Parenting a College Student: 10 Tips to Help Them Be Their Best


Successfully Parenting a College Student

The day you’ve thought about for 18 years has arrived.

Your baby doesn’t look so little anymore, holding that college acceptance letter. In an instant, your mind races through your nearly two decades together. You think about baby rattles, cribs and crawling. Then suddenly, you remember middle school braces, their first car, and prom.

It can be a whirlwind, this process of letting go. However, it can also be one of the most tender times in your relationship, opening the gate to a beautiful future.

Feeling a little overwhelmed by it all? We understand.

Today, we’re sharing our top 10 tips on parenting a college student to help you get through this transition, one step at a time.

1. Communicate the way they prefer.

Sure, it’s tempting to call them three times a day to make sure they’ve eaten a proper meal.

Yet, remember that this is an important time for them to find their wings. While it’s good to keep in touch, ask them how they’d prefer to do so. Are they avid texters? Or are social media messages more their speed?

Today, there are more ways to connect than ever before. Early on, establish parameters around communication and make sure that everyone respects them.

2. Send care packages to your college student.

No matter their age, everyone loves getting a present in the mail.

Care packages are a sweet and simple way to send a little love and tokens of home to your child. Think about things they’d love (a gift card for an audio book, for example) as well as practical items (coins for the laundry machine).

Tuck in a little note and a few family photos, and they’ll look forward to mail day.

3. Let your college student choose their courses.

It’s tempting to intercede and choose your college student’s courses yourself. This is especially the case if they’re a freshman. While they might need you to help them understand how the selection process works, allow them to choose the subjects that interest them.

As long as their core requirements are met, they’re free to take a range of electives. Let them explore the opportunities and follow their interests. Their academic advisor can always intercede if they need a little more guidance.

4. Show interest in their interests.

Did they discover a new local band they really love? Have they fallen in love with the newest style that’s sweeping the campus?

Pay attention when they share these details with you. Then, show them you took their interests to heart. Buy the band’s album or ship an outfit they’d love to their dorm. This little act sends a huge message that says “I was listening.”

5. Encourage academic meetings.

Advisors, professors, and teaching assistants have a passion for education, and they want to see your child succeed. To that end, encourage meetings with these experts, especially if you see that college is a little more challenging than anticipated.

Most professors are required to dedicate a few hours each week to student meetings. These one-on-one conferences can be invaluable to your child’s progress and can lay the groundwork for a successful college career.

6. Don’t help with your college student’s homework.

We get it. Since kindergarten, you’ve been able to look over their shoulder and check their work. When they were younger, you might have helped with projects and worked on school crafts together. Now, you don’t exactly have that privilege, but that’s OK.

Relish this freedom and allow them to do their own work, even if it’s a subject they aren’t totally grasping. Remember: That’s what those advisor meetings are for! They’ll learn more when they do it on their own, as difficult as it might be to relinquish that control.

Along the same lines, now is a good time to step back and let your child set their own personal schedule. Allow them to set a date for their yearly physical or make an appointment for a routine dental cleaning. When they graduate, they’ll be that much more capable and self-sufficient as they enter the real world.

7. Take a long-term perspective.

If your child comes home with a failing grade on an exam, don’t rush to conclusions and send in the troops. Remember, most college programs take years to complete. It’s unlikely that they’ll ace every midterm, quiz, research paper, or lab.

If your child takes a little while to acclimate at the beginning of the year, give it time. Those early assignments count less as the semester goes on. As long as their academic performance is in the right direction, they’ll have time to get up to speed.

8. Talk about pressures a college student faces.

College is one of the most exciting times in your child’s life. Unfortunately, it’s also replete with temptations that you might have shielded them from until now.

Instead of worrying yourself sick, talk to your child about acting responsibly. Provide research on the realities of excessive partying, drinking, and other dangerous activities. Back up your claims with medical research and let the facts speak for themselves.

9. Keep the last month open.

In many college courses, a significant percentage of your child’s grade will be decided in the last month of the semester (i.e. November/December and April/May). During those four weeks, they’ll need to dedicate as much time as possible to study.

As their parent, you can do your part to help them focus. Don’t schedule vacation plans or lots of family activities during this time, and refrain from texting them every hour. Respect these important times and you’ll be glad you did.

10. Give it time.

One day, you’re parenting a high-schooler. And the next, you’re the parent of a college kid.

You won’t have all of the answers overnight, and they won’t either. Don’t berate yourself for forgetting an event, missing an important sign, or neglecting to handle conflict in the right way. Your child might be embarking on a new period of learning, but you are, too.

Give each other the freedom to grow, make mistakes, and discover just what this next chapter holds.

Parenting a College Student and Acing It

Parenting a college student can be an exercise in patience and self-control. There’s no definitive guidebook or right/wrong playing cards to shuffle. You’ll have to discover and navigate this new path together, and doing so can be incredibly rewarding.

Before your child heads off on this new adventure, we’d love to see them in our office. At this age, it might be time for an orthodontic evaluation or wisdom teeth evaluation, so let’s take care of that next step together.

Call today to schedule an appointment at our Vancouver office. Then, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back. You can do this!