College Expectations: Parents—How to Talk with and Support Your College Student
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Attending college after high school is frequently a difficult transition—for students and parents alike. For students, even when they may indicate otherwise, they need parental support. At the same time, parents need to understand the demands of college and what their son or daughter is experiencing. It's important for all involved to communicate their needs while trying to understand those of the other.
The strategies listed below offer information about and examples of how to talk with and offer support to your college freshman.
Note: In the discussion below, "son" and "daughter" are used interchangeably.
1. Become informed about first-year college expectations.
3. Be ready to help change language from "demands" to "choices."
Help your college student change “have to” language to “I choose to…because” language.
Language choices affect attitudes and motivation. “Most people are depressed by Victim talk—'have to' statements—and energized by Creator talk—'choose to' statements.” (Downing)
“'I have to' read 100 pages in my philosophy book” becomes 'I choose to' read 100 pages in my philosophy book 'because' I want to participate in our class discussion on Monday and learn more about Plato.”4. Become a "reality check."
Can your son really accomplish all of his choices from Strategy 2? For example, is he working too many hours, taking too many courses, participating in too many extracurricular activities, expecting too many A’s?
Is your daughter wisely prioritizing to accomplish classroom success, especially given that the first semester in college includes more challenges and adjustments than she will experience in the next 2-5 years of study?
5. Be ready to encourage.
You have an opportunity to encourage your college student by calling attention to the “big picture” of her life.
Anticipate the areas of college life that most likely have the potential to challenge your son and recall several relevant memories when he overcame these past challenges.
Overwhelmed freshman are probably not thinking rationally or confidently about themselves, but you can provide both reason and support.
Prepare yourself to remind your daughter of past successes and lessons learned.
6. Brainstorm an Action Plan.
Based upon the choices and the prioritizing accomplished in Steps 2 and 3, help your college student to consider what small step he can take towards accomplishing a task.
Now is the time in the conversation to focus upon solutions.
If your daughter is anxious about a writing assignment, suggest that she go to the library for an hour to look up resource materials, see a Reference Librarian for help, or visit the Writing Center to discuss her thesis and essay organization with a tutor.
If your son seems overwhelmed with homework, remind him that studying in the library in-between classes results in greater understanding and increased retention than night time study.
If your daughter says that she does not understand her college reading, ask her if a college reading class was recommended. If so, encourage her to enroll in it. The demands for reading college textbooks are much different from high school expectations, and the SWC reading courses are designed with this as their central focus. You may also tell her to write in the margins of the textbooks. A great deal of research supports text annotation as an excellent reading comprehension strategy. If she isn't sure how to do this, encourage her to take the "College Success Skills" course.
If your son is having trouble with a professor, suggest that he meet with the professor one-on-one as soon as possible to discuss any issues. For suggestions, read the "Know How to Talk with Your Professors" section under College Expectations.
Remind your college student that there are many SWC campus resources available and to contact the office that best addresses his needs. Information can be found on the college web site: http://www.swccd.edu
If you think that your daughter needs to discuss any issue confidentially and objectively, Student Services provides counseling services. Suggest that she make an appointment.
7. Help your child keep the dream of college success.
Your child entered college with a dream and hopes for the future. Talk together about these goals.
Then help your child see that these dreams may be possible if college studies become her priority, is she seeks help when studying becomes difficult. Support him and encourage him. On graduation day, you all will smile with pride at what you have done—together.
Southwestern College www.swccd.edu