Being a college parent is a new and exciting experience. Your role as a parent is evolving as your student is facing a new journey and life changes. With those new changes, come new challenges and a lot of questions.
One of the most common questions we receive from parents in our network is, How can I best support my college student? Unfortunately, it's a question with no one "right' answer—so much depends on your student and your situation (does parenting ever get more straightforward?!).
While the internet is full of great advice for parents of college students, we wanted to impart our knowledge in hopes of supporting you and your college student.
Beware: College Students Feel More Pressure than Ever Before
It’s true! A 2018 health assessment conducted by The American College Health Association found that 63% of college students in the U.S. felt overwhelming anxiety in the past year.
On top of making friends and getting acclimated to a new environment, students are navigating questions like, what am I going to major in? And what do I want to do after college?
While you can’t answer this question for your child, you can still play a major role in helping students navigate and succeed in college. Below, we share some helpful advice for parents of college students as both navigate this new and evolving journey.
Our Best (Practical) Advice for Parents of College Students
Stay Connected but Give Them Space
We know giving space isn't exactly the first thing that may come to mind when you hear the word support, but giving your student a little more room to grow on their own is exactly what they need right now. Show them you are there for them in other ways by listening, respecting their decisions and asking questions.
It’s also important to communicate with them in a way that they welcome and are comfortable with. Maybe they aren’t a fan of phone conversations. Instead, consider short, "just wanted to say hello," text messages as a way to communicate.
Another fun and creative way to let your student know you are there for them, is to send them a care package. If they’re homesick, encourage them to seek out campus clubs, boards or activities so they can meet other students.
Adopt a Supportive Involvement Approach
According to the National Center for Education, 80% of students will change majors. Students can pivot and change course of action successfully, but the support they receive from parents during these transitions can make a big difference in how they respond.
A supportive approach encourages responsibility and allows them autonomy. You may have to embrace the unexpected, but realize not all issues will be fixed—at least by you.
While you can’t manage roommate or schedule conflicts, you can empower their decision making by using language such as, “Have you thought about…” instead of “What you need to…”
As students approach graduation, the complexities of their obstacles and challenges will differ than when they were a Freshman. At this stage, they may be asking about internships, interview preparedness and making serious career decisions.
Help them find the appropriate resources and programs such as Career Cram, a Group Coaching + Community program for students, graduates, or anyone who is in the early stages of their career.
Be Knowledgeable About Student and College Services
A simple piece of advice for parents of college students is to read the parent and student handbook. This may sound obvious, but knowing what resources are available for you and your student allows you to have that supportive involvement which will then encourage responsibility.
If a student changes directions or calls you with a question, you can support them by referring them to the appropriate school resources.
Don’t forget to check the school website for any family or parent programs and/or orientations! These serve as a great way for parents and guardians to familiarize themselves with the school.
Take Care of Yourself!
Whether you have a first year college student or one who is graduating, parenting a college student isn’t easy. It can take a toll both physically and mentally. Gift yourself the time to take extra care of YOU.
If you’re feeling anxious, take a digital break and go for a walk in nature. Go out for a nice meal and congratulate yourself on raising an ambitious and dedicated student!
If you find yourself needing extra support, seek out counseling. You can’t show up for your college student if you’re neglecting your own emotional and physical wellbeing.
We Are Here for You and Your Student
We understand the many complexities that college students and graduates face. We are here for you—both of you! There are a number of resources offering guidance and advice for parents of college students—you can find these through your students' school or check out our list below.
If you would like to learn about our program for recent grads and students, schedule a free consultation with one of our Client Success Advocates.
Helpful Resources for Parents:
- Career Organic - One-on-One Coaching and professional development support.
- Empty Nest...Full Heart, by Andrea VanSteenhouse
- Graduate to a Great Job: Make Your College Degree Pay Off in Today's Market, by David DeLong
- Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, by Karen Levin Coburn
- Emptying the Nest: Launching Your Young Adult Toward Success and Self-Reliance, by Brad Sachs
- Parenting a College Student, by Professor Marshall Duke at Emory University
If you’re a parent needing support for your college student, join us online today!
Blog Written by - Jessica Shephard