Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives

For Parents

Your Student’s First Year

Families will face the time when their student recognizes that they will soon be departing for college - freedom, responsibility, independence - and family members must let go. The departure is a significant milestone in the life of a family and ushers in a time of separation and transition, requiring an adjustment on the part of parents, the college bound student, and the whole family. What should you expect in your student’s first year?

“One of the most difficult parts of being the parent of a college student is observing from afar as your child makes the often bumpy transition from dependence to independence. After years of being a responsible, caring, and ‘in control’ parent, this change can be frightening, rewarding, and nerve-racking — sometimes all in the same week!” —

Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Guide to the College Years, by Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller, St. Martin’s, 2000.


monthly guide of key issues, transitions and emotions many first-year students experience
















Finals week

Anticipating semester grades

Financial challenges

Time management

Winter Break approaching







Maintaining academic success

Improving in areas of difficulty

Midterm exams

Making plans for Spring Break

Time management





Talk with your student about academic major options.

Discuss the Greek system; fraternity and sorority recruitment occurs in January.

Look to the future for positive results and encourage your student heir grades fell below what you and they had expected.

Although students are on break from school, encourage them to remain engaged by talking about their upcoming courses.





Continue to encourage your student to achieve success and focus on areas that most require improvements.

Spring Break is an important event for all college students, but that doesn’t have to mean rambunctious fun. Ask your son or daughter what their plans are, and ask if they know about Destination: Service and service opportunities, which can be uplifting and valuable events.

Plan ahead for summer and fall registration.

If a parent ever has a concern about his or her student’s emotional or physical well-being, we encourage a phone call to the Office of Parent Relations (800-960-6363) for referral to the appropriate campus resource. Due to FERPA regulations, staff will not be able to share information about your student’s situation with you, but be assured that a member of the Student Life or Academic Success and Records staff will check in with your student.

suggested reading for parents

We highly recommend that all parents review the Southwestern Parent Handbook, especially the section titled, Partnering for Success. The faculty and staff of Southwestern focus on one outcome - the success of our students. We ask parents to partner with us by:

  • Asking your student questions rather than providing the answers.
  • Encouraging your student to resolve issues by identifying and utilizing campus resources.
  • Helping your student understand that processes are valuable in the educational environment.
  • Avoiding the temptation to get overly involved in processes that are designed for students to do themselves.

Don’t just take our word for it! Here are some helpful resources about parenting a college student.

  • Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, Perennial Books, 2003.
  • The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up, by Barbara K. Hofer, 2011.
  • You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years, by Majorie Savage, 2003.