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Parenting a First-time College Student

Parenting a first-time college student

You may have to do more than let go:  You may have to give a gentle push

By: Dr. Stephanie Blaisdell, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs/Student Development

Watching your child make the move to college is often bittersweet.  Parents express great pride in their child’s accomplishment, as well as in their own sense of success of getting their son or daughter to this point.  On the other hand, whether your child will be moving on or near campus or living at home, your child is “leaving” for college.  You may feel a sense of loss that leaves you wondering what your new role is.  This feeling is not altogether different from the sense of loss your child is feeling.

While Kyle* was waiting for his first semester of college to start, he felt untethered.  His high school friends were already back in class, and to pass the time he was hanging around his alma mater more and more.  A former teacher suggested that Kyle might help with the school’s theater productions for the year.  A star on the high school stage, Kyle jumped at the chance and began eagerly planning the group’s next production.

The opportunity might have been a great one for Kyle, and for the student thespians he worked with, but committing to his high school kept him actively engaged in that community, when research tells us that new college students need to connect with their new community.

Parents can facilitate a successful transition to college by encouraging students to try out various activities until one (or more) feels like a good fit.  The University of Memphis offers a series of programs during “Opening Week” to help students get to know one another and to learn about involvement opportunities on campus. All new students should be encouraged to attend New Student Convocation, followed by the Registered Student Organization Fair, on Monday, August 29, 2011.  These events, along with others, are listed in the Parent Calendar. A copy of the calendar was provided to parents who attended New Student Orientation.

Another way to help students connect is to remind them about the True Blue Life channel in their MyMemphis portal.  This channel allows students to see updates on all types of involvement opportunities, from Community Service to Commuter Students; Educational Support Programs to Employment; Recreation to Research Opportunities to Religious Organizations, and more.  The channel is intended to provide students with one-stop-shopping for ways to connect with their new community.

We know that students may struggle academically their first semester.  They may struggle with figuring out what to major in.  They may even struggle with their roommate or with other relationships.  What may make the difference between giving up or persisting to their goal of earning a degree is whether or not they connect with the university.  Students need to know that someone will miss them if they were to drop out.  Making that connection is one of the most important things students will do their first semester. 

*Some details have been changed to protect privacy

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Last Updated: 12/2/14