College Ahead! New Roles for Everyone!

The transition to becoming a college parent isn’t sudden.  You’ve been working on it through all of those months of SAT prep, college visits, essay writing, financial aid discussions, applications, acceptances and rejections, and finally, the DECISION.  But as you begin to think about the reality of your new situation, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s begin by thinking about who this new college student is, and what your role in this college experience might be.

Who is this College Student?

This college student is the son or daughter you’ve raised.

First and foremost, this student heading off on this grand and scary adventure called college, is the son or daughter you raised.  Although it sometimes feels as though you may not know or understand his behavior, you’ve had many years to instill important values and teach life lessons.  Your student will take to college with him the tool chest of lessons, experiences and values you’ve given him.  Trust him.  Trust the years you’ve spent with him.

This college student has a clean slate.

There is something wonderful about the adventure of beginning college.  Your student is a young man or woman with an opportunity to have a clean slate and build a new life. Many of us might welcome the opportunity to have a fresh start. Your student may have spent many years in the same area, school, or neighborhood.  He is known by everyone.  His family may have connections in town, he may have siblings ahead or behind him, he may be known as an excellent student, an athlete, a loner, or a class leader.   There is something safe in this knowledge, but also something restricting.

At college he will have a fresh start.  He can re-create himself.  This can be a wonderful, and an intimidating prospect. There’s no reputation to fall back on, but there’s also no history clouding your student’s opportunities.  Some students thrive on the experience of this fresh start and some are taken by surprise.  As parents, it is important for us to recognize that this is a stressful time.  Encourage your student to take advantage of the clean slate that he has to invent the self he wants to be.

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Support for Students with Learning Differences in College: Do Your Homework!

This is the second article by College Parent Central contributor Dr. Lynn Abrahams.  Lynn specializes in college transition and success for students with learning differences.

Over the past ten years more and more programs have been created to help prepare and support college students with learning differences. In fact, there are now so many models out there that it has become crucial to do your homework before making the decision about the best post-secondary environment for your student. As a learning disabilities specialist over the past 30 years, I have seen families pay a tremendous amount of money for programs that may not be the right fit, because they did not fully understand what was or was not being offered.

Here are a few issues to keep in mind:

 Support in High School

Look at how much support your student is getting in high school. Shifting the amount and type of support when entering a new college environment is not usually a good idea.

  • Is your student in a substantially separate classroom?
  • Is your student fully mainstreamed in all high school classes?
  • Is your student in college preparatory classes?
  • How much time does your student get for support in a resource room?
  • How much time does your student work with other therapists, such as speech and language, occupational therapy, English language learner support, or counseling?

Read moreSupport for Students with Learning Differences in College: Do Your Homework!


10 Reasons Why Your Student May Have a Case of the “Second Semester Blues”

It’s winter.  In many places in the country it’s cold, and it’s dark a lot. The holiday break is over. The novelty of being a new college student has worn off.  May, and summer vacation, seem a long way off.  And now it’s time to get started with a new semester.

Is it any wonder that your student may have a case of the Second Semester Blues?

If your student is heading back to school but not particularly excited about the prospect, know that she is not alone.  There may be mild reluctance (who doesn’t hate the end of vacation?) or there may be serious resistance to returning.  Help your student to understand that this feeling is common.  There is no instant cure, but it may help your student to know that there are others who feel the same way – and that the feeling usually passes.

Why is your student feeling this way?

There are many reasons students may feel less than enthusiastic about their return to school for second semester, and some students may have multiple reasons.

Read more10 Reasons Why Your Student May Have a Case of the “Second Semester Blues”


Is Your New College Student a Victim of “Impostor Syndrome?”

Poet Maya Angelou once said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, – uh-oh, they’re going to find out now.  I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

It is not unusual for successful people to doubt the legitimacy of their success. Many college students are no different.  Your student worries that she doesn’t belong at the college, she’s a fraud, the college made a mistake by admitting her.  She’s a victim of “Impostor Syndrome.”

One psychologist found that as many as 70% of people admit to feeling, at some point in their lives, that they are inadequate and don’t deserve their success.  So if the feeling rings true for your student, she’s in good company.  If your student secretly worries about her abilities, it may help her to know that she’s not alone.

What does your student feel?

It is important to realize that, even though you know that your student’s admission was deserved and you know that your student will do well, the fear and concern that your student feels is real. Logic may tell her that she deserves to be where she is and that she is just as qualified as her classmates, but the belief that it is all a mistake is not based on logic.

Read moreIs Your New College Student a Victim of “Impostor Syndrome?”


Helping Your College Student Living at Home

The college years are a time of growing independence for most college students.  When students leave home to go away to college, they learn not only what they are being taught in their classes, but they learn many life skills as well.  College students living away from home learn to manage their time, balance priorities, budget their money, hone their life skills, maintain relationships, and conduct the logistical necessities of their lives.

But what about students who attend college while continuing to live at home?  Will they develop the independence that their classmates living on campus do?  What about the parents of college students living at home? These parents face a unique set of issues. How will they cope with having an emerging adult in residence at home?  How can parents help their at-home college student to gain independence while still maintaining a household in which everyone is comfortable?

Why is your college student choosing to live at home?

Students may choose to live at home during college for many different reasons.  Perhaps one of the most common and obvious reasons is to save money.  Although tuition costs are high, they are only one portion of the cost of attending college. A student who can live at home, and therefore reduce or eliminate room and board costs, can save thousands of dollars.

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Three Things You Should NOT Ask Your College Student to Share With You

Your soon-to-be college student is busy getting ready to head off to college.  You want to make sure that both you and she have all of the information that you both need, and you want to help her prepare.  So you ask her to share some pieces of information with you – so you can help and give advice.

This makes sense and sounds like a good idea.  And sharing some information is important.  But there’s a line between helpful and intrusive.  Here are three pieces of information that may cross the line – for different reasons.

The roommate information form

If your student will be living on campus, she will probably have a roommate.  Colleges work hard to make roommate matches that make sense and have a good chance to work out.  In order to do this, the college will ask your student to fill out a matching profile, lifestyle questionnaire, or roommate profile.  This form will ask about lifestyle preferences that may make a difference in a living situation such as: Are you an early riser or late-to-bed person? Do you study with music or in silence? What type of music do you prefer? Are you generally messy or a neat-freak? Do you smoke?  What are your interests?  Do you prefer to sleep in the dark or with a light on? Window open or closed?

Why sharing this information isn’t a good idea

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Senior Summer: At the Crossroads of No Longer and Not Yet

The summer after the last year of high school and before the first year of college is an interesting summer – for both parents and students.  There is the anticipation and excitement – coupled with stress, nerves, and the emotions of leaving home and friends behind. For parents, it’s about letting go – and having trust.  Parents need to be especially patient – both with themselves and with their students – as everyone navigates this new territory.

That homeless feeling

One of the characteristics of this summer before college is the feeling of in-between that most high school graduates/not yet college freshmen feel.  They are of both worlds, yet not really of either.  It is a strange, somewhat homeless feeling for many students.

No longer high school

For much of the last year of high school your senior couldn’t wait to be done.  The focus was on getting into college – grades, activities, college visits, applications, acceptance, decision, deposit.  Once college admission is accomplished, many students settle into a few weeks (or months) of senioritis – and finish out the year.

The last part of senior year is, in many ways, one big send-off.  There are senior projects, senior week or senior days, perhaps a senior trip, senior prom, graduation, parties.  But now high school is finished.  Your senior is no longer part of that world.  The junior class may already have had a move-up or step-up day.

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Should Your Student Consider a High School Post Grad Year?

Your student is about to graduate from high school, and she’s ready to head to college in the fall.  Congratulations!

But wait! What if only part of that statement is true?

Your student may be about to graduate from high school, but that doesn’t automatically mean that she’s ready to head to college in the fall. Not all students mature and operate on the same timetable. Not all students have an immediate interest in college. More and more students and their parents are considering a postgrad or fifth year of high school to prepare for college.

What is a high school post grad year?

A postgrad year does not mean that your student simply stays in her high school a year longer.  It is not a fifth year because your student has not done well and is not ready to graduate.  A postgrad high school year is a specialized year of school for students who have already earned their high school diploma.  It is most often a year of school spent at an independent high school with a specialized curriculum designed for the experience.

Postgrad experiences have been around for a long time.  They have traditionally existed at New England prep schools for male athletes who need an extra year to improve athletically and to bolster grades.  Recently, however, more schools offer postgrad experiences, more students are applying, including females and non-athletes. According to the Boarding School Review, as many as 146 schools now offer such programs.  A few schools offer day programs as well.

A postgrad program serves as a transitional year for a student to experience living on his own, away from home.  Programs are generally designed for academically strong, motivated students who want to experience new courses, challenges and personal growth.  Programs are often competitive, and schools look for students who have demonstrated academic growth throughout their high school careers and who have demonstrated a positive trend.  The postgrad year allows these students to build on their past experiences.

Read moreShould Your Student Consider a High School Post Grad Year?


Friends Along the Way: Your College Student’s Search for Friends

Parents everywhere have just dropped their students off at college for the first time.  It’s an emotional time.  Excitement is high, anxiety is high, and for many, there are mixed emotions about their student leaving home. As parents return home and try to settle into the new normal of not having their child at home, their child is busy making the transition to their new world away from home.  An essential part of that transition is making new friends.

For many students, much of their anxiety heading off to college has to do with whether or not they will find friends and “fit in.”  Friends can make all of the difference. Most colleges recognize this need and work hard to plan programming during the first few weeks of the semester to bring students together and encourage community building.  They know that students with a strong friend network are generally happier, do better, and are more likely to remain in school.

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14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick

As parents sending our students off to college we’ve been told to expect that our student will be homesick. (We’ve written a post saying essentially the same thing – and it has some good advice). We’ve been told it’s inevitable. That it might happen right away or that it might take a while, but it will happen.  According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, close to 65% of college students will experience homesickness.  So it’s good to be prepared.

Is it really homesickness?

What is almost certain is that most students will experience some unhappiness, stress, and anxiety at some point.  It is a natural reaction to being out of your element and in unfamiliar territory. It’s what happens before you become, as Harlan Cohen terms it in his book The Naked Roommate, “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”  But are our students really homesick?

It depends on how you define homesick.  Are these students really missing home?  Are they really missing us? They hardly talked to us all summer. They’ve worked hard for years to get to this place. Just a few short weeks ago – or maybe days – they couldn’t wait to leave.  They couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Is it really home and parents that they are missing?

Read more14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick