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Parents' guide to university life

Universities today have changed a lot since most parents were students. Technology used in teaching, facilities available to students, accommodations and even the social activities on campus are very different today. University life may feel just as overwhelming to parents as it does to students but it is important to provide children the support they need to adjust to their new lifestyle.

The first few weeks at university

The first few weeks at university are the most crucial. New students may be worried about how they would fit in and if they would be able to make friends. As a parent, you would want to provide your child the reassurance that everything will be fine in a short time. Talk to them to ensure they have realistic expectations of university life. You should also help them understand that it takes quite some time to form friendships and to adjust to the new lifestyle on campus. University life offers a lot of freedom and this might be an issue with some students. Talk to your child to ensure they are focused on their education and that they do not take undue advantage of the freedom they have away from home.

Academic demands of university

The learning structure at university is very different from high school and it may take quite some time for new students to adapt to these differences. With the new independence they have on campus, there might be a lot of distractions and procrastination that may make it difficult for your child to put in the effort to study. If your child is having problems adjusting to the new style of studying, encourage him or her to speak to a professor and seek help on campus to overcome the difficulties.

Accommodation options available

For most parents, university accommodation is one of the main concerns, especially when their child has enrolled in a university abroad. Most universities today offer some form of accommodations to students for the first year. There are several different options to choose from. Traditional residence halls with meals, self-contained apartments, hotel quality private rooms and shared accommodations are the few options available. Each accommodation type has a different cost attached to it. While a private room is definitely the most comfortable, parents should also remember that their child would be responsible for cleaning and cooking. With their academic and social obligations, they might not always have enough time available to do that.

Living with a roommate

In most cases, your child will have to share a room with a stranger. This may present a few problems if your child has never shared a room with someone else. It is important for parents to talk to their children and explain that adapting with another person is an essential skill that will prove to be helpful every stage of their life. Encourage them to discuss all issues with their roommate and try to resolve them in a healthy manner instead of letting problems grow.

Dealing with homesickness

Even if your child is excited to attend university, he/she may soon experience homesickness as they try to adapt to their new environment. If your child comes home every weekend, it may take even longer for them to adapt to their new life. Encourage your child to spend as much time as possible on campus so they can experience university life, make friends faster and make the transition process easier. During their time on campus, parents should communicate with their children on a regular basis and discuss their problems.

Social life

University offers students an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded students and form solid friendships that may last a lifetime. Most universities today cater to a variety of interests including academic, cultural, social and sporting and students can easily find something that suits their interests. Parents should encourage their children to participate as much as they can since it will allow them to meet new people and discover their own interests in the process. If your child’s university has a student exchange program or a study abroad program in place, it would be a great opportunity for your child to experience a new culture and gain valuable life experience.

Parenting Tips for the College Years

As the parent of a college-bound student, you are in a transition period. Big changes are happening in your as well as child’s life. It is an exciting, yet anxious, time for everyone. To deal with the challenges and provide support for your young scholar, consider these parenting tips for the college years.

Start Planning Early

In a student’s junior year, families generally begin talking about which college to choose. This is a lengthy process, involving an assessment of the student’s needs and research about potential schools. A college’s size, location, cost, programs, and other factors should be considered.

Don’t waste your time with a school if its admission qualifications, like grade-point averages and test scores, are beyond your child’s reach. Study college guidebooks and research school rankings. Once you have narrowed the list of possible schools to fewer than five, schedule campus visits and interviews.

Take advantage of admission office advisers, and consider hiring a private counselor trained in the college-application process. The deadline to apply for a fall semester is often Jan. 1, though some schools make their decisions as early as the previous fall. Make sure your child keeps track of these deadlines.

You also can be of assistance in helping to compile the materials that colleges require of applicants. These things include high school transcripts, essays, and various high school records. Most colleges accept a form known as the “common application,” which is available online.

Acknowledge Feelings

When a child moves away from home, it is an emotional experience for everyone involved. Your feelings may be all over the place, from joy to sadness. You are happy and excited for your child, but also sense the “empty-nest syndrome.”

Be open about these feelings with your son or daughter, and discuss his or her anxieties. Parents need to understand that kids undergo emotional swings during this time, because they are leaving everything they have known and entering uncharted territory. Be sensitive to how this experience can be thrilling and terrifying for a young person.

Prepare Your Child

Upon arriving on campus, a college freshman suddenly has many new responsibilities. In addition to academic and social challenges, there are things that students must do for themselves for the first time.

They have to handle money, and learn how to budget wisely. If your kid has never done a budget, provide some instruction. The danger of overusing credit cards also should be discussed.

Talk about the classes for which your son or daughter has registered. Stress the need to set aside time, and find a good place, to study. Help set academic goals that are reasonable and attainable. Keep in mind that many students struggle with their grades during the first semester, or even the entire freshman year, until they become adjusted to college life.

Provide some practical advice, as well. Even if you have purchased roadside-assistance insurance for your child, make sure to also teach him or her how to change a tire and jump-start a vehicle. Make sure your kid knows how to do laundry, shop for food, and keep a room clean.

Encourage healthy eating habits, while understanding that burgers and pizzas are part of the college experience. Have a talk about alcohol, other drugs, and sex. Your child can benefit from your knowledge and experience.

Let Go While Being Supportive

One of the most difficult challenges for parents of college students is supporting their children, while allowing them to live on their own and become adults. You need to find a balance.

Communicate regularly, but don’t expect to know everything about your child’s new life. You are likely to meet resistance if you pry too much. Experts suggest asking general questions, like “how are your classes” and “are you having fun.” Focus on academics, and your kid’s emotional and physical health. Stay positive and give encouragement, emphasizing strengths and accomplishments. Don’t do all the talking; try to get your child to open up about experiences and feelings.

Most college students freak out at some point. They suffer from anxiety about tests, have tumultuous personal relationships, and become homesick. You might get some frantic emails and phone calls. When that happens, be a good listener and respond with calm reassurance. Help your child deal with problems by breaking them down into simple steps and approaching them logically.

You may feel the urge to call or email your newly departed offspring every day. Resist this impulse, though it is a natural result of the feelings you are having. In addition to a sense of loss, you are worried about how your child is doing out there in the world all alone. You should visit the campus, to provide support, see how your kid is living, and meet the roommate. However, don’t do this too often; and refrain from making surprise visits.

Instead of showing up unannounced, send surprise packages. Cash is always appreciated. You also can mail little things that your kid might not think to buy. Experts recommend toiletries and school supplies. Include a letter about what’s happening with the family, or at least a short note of encouragement.

Stress and anxiety, for you and your son or daughter, are to be expected during the college years. You are entering a new period of your family’s life, which may entail excitement and melancholy for you as a parent. Following some of these suggestions may help you get through it all.