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

















Making new friends

New living situation

Financial challenges

Time management

Getting involved on campus






First test results

Academic challenges

Midterm grades

Maintaining health and proper diet

Time management





Be prepared to see a mix of emotions and signals from your student this month. They will face many ups and downs as they make the transition from high school to college.

Encourage your student to stay on campus most weekends. The best way to make social and academic adjustments is to remain on campus and to become involved in new activities.

Visit your student at Southwestern; let them know that your visit is a nice alternative to their returning home each weekend.

Establish a routine day and time for calls, and remember that e-mail and regular letters are important reminders to students that they have support in their new endeavors.


Let your students have their own space … this is a busy month. Encourage them to maintain focus.

Be supportive even if midterm performance is not what you or your student had expected. Remind them to use the library, and to seek advice from professors and other mentors.

Help your son or daughter think about spring registration. Spring tuition and fees must be paid in November.

Encourage your student to visit health and/or counseling services if problems arise.

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.