Heading off to college is a big step. Your student has anticipated this step for a long time and probably worked hard throughout high school to get ready, apply, and make that final decision. As parents, you’ve been involved – sometimes in the thick of it all and sometimes on the sideline – and you are also anticipating a big change.
But as big as that step to college seems, it is just that – one more step. And the step is that much easier for your student when he is prepared. Perhaps one of the reasons we all have so much anxiety about the college admissions process and the college transition process is that we see it as a giant leap rather than a step.
Your student has taken steps throughout his life – some bigger than others. There were those literal first steps, then daycare or preschool, kindergarten, middle school and high school. Remember how scary each of those steps felt at the time? Your student may have learned to ride a bike, have a first sleepover, play in a first athletic game, give a first music or dance recital, talk to a girl (!), go on a date, and learn to drive a car. Scary, right?
Remembering that your student’s step to college is yet another in a long series of steps may help put it in perspective – for both you and your student. Remembering, too, that sometimes steps forward are accompanied by a step or two backwards or sideways may help as well. We all still move forward, or perhaps take steps in a different direction, eventually.
Perhaps your student is worried about going to college when he has no clear idea of what he wants to major in or what career path he should take. That’s OK. He’ll take a step toward exploring his interests and discovering his passion and direction. He’ll also learn that many paths can lead to a career or that one path may lead to many different careers. Steps.
Perhaps your student is concerned because his high school grades were not strong and he is afraid that he may not be academically ready. That’s OK. He’ll get help finding the appropriate level of courses to begin. He’ll find academic support (but he’ll need to reach out to take advantage of it). If he works hard and takes advantage of the support offered, he’ll take steps toward strengthening his academic skills so that he’ll be ready eventually for more difficult courses. Steps.
Perhaps your student is nervous because he is the first in his family to attend college. That’s OK. Although he may be the first in your family to attend college, he’ll follow in the footsteps of other first generation students who have blazed a trail. He’ll have guidance finding the appropriate steps to college success. Steps.
College will provide your student the opportunity to continue steps in extracurricular activities or athletics that he loves as well as take steps to discover new opportunities. He’ll take steps in forging new friendships with many different kinds of people. He’ll take steps in independence and responsibility as he learns to manage his time and himself. Many steps.
Helping your student remember that his college years are a series of steps may help make that first step less intimidating – for both your student and for you. It may help take some of the pressure off.
Entering college is a step. There may be sidesteps or backsteps. But each step is one step closer to the next step and, as the Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”