some basic understanding of the University system and what is available for students.
Some additional Reading Resources:
Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money. Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schellas-Miller, 2000.
How to Survive and Thrive in an Empty Nest: Reclaiming Your Life When Your Children Have Grown. Robert H. Lauer and Jeanette C. Lauer, 1999.
When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent's Survival Guide. Carol Barkin, 1999.
Almost Grown: Launching Your Child from High School to College. Patricia Pasick, 1998.
Empty Nest, Full Heart: The Journey from Home to College. Andrea Van Steenhouse and Johanna Parker, 1998.