The Province
Published September 2nd 2019
Authors: Dickson/James

Opinion: The move from high school to college is massive for kids and parents alike. Here are five tips to help ease the transition

As summer comes to a close, many first-year post-secondary students have packed up their bedrooms and started what is likely the biggest transition of their lives. About two million students are attending colleges and universities across Canada this year — many for the first time.

As college instructors, we have faced many freshmen and have seen how the first term can be especially challenging. Despite their talents, young people often struggle to navigate the web of newfound independence, relationships and demands of student life. We suggest that parents and family look for small ways to provide encouragement. Below are five simple ideas for those wishing to provide support.

Facilitate a graceful exit

Leaving home and heading to university is a major milestone that deserves attention. Finding a way to mark this transition helps to acknowledge your adolescent’s shift into adulthood. A special family dinner, a small gift or a card to commemorate the occasion will help to close one chapter and open the next. Know that if your child has moved out, it’s not uncommon for parents and younger siblings to go through a grieving period. Be prepared and consider how you can support yourself and family members as you all adjust to a new dynamic.

Schedule a weekly call

The first year of college is challenging and sometimes lonely for many students. Don’t underestimate the stress of new living arrangements, friendships and the academic pressures that come with college. By scheduling a regular phone call or FaceTime session, your voice of reason from the sidelines will boost their confidence. Studies show that, on average, 30 per cent of students drop out after their first year. By keeping the lines of communication open, your continuing support will help to keep your young adult on track.

Encourage use of campus resources

Universities and colleges offer a wealth of services. Supports can include free peer tutoring, career coaching and personal counselling services. Encourage your student to take advantage of all that their campus has to offer. For example, most institutions have writing centres that provide free feedback on written assignments. While we aren’t advocating for helicopter parenting, being knowledgeable and dropping subtle hints every now and then can be of great of value.

Know your kid’s schedule

University and academic term schedules are easily found via a quick Google search. Place the exam periods in your calendar. Your extra awareness around these stressful periods will make you more sensitive to the pressures your kid may be facing. This proactive approach also allows you to help out around planning. By keeping an eye on the end of the spring term, you can encourage your student to think about summer job applications well before the stress of exams hits.

Be open about finances

Students we come across who finance part or all of their education are often more serious about their studies. Contributing financially, whether through summer employment or a part-time campus job, teaches the value of money and can be a source of motivation.

It’s a long trip from your kid’s bedroom to their new college or university dorm room. The move from high school to college is massive for kids and parents alike. But, in our experience, the journey can be successful. Just because they’re no longer living under your roof doesn’t mean that you can’t still offer your guidance from time to time, to help along the way.

Caroline Dickson teaches human resources management and strategic management at the Langara School of Management. Kevin James is on the faculty of the Sauder School of Business, University of B.C., and the Langara School of Management.


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