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Parents of College Freshmen: We’ve Got Some Advice for You

The Look. 

Please, I thought again and again, just don’t let him give me The Look

As college drop off for my oldest son approached, this was all I could think about.  When he was in the middle of first grade, my husband’s job moved us several states away from home. 

As we stood outside the classroom door, one of his younger brothers in my arms and the other holding my hand, my oldest son looked at me and pleaded, “Please Mommy, please don’t make me go in there.” I still get teary writing this more than 20 years later.

I don’t know what I would have done had I seen that look in his eyes at college drop off. Leading up to that late August day, there were so many things I did not know about being the parent of a college student.

So the staff here at Your Teen, with over 12 college drop offs under our belts, thought we’d share 12 things we do know about being college parents. 

Advice for Parents of College Freshmen

1. Ask your college student how you can best support them.

Our inclination is often to do more, more, more—but they might want a little space to choose their own bedding, make their own class schedule, and even make their own mistakes. Let them know they can come to you, but that you’ll let them take the lead and tell you what they need from you to help them succeed at college. (Tuition checks go without saying, I think?!)

2. To the moms: don’t be surprised if dad has a harder time at drop off than you do.

“8 hours,” a friend of mine said. “He (her husband) could barely talk for the entire 8-hour drive home!” My own husband was very quiet for our 5-hour trip home after drop off. He was sad and bemoaning the fact that “I didn’t get a chance to say everything I wanted to say.”

3. All parents: Don’t overstay your welcome on move in day.

Vamoose! It’s really better for all of you.

4. When visiting your college freshman, take them out for a meal and suggest they invite a friend or two along.

It’s a great opportunity to not only get to know your child’s friends, but also get a glimpse into their new life. Start saving now, as this may become a tradition over the next few years and your restaurant bills will be higher. But it’s well worth it!

5. Do not be surprised if your college kid calls to unload all their stress and anxiety on you.

You, in turn, will most likely obsess for the next day or so over everything they said, causing you to lose sleep and feel distracted. And then you will call them to see how they are doing.This time, do not be surprised if they have little to no idea what you are talking about, as once they have dumped it all in your arms, they’ve moved on and completely forgotten about it.

6. Do not go on and on about how much you will miss them.

They need to feel happy about going to college and not bereft at leaving you.

7. If you call them and they sound like they don’t want to talk, don’t take it personally.

They have a new life and may be busy. Say something like, “It sounds like you are busy right now. Call me when you get a chance. I would love to catch up.”

8. Send a card or letter reminding them how special they are to you.

In this digital age, a mailed card is fun to get. You can also send a care package.

9. Let them know college has its ups and downs.

There is so much talk about how the college years are the best years of your life. That can put a lot of pressure on a college student, causing them to think something is wrong with them if they’re not having the best time right out of the gate. Without catastrophizing, try to prepare them for the fact that there may be some times that are difficult.

10. Schedule times to talk.

If you have a kid who isn’t super communicative, making plans to talk takes the pressure off them. It also eases the worry that you’ll never hear from your kid while they’re away from you.

11. Freshman year is hard.

There’s no getting around it. It’s a time of so many adjustments and changes. Let your college student know it’s okay to be homesick!

12. No news is generally good news.

And that’s all we’re going to say about that one!

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