How Parents Can Help Students Adjust to College Life

college girl sleeping

Guest columnist Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer and mother of three.  She primarily writes about parenting, family life and teen issues.  Her work has appeared in many online and print publications including Teen Life, Your Teen, Scary Mommy, SheKnows and Grown and Flown.


After all the hard work and stress of the college application process, your student has gotten accepted to college. Regardless of how many school visits or how much research a student has done, there may still be challenges as they transition from high school to college.

Understanding some of the issues your student may face and discussing them openly can help them to have a better freshmen experience.  


Homesickness - Even if your teen was thrilled with their school choice and is excited to start college, he many still experience homesickness. Students may be surprised by how much they miss their family, their friends, teammates, pets or even just their own bed. It can be hard for teens start over in a new place where no one knows them, especially if they had a very positive high school experience.

Let your student know that it is common and natural to have feelings of homesickness even if they love college. This feeling should pass as they get more adjusted to college life, meet more people and become involved in activities they enjoy.


Roommate issues - If you are used to having your own room and some privacy, it can difficult to live with a roommate(s).

Even if a teen chooses a roommate through social media or fills out a questionnaire for compatibility, living with someone else is a challenge.

One of the biggest mistakes freshmen tend to make is assuming roommates need to be best friends and do everything together.  Students may get upset if they don’t feel they are making a great connection with their roommate.

 Instead of forcing a fast friendship, suggest students put the focus on being a good person to share space with. Remind them to keep their side of the room clean, be considerate, ask if it is okay to have other people in the room, etc. If there are issues between roommates, try to work them out in a cordial manner. If the issues persist, the student should discuss matters with their residential advisor.


Health issues - While being independent is exciting, it also means your parents are not there to make sure you eat well, go to bed on time or take our daily medication. The “freshmen fifteen” can be a reality if students make poor choices in the cafeteria or party too much. Living in close quarters with other teens and having low immunity may result in catching more colds, flus and viruses.  

Being away from home and not feeling well can be awful for teens, especially if they wind up being a sick for a week or more.

Parents can help their teen by having discussions about health, personal care and fitness before their teen leaves for school. Remind them that they should go to the health center if they are feeling ill and not self-medicate or let symptoms linger unchecked for several days.


Social concerns - Students may have preconceived ideas of what their college social life will be like.  Sometimes, things don't go according to their plan. For example, a student that really wanted to participate in Greek life may not get into the fraternity or sorority of their choice. They may love the other students they meet the first two weeks but then slowly find out that they are not as compatible as they originally thought. Or the social life in general may be different than what they anticipated. They may get even more upset when they see friends on social media who seem to be having a better time then they are.

Encourage your student to be open-minded about college life.  It may take time to make true friends. Every campus has a broad array of activities. It may take time to find the activities and people that they really enjoy.

Remind your student that social media may not be giving an accurate depiction of other people’s college experience and to avoid making comparisons.


Academic problems - Students may know exactly which classes they want to take and be upset to find that they can’t get into a class. When talking with your student about this, remind him that he will be at school for several years and as he becomes more senior, he should be able to get into these classes.  If there is a specific issue, encourage your student to advocate for himself with a professor or academic advisor.

It may take a little time for your teen to get used to the pace and material of their college classes. College freshmen need to remember that they are in school to learn and not put so much pressure on themselves to get good grades from the start. As they adjust and continue to work hard, they will become academically successful.


Transitioning from high school to college life can take some time. Let your student know you are still just a phone call (or text) away if they want to talk.  Also most colleges offer on campus mental health counselors – encourage your student to seek support if they are struggling to adjust.


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