Transitioning from high school to college is not hardest on the students… it’s definitely more difficult for the parents.
The kids are forward looking - anticipating independence and freedoms and challenges and feelings akin to wondering what Santa left under the Christmas tree. 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 snap shot 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 micro-manage 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, please check out my book Never Pay Retail for College by clicking on the menu above.