Strong Send Off: Supporting Your Student’s Transition to College

The leap from high school to college is no small transition. And after a global pandemic? Well, then this shift into young adulthood may feel even more momentous.

Parenting a young person through this season of life is no easy feat. You are learning to let go and stand by. This is a challenge that requires awareness, acceptance, and action only when it is appropriate.

All the while, your student is striking their own balance too.

College life is a series of lessons in personal management, social responsibility, and academic goals.

Managing the future and all of its adventures relies on resilience and important life skills. So, what can you do to help?

First, acknowledge that the college years offer a million options, pathways, and detours. That’s okay and perfectly normal. To encourage them along the way, consider the following:

Tips, Strategies for Supporting Your Student’s Transition to College

“Who Am I?” happens.

On their own, teens often break away from many of the norms and ideas taught at home. This may be hard to reconcile at first. Just breathe and be patient. Keep your mind open and communication flowing. Recognize that it’s a challenge to integrate themselves into a brand new world.

Give your student time to locate their core values and take stock of their wants and needs. Try to be sensitive and a good listener.

Independence can be exhilarating… and intimidating.

Your graduate is likely freaked right now. But in a good way. 

Independence is what they want. It’s necessary for getting them where they want to go. However, don’t think that young people won’t be a mess of confusion at times. You may get more than one panicked text when the responsibilities of “adulting” feel like too much.

Still, remember that their overwhelm is an opportunity for you. Encourage rather than rescue. Demonstrate that you trust and believe in them. If they’re willing, brainstorm solutions together.

Intentions, expectations, and reality can disappoint.

College is often touted as the best time of a person’s life. Teens expect a new life full of great relationships and beautiful experiences. So, if your student believed that every day would be filled with Instagram moments and instant friends, they may be disappointed.

Additionally, many college students feel the pressure to make the most of their college years. The need to succeed can war terribly with their self-worth, relationships, and mental health if they aren’t self-aware and able to cope.

Encourage your teen to breathe and challenge thoughts that tell them they don’t belong there. Remind them that “feelings are not facts.” Let them know that it’s okay to seek help, reevaluate their expectations, and set new intentions as they go.

Social struggles can lead to sadness and isolation.

No friends or family at first means there’s no way to avoid some measure of social anxiety and awkwardness. For kids who are more likely to connect virtually than in the real world, starting over socially might be a very scary prospect.

The truth? Your teen needs people. It’s important to make that clear to them. They still need to belong to a community of supporters and encouragers away from home. Extended family, friends, faith members, and counselors can all help your teen maintain a healthy perspective.

Encourage your student to engage others. Suggest clubs and organizations of interest with like-minded people. They may feel shy or uncertain but reaching out is important. Reciprocal sharing and caring are vital.

It helps to have allies when they’re facing tough exams, changing their goals, or struggling to find the grace they need to give themselves when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Shore Up Professional Support for You and Your Graduate

Help at School

Counseling can help your student establish what they need and want during college. Campuses will have resources for mental healthcare. Let them know that there is no shame in scheduling a regular time to safely share and plot goals with a counselor.

Help at Home

They are stepping out into the real world on their own for the first time. You must let go and give them space to grow while acknowledging that the college years still include much support and guidance. You don’t have to do this alone. Your approach to these years makes a significant difference in how well they adjust and thrive.

Let’s work things through this time together. Please reach out to me today or visit my Parenting Skills page to learn more about how I can help.