Transitioning from high school to college is not only hard on the students, it can also be extremely difficult for the parents.
The kids are looking forward to the independence of college and their new chapter. That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of anxiety with this BIG step, but it’s truly something they are excited to begin.
Mom and Dad, on the other hand, are literally relegated to a new role – moving from manager to mentor – overnight. No longer involved in the day-to-day schedule or decisions or conversations but expected to immediately find satisfaction in the occasional call or text or Facetime.
With so much focus and energy devoted to helping the student successfully transition to their college environment, parents tend to forget to prepare themselves for this inevitability.
They find themselves wanting to be interrupted or stumbling over backpacks left at the front door or met with an unmade bed and dirty laundry scattered on the floor when they peek into the empty bedroom.
So, emotions aside, what should parents expect from this new mentor role they’re thrusted into during their child’s first year of college?
A good place to start is to look at the results of the First College Year Study, research provided by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI).
HERI has been conducting their survey on an annual basis since 2,000, which is the first national survey designed specifically to measure student development in the first year of college.
Distributed to students at the end of their first year, the sample consists of 5,204 first-time, full-time students at institutions across the country.
And, while it doesn’t provide all the answers, it does provide an interesting snapshot of the first year, one that you can ponder as you drop your child off, wave your final wave of goodbye and embrace your new role as mentor.
Some of their findings from the 2018 study:
- 73% of students are satisfied with general education and core curriculum courses
- 79% are satisfied with their overall academic experience
- 86% would recommend their college to others
- 54% used student health services
- 43% used study skills advising
- 47% used the writing center
- 36% used financial aid advising
Demands and Leisure
- 34% felt their job responsibilities interfered with schoolwork
- 35% felt their family responsibilities interfered with schoolwork
- 13% spent three or more hours per week commuting
- 64% spent three or more hours per week watching TV/online video content
- 45% pray or meditate
- 58% spent three or more hours per week exercising or playing sports
- 59% strongly agree that it is important to think about their career path after college
- 24% strongly agree that they have a clear idea of how to achieve their career goals
- 42% used career services
- 19% are very satisfied with the relevance of coursework to their future career plans
- 36% decided to pursue a different major
- 34% change their career choice
With over a third of new students changing majors and/or career choice in the first year, it would seem that self-awareness, college choice and a deep understanding of career paths – before the freshman year – are extremely important.
This is why we, here at Center for College Solutions, believe so much in the Birkman Assessment, which measures and analyzes a person’s natural passions and aptitude for specific subject matter.
It’s also why we emphasize the importance of “right fit” colleges when it comes to school choice. Hopefully, when you were wearing the “project manager” hat, you took those things into consideration.
Now, as the mentor, you’ll have to face what the Wall Street Journal calls a “new dynamic in trying to understand from afar when best to intervene and when to hang back.”
The WSJ also asserts that one of the biggest challenges during that first year are emotional – fear of failure, fear of not fitting in, fear of disappointing.
Understanding some of these challenges is the first step towards mentoring your child during this transition period.
So, while it may be tempting to want to micromanage their minute-by-minute college experience – now is the time to offer emotional support, guidance and encouragement as they navigate this new world on their own.
If you’d like to learn more about preparing for college, check out my book Never Pay Retail for College.