Students, colleges and parents each have a role to play in this new college adventure.
The key is to know your part, do your part and work positively with one another. Students tend to rely heavily on their parents even after leaving for college. Parents find it hard to let go. Colleges often downplay their need to be involved on some level. But if each knows their role and strives to stay within those boundaries, the college experience will be more enjoyable and less stressful for all involved.
What students can do
The role of students is to accept guidance and encouragement from their parents, while learning to make their own decisions, fight their own battles and make wise financial choices. College gives them the opportunity to learn, have new life experiences and grow as individuals. It’s their responsibility to accept that challenge and move toward independence and self-reliance, while preparing for a future and getting the education that will help them be successful.
Students should communicate with advisors, talk with their professors and resolve their own conflicts. They should not expect parents to jump in and advocate for them. Parents are there for support but should never be expected to solve all their problems in college.
What parents can do
Once your children are headed off to college, parents should become less involved and allow them to make choices, make mistakes, and learn to deal with conflict. A parent who constantly swoops in to rescue a child does not contribute to self-reliance and independence.
Colleges do not respond positively to parents who are constantly calling about their children. They encourage parents to allow their children to become responsible, independent adults. It is sometimes hard to find that balance between over-parenting and encouragement, but parents should learn to take a step back and allow their children to find solutions to problems without taking control or interfering.
What the college can do
Colleges work hard to build relationships with both the students and the parents. They provide freshman orientation to help students transition to college life. During orientation, they create opportunities for parents as well as students to learn about college life and what to expect.
Many colleges welcome parent involvement and work hard to provide open avenues of communication. Colleges use online resources and social media to communicate with parents and help answer questions and concerns related to the college admissions process. Once the students are accepted, the colleges continue the relationship by providing parents with information related to college life and transitioning from full-time parenting to student independence.
Once on campus, students are encouraged by the college to become involved, seek help if needed and establish relationships with faculty and other students. Colleges strive to help students move from depending solely on their parents to becoming adults capable of self-sufficiency. Schools should provide resident advisers, tutoring help, mental health services, and dispute resolution, all the while encouraging students to make their own decisions and become good problem-solvers independent of parents.