EMU expert offers important steps that can make first few months of college successful for students, parents

by Pamela Young, Published August 20, 2014

YPSILANTI - Starting a new life as a college student can be a difficult transition for both young adults and their parents.

“Parents have to expect that the relationship with their child will change,” said Ellen Gold, assistant vice president for student well-being at Eastern Michigan University. “Parents are transitioning from a protector and director to a loving consultant and adviser. It’s a time when your child will be positively challenged by new people and experiences on campus.”

There are, however, some important steps parents and young adults can take that will make the first few months of school more enjoyable, said Gold.

Among those steps for parents are:

  •  Realize that the frequency of communication and its nature will be different. Gold advises parents to let go of their children, but also create a balance. Students need to have the freedom to make mistakes and be accepted.
  • Understand the difference between mothering and smothering and between fathering and bothering.
  •  It’s no longer being a parent of a child; it’s being a parent of an adult. Help them to be self-sufficient. Know resources you can point them to.
  • Be patient when talking with your young adult. Don’t make conversations feel like quizzes. Create a balance by not always focusing on them, but share your life as well.
  • Remember that students often talk with parents at down times and reserve up times for their friends.
  • Create a healthy distance by not calling or emailing constantly.
  • Take emotional issues seriously and encourage your student to talk with someone. Universities have a variety of services such as counseling that specialize in student problems.
  • Encourage your student to seek academic assistance from a tutor, an adviser, a faculty member or academic support service when needed. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help.
  • Work together to set up a budget plan for the year and encourage them to not apply for every credit care offered.
  • Prepare your student for the possibility of changing relationships with friends, at school and at home.

New students should make new friends and get involved in campus life.

 For students:

  • Expect to take responsibility for your actions and for the consequences of your decisions.
  • It’s up to you to read and understand the assigned material. Lectures and assignments proceed from the assumption that the students have already read the material.
  • In college, students are responsible for thinking through and applying what they have learned. Results count. Although a good faith effort is important in regard to the professor’s willingness to help studentsachieve good results, it will not substitute for results in the grading process.
  • Become familiar with services on campus, such as the health service, the library, the success center that offer help with classes, student organizations and the student center.
  • Technology has allowed students to become isolated socially. Don’t sit in your residence hall room or at home and not meet people or make new friends. Get involved and make campus connections.
  • Realize how much unscheduled time you have. Create a balance between academics, personal health and wellness, work and social life.
  • Understand that not everyone will like you. Many will, so don’t waste your energy trying to change yourself.
  • Experience everything you can as a college student. There are all kinds of new people and great opportunities at school. Meet new people and hang out with different groups. Step outside your comfort zone and get involved in campus.


Pamela Young

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