I have written a fair amount of blogs for students, but parents and guardians—this one is for you. Whether you have sent three kids to college already or are preparing for your first time, it’s worth refreshing some ideas of how you can show support to your student during their first semester of college.
As a current junior at Cornerstone, I only know my own experience from the student side of things. So, I called in a couple of special guests for this post who are more qualified to speak from the parent perspective: my mom and dad, Rosanne and Derek DeKryger.
I asked my parents a few questions about their experience sending my older sister and I to college. My hope is that their insights will help you, too!
MOVING TO COLLEGE
While I only went an hour away to Cornerstone, my sister’s college was in a different state. She would be living near Chicago, a big city without family close by if she needed anything. So the distance changed some things, and it meant my parents had to help my sister do a lot more planning before dropping her off farther away.
My parents figured the best way to prepare her was plenty of lists and detailed conversations. The lists were to help prevent forgetting anything, and the conversations were all about city life. It was important to them that my sister was ready for the new situations she might find herself in.
While I was still in high school, we would also take full-day, or even weekend trips to go see my sister. That way we could bring her anything she needed and spend quality time with her as a family.
With me, things are far more casual because I am closer to home.
“I felt comfortable dropping you off in Grand Rapids because I knew it was a safe area,” my dad told me.
My parents often drive up to Cornerstone and meet me for dinner or to drop off anything I might need.
ADJUSTING TO NEW ROUTINES
Even though Cornerstone is closer to home, at the beginning, it was still a process for my parents to learn how to give me space. My parents were always willing to help if needed, but they did not ever invade my space. It was important to them that I made friends and explored this new stage of my life.
“As much as you want to call all of the time, let them call you,” my mom advised. “It is tempting to check in on a daily basis, but giving your student space is really important.”
Don’t worry, they will call. As a student, I can personally confirm that. Inevitably there are car problems, confusion with paperwork and the classic struggle to work a washing machine.
It was hard adjusting to an empty nest, but my parents kept busy around the house and enjoyed time alone together for what was probably the first time in 27 years. They spent time with friends, hiked and did a lot of other activities they enjoyed so they were not just sitting around the house.
The best thing you can do for your student is to be as patient as you can. Sometimes they will need space, sometimes they will want more contact and sometimes they simply will not know because everything is still so new. This will most likely be their first step into the adult world, and it takes time to adjust. With that in mind, let them make the first call.
As my mom said, “You cannot solve every problem for your kid. Sometimes you have to let them grow up.”
Even though it can be difficult to take that step back, you have to believe your student can do it. I can tell you firsthand that support from a parent or caregiver is so empowering.
I speak from experience when I say the first semester of college is a stressful time for students. We may not always admit it, but nothing truly prepares us for such a dramatic change. There is so much going on at any given time for a student—new classes, worship events, figuring out campus, adjusting to roommates, etc.
Everything is new. Both parents and students are figuring all of it out. It takes a little while to find a balance with everything that college brings.
I hope this offered some insight into the mind of a new college student and provided some good advice for your family as you and your student prepare for the first semester of college. For more information, check out Cornerstone’s parent resources page.