Book Review: Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting for Adulthood

There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.

In this review, we look at Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting For Adulthood by Linda L. Bips, with her daughters Jessica and Kristina Wallitsch.  This volume provides a good, basic overview of many areas of interest to college parents.  Daughters Jessica and Kristina add their perspective as students to the topics discussed by their mother.

Although Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting for Adulthood was published in 2003, the basic information it provides to college parents remains current and important.  We like Bips’ metaphor of the college student as a young colt who remains close to the barn but then gradually explores the expanding corral and “challenges” ever expanding fences while still returning occasionally to the safety of home.  The image captures the “work” of the college student to explore and expand her world.

Parenting College Freshmen covers a wide range of topics, giving parents a good overview of what to expect from their student’s life at college.  Topics include the importance of communication, time management, choosing a major, roommates, loneliness, and the difficult topics of sex, drugs and alcohol.  Bips’ significant counseling experiences give her a unique perspective on the difficulties that students face.

In her discussion of the topics of drugs and alcohol, obviously a topic of concern for many college parents, Bips offers what we consider one of the most helpful pieces of advice in the book.  She suggests that parents ask students to “stop, look, and listen (the old street crossing mantra).”  She suggests that parents ask their student to refrain from changing his behavior for the first semester of college.

“Stop doing any new behaviors.  Look around and see what others are doing or not doing.  Listen to why others are doing or not doing certain behaviors.  After a semester of observing and questioning others, either verbally or through research, he will be better prepared to make informed decisions about his behavior without becoming a victim of impetuosity.  Those first few golden weeks of college behavior may be determined by the need to belong, a strong human motivator especially in new environments and for this age group, rather than one’s own convictions.  The first six weeks of college have been called the red zone – on alert.  Many students are vulnerable because they want to fit in to the college scene.”

We doubt that most students will wait an entire semester before opting for new behaviors, but suggesting that they “stop, look, and listen” first is valuable advice.

Two especially nice features of Parenting College Freshmen are the clear bullets at the beginning of each chapter outlining topics to be covered, and the list of college resources located at the end of the book.  These features will help parents access the information that they need.

Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting for Adulthood is a good beginning college overview.  It offers an important perspective and will help parents begin to consider the issues their college student will face.

About the author:

Linda Bips is a psychologist working in transition issues of college students and their families.  She has served as Director of Counseling and as a faculty member at Muhlenberg College.  She also served as psychologist for the Semester at Sea program in the fall of 2001.  As the mother of two college-graduate daughters, she has experience with the college transition both as a professional and as a mother. Dr. Bips has appeared on television and has been featured in several magazines.

What the author has to say about the book:

“Many times over the past seventeen years, parents of college students, friends, colleagues and my children have encouraged me to write this book.  This book is my advice based on my experiences and my expertise on how to assist your college student before and during his first year.

In this book I will often refer to my college experiences as a point of comparison to today’s college scene.  We all try to understand the new by placing it in our frame of reference.  Most of you will have attended college in the 60’s and 70’s.  Remembering the way it was, really, not your idealized version, will allow you to empathize and understand the day-to-day ups and downs of your college student.

This book was germinating in my mind for many years and recently I realized that what would make this book unique and probably more usable are the voices of college students.  My daughters, Jessica, class of 1998 and Kristina, class of 2002, have responded to my chapters on many of the topics in this book.  Their purpose is to give you a student’s view albeit influenced by having been raised by their college counselor mother.”


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