Whether Your College Student Is On Campus or Home: 20 Ideas for a Successful Semester

This semester looks different at almost every college in the nation. As each school attempts to find ways to educate their students in the midst of a pandemic, there are students studying fully on campus, fully at home, studying in hybrid modes and just about everything in between. Some schools are already well into their semester, some haven’t yet begun their year yet, and many have had to pivot from their original plans.

All of this means that your student has already had to adapt and adjust to new ways of doing college. Whether your student is a brand-new first-year student or a veteran sophomore, junior or senior, the approach to college this year is a first for everyone.

As a parent, you worry first about whether your student will remain healthy, but you may also worry about how your student will fare with all of these new ways of learning. We all want our students to succeed.

If your student is studying remotely this semester, they don’t have access to the usual on-campus ways of finding support and contacting professors. But even those students who are on campus may find restricted in-person contact with services and faculty.

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Lost in Transition: In the Midst of COVID Worries Students Still Need to Adjust

This fall semester will be like no other. For students just beginning their college career, the world looks very different. Some will be beginning college from home, learning remotely. Some will be learning through a hybrid model, partially online and partially in the classroom. Still others will experience a somewhat altered Move-in Day and take up residence in a dorm room to take their courses in a classroom with a professor standing in front of them.

Definitely not your typical freshman experience.

This year, we’re all worried about COVID-19 and its effects on our students. If students will be at home, we worry about isolation and how much they’ll actually be able to learn. If students will be on campus, we worry about how the virus spreads, and whether students will socially distance and remember to wear their masks. We worry about what will happen if the campus has an outbreak or our student gets sick.

Amid all of this worry about the virus, we may overlook all of the usual transition issues that college freshmen might experience.

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Please Tell Your Student These 8 Things Before They Go to College This Fall

Beginning college is a big moment – for both you and your student. This is an especially big transition if your student is going away to live on campus. Although more students may be doing college from home this fall, the transition to college is still a major shift for both of you.  In fact, it may be even more difficult if your student will be doing college from home.  It just doesn’t feel that different, so it’s harder to remember that this isn’t high school any more.

But whether your student is home, a few miles away, or across the country, there are some important reminders you should share to help them succeed. And a few of these may be good reminders for parents as well.

Please tell your student the following 8 things:

  1. Be sure to check your college email regularly.”

Start now, well before school begins. Email may seem old fashioned to your student, but it is the primary way that most colleges share information with students. This summer especially, as the world around us is constantly changing, it is important for your student to be regularly checking for information arriving from the school. Once the semester begins, this is also the way that most professors will expect to reach students – and expect students to reply. Your student should check their email daily – and respond to messages as quickly as possible.

Note to parents: Most information from the college will go directly to your student rather than to parents. Be sure to ask your student to share important updates with you. Remind your student, too, that checking and responding to email is good practice for professional expectations later. Not many of us could say to our boss, “No, I didn’t see your message or request, I haven’t checked my email in a while.”

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#021 – College Roommates: Navigating This Complex Relationship

The topic of college roommates looms large for many students and parents.  It is common for students to feel anxious as many anticipate sharing a living space with a stranger for the first time. But with careful preparation, attention to communication, and an openness to new experiences, students can create a positive relationship with their roommate. In this episode, Vicki and Lynn discuss the important skills required and lessons learned from the work of building this important relationship.

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#019 – Students With Learning Differences: What Are the Key Changes Between High School and College?

What colleges and universities do to support students with learning differences changes from K-12, not only because the laws are different but also because the goals for students shift in college. These changes may be bigger than most students and parents expect. In today’s podcast, Lynn and Vicki explore differences in how the laws protect students and how the key responsibilities of both the institution and the student change. The more you understand these differences, the more comfortable you and your student will be, and the better you will be able to support your student in transition.

Subscribe to our podcast: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn Radio


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#012 – Talking About the First Year Experience – An Interview with Dr. Silas Pearman

In our first guest interview, Lynn and Vicki chat with Dr. Silas Pearman, First Year Coordinator at Curry College. Si discusses various types of first year programming and how students can benefit from classes that help them transition. Topics include questions parents and students should ask during the admission process to find the best fitting first year program, specific challenges first year students typically face, and strategies to help parents prepare their students for the transition. Si shares advice to parents on how to support their college student throughout their first year. Parents are urged to do their homework to evaluate options and find schools with intentional programming for first year students.

Subscribe to our podcast: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn Radio


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Addressing College Freshman Fears Requires Action

A recent article by Kelci Lynn Lucier on Thought.com about Conquering 13 Common College Freshmen Fears points out some of the insecurities many new college students feel. We recommend the article as it helps students understand and combat some of the questions that may be in their minds.

We’d like to build on this good article and suggest some additional actions that students can take, as well as consider the parent perspective. Knowing how to talk to your student about their concerns will arm you to help.

Sometimes the best approach to addressing any challenge may be simply doing one thing – taking at least a single small step. It can overcome potential paralysis when students don’t know where to begin.

  1. I was admitted by accident.

Many students share this fear – that the college made a mistake when they sent that coveted acceptance letter. Remind your student that there are likely students all around them that feel exactly the same way – and that it is a perfectly normal feeling. Reassure them that this was not a mistake.

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As We Send Them Off – – and Let Them Go: 25 Quotes to Guide You

It’s an interesting moment in time.  As we send our students off to college, we’re filled with pride at their accomplishments, excited for the future that awaits them, nervous (maybe even downright scared) about their success, celebrating our freedom from the daily caretaking responsibilities, and feeling the emptiness of the hole they are leaving in our daily lives.

In the swirl of student emotions and the sometimes chaotic preparations to move away, we sometimes forget to honor our own feelings – and to embrace the new adventure that awaits us as well as our student.

Take a moment (or two).  Breathe.  Honor your feelings, but don’t dwell on them.  Find for yourself a perspective that allows you to savor this time – and to move into the next moment.

Here are some quotes that may help.  Not all of them will resonate with you, but find some that do.  Keep them.  Come back to them. Find your own new path.

Congratulations on your new role!  It’s an exciting adventure.

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15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”  Over 2500 years later, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the truth of his statement.

As you send your student off to college, the word change takes on a new and very real meaning for your student – and for you.  As parents, we may be so focused on the big changes our students will face that we forget (or deny?) that we are experiencing change as well.

Why is change so difficult?

Change is a word we use all of the time, but we may not have thought much about what it actually means.  Definitions sometimes give us clarity.  To change something is to make it different from what it would be if left alone, to transform or become different.

Change can be hard.  It means a lack of certainty and predictability. Change is necessary for growth, but it is normal to fear that we won’t be able to cope with it.  So if both you and your student are feeling a little apprehensive right now about what changes might be coming, know that you’re in good company.  The first step is acknowledging that change is inevitable, and then you decide how you will respond to it.

Fight or flight – or go with the flow?

Often our first reaction to something that scares us is the fight or flight response.  We fight it and try to stop it, or we take flight and try to run away.  We may try to prevent change or we may try to avoid or deny that it is happening.  Facing change as we send our student off to college is the first step toward making it a positive experience for everyone.  Don’t fight it or ignore it.  Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and prepare to go with the flow.

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How Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success

As you and your student navigate your way through the summer before college, you will have many ups and downs.  There is much to be done, and tensions may run high at times.  It is a summer of excitement and emotion.  There are several things that you can do throughout the summer to help to ease the transition to college.  However, as the actual move-in day approaches, there are some specific things that you, as a college parent to be, can do to help the move go smoothly.

Preparing for the move to college

  • Be informed.  Read all of the material that you have received from the college.  Don’t be caught off guard at the last minute because you’ve forgotten something urgent.  Know college policies.  Can your student bring a microwave or refrigerator?  Are pets allowed?  Can he bring his own bed or mattress?  How much extra furniture is allowed? What paperwork will he be expected to bring with him?
  • Check specific information about arrival time. Some schools designate a specific time for you to arrive.  If they tell you to come at noon, don’t expect to be allowed to move in at 7 a.m.
  • If you are a long distance from the college, consider traveling the day before move-in and staying overnight.  Early arrival for move-in day is helpful and it can be an exhausting day.  It may be easier on everyone if you do your traveling the day before.  If you plan to do this, make arrangements early.  Local hotels may fill early.
  • Help your student make a checklist of everything he needs to pack.  Use this checklist as you pack the car.  Do the thinking ahead of time when everyone is more relaxed rather than at the last minute.
  • Gather all important paperwork in one place and leave it accessible.  If your student knows what residence hall he will be in, have that information.  If he will need to turn in health forms or financial forms, etc., make sure that they are packed on top.
  • Try to help your student not to become overwhelmed.  (This means you shouldn’t become overwhelmed!)  Take things one step at a time.
  • Remember that your student will be able to buy some things once he is at school.  It may make sense to wait to see what may be needed or to check with a roommate once he arrives.  You may take your student to a local store – or he will go on his own.  You can also bring some things next time you come to campus. Chances are, he may not need snow boots or skis until after Family Weekend.
  • Be prepared to be “dismissed” by your student.  It may be important to him that he prepare and pack on his own.  Step back from the process when necessary, but be prepared to help out if asked.
  • Be patient with procrastination.  Packing may seem overwhelming.  And packing makes the whole prospect of college and leaving home finally very real.  Many students wait until the last moments to actually pack.  Be patient.  You are not alone.

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