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 to Key Issues, Transitions and Emotions Many First-Year Students Experience
Month Student Issue Advice for Parents
Feb. - March

Maintaining academic success

Making plans for Spring Break



Making plans for the summer


Time management





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

Spring Break is an important event for college students, but it doesn’t have to mean risky partying. Ask your student what their plans are, and if they have considered a Spring Breakaway service trip.

Encourage your student to plan ahead for summer and fall course registration, including getting approval for transfer credits, exploring job and internship opportunities, and meeting with his or her adviser.






April -

Fall course registration

Fall housing arrangements

Final projects and exams

Transition back home for the summer

Confirm that there is no outstanding balance with the Business Office that would prevent registration.

Discuss campus housing choices with your student. Some sophomores may elect to live in a fraternity house.

Send a care package to your student. April is a very busy and stressful month. Be sure to help your student stay focused.

Let your student know that you are available to assist them with moving out of the residence hall. Even students staying on campus for the summer typically move rooms/buildings .


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.