6 tips parents can use to help their student succeed in their first year of college

Check-in. And often.

Give them a call or shoot them a text. Even if it is just leaving a message, let them hear your voice. When talking with them ask open-ended questions, like “what is your favorite class and why?”

Texting is also a great resource and can be done more often than a phone call.  It also gives your child the freedom to choose when to respond. Calling or texting them once a week is also a great habit to get into, especially if it’s at a consistent time. Consider making it a standing “meeting,” like every Sunday night at 8 pm.

Also, encourage their siblings to continue to reach out to them. It doesn’t always have to be the parents or guardians who reach out regularly. New students are often trying to balance their new school requirements and their family and cultural responsibilities. The decision to attend college affects not only the student but the family dynamics as well. Love and support by all parties will ease this transition and may have life-changing implications for the family unit.

Ask the RIGHT questions.

Don’t just ask the easy questions. Ask questions that will prompt your student to really share about their new lifestyle. For instance, ask:

  • What are some challenges you are facing?
  • When is your next big paper due or your first test?
  • When are you blocking time to study?
  • Is there a better time of day for you to study? Morning or evening?
  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Have you looked into joining any registered student groups on campus?

Just remember. It’s important not to pry. Just asking a couple of questions to help them realize that you care and you are not trying to be overly nosy. The typical traditional college student is in the midst of really defining themselves as adults and they need encouragement to grow and mature.

Parents walk a fine line between showing they care and being too nosy.  Your relationships may shift a bit during this time of transition, but for many it becomes even better. After a few months on their own, your child may start to understand all of the support their parents/guardians offered and it increases their respect for you.

Encourage them to take advantage of college resources.

At Davenport, we spend a lot of time discussing support during orientation. A student’s professor is a great starting point for students to understand their workload, deadlines and ask questions about what is expected of them. Davenport also offers academic advisors who offer incredible support for students. You can also encourage your student to seek tutoring support; many colleges offer this support at no cost.

Watch for red flags.

You should start to get concerned if your student stops returning your texts or provides evasive answers to your questions. You should also be concerned if your student appears to be sick or ill. If you notice any unusual trends or these red flags, encourage your student to seek resources or to contact their advisor. If you have a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Form filled out and on file, you may also reach out to their advisor directly.

Know the college and class schedule.

It’s fair game to ask your child how classes are going, and where they are struggling in classes. If you sense they are getting agitated, you may want to dig deeper to understand why. They may be struggling to keep up or may not even be going to a certain class. Don’t ask what their grades are, but instead ask if they are keeping on top of their homework.

A great way to offer support is to encourage your child to keep a planner. Time management is critical to success in the first year of college. If your student says they have a big paper due on the 25th, it would be great to write that down so you can encourage them to do their best.

You may also want to add major college-year milestones to your calendar as well.  That way you’ll know when your child may be facing exams or wrapping up a semester. It will also give you an opportunity to check-in and see if they are planning to return home for the holidays or the summer.

Treat them like an adult.

The best advice? Treat your child like an adult when they begin college and encourage them to become the best version of themselves.



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