College students have to make a huge transition during heir first year in college. Indeed, up to 34% of college students will drop out in their first year of college. Parents need to know how to help a first-year college students stay the course.
Sometimes the work load is too heavy for a first-year college student. It could be problems with time management, the reality of a roommate issue, lower grades, or dashed expectations that cause a student to come home after the first semester or the first year and announce he or she wants to leave college. Parents cannot fix it, but they can help their son or daughter find his/her way and try staying in college before making the decision to leave.
Here are some helpful hints.
• Students who are connected to their college are more likely to stay. Parents can suggest students reach out by joining a club or organization. Parents might also suggest the student go off-campus to explore the larger community or start volunteering. (See our article about campus activities for involvement.)
• Listen, but don’t rush in. Parents should not be calling college administrators or resident advisors; the student should. Give any complaint or upset 24 hours before talking about it. When you do have the conversation, try to take the drama out of it. Every student can succumb to panic or emotion. You need to look at the bottom line of any situation to bring the student back down to a reality. Ask your son or daughter to identify resources on the campus and to come up with his or her own plan for dealing with the problem(s). However, if your son or daughter is at risk, parents should know emergency contact numbers like campus security. (See our article about college campus resources!)
• Do be in contact with your son or daughter but not every day. Set up a plan to phone at a certain time on a certain day each week, but let the student begin to set up his or her own communication network. (See our article on how close parents should be with their college student.)
• Don’t encourage your son or daughter to come home too often. Home visits strength home ties that can increase a feeling of homesickness. Your college student needs to get to know other students outside the classroom.
• If your son or daughter seems to have made a decision to leave college, ask him or her to consider alternatives. For example, he or she may agree to one more semester if changes are made such as a new roommate, finding academic support, not working an outside job, or lightening a course schedule.
Often it can be a matter of time. Adjustment does not happen overnight, and students can get a real sense of accomplishment by sticking it out. Parents can help a college student to do just that.