Your Student’s First Year


Grace Pyka

Grace Pyka

Director of Parent Relations

Grace Pyka

Grace Pyka

Director of Parent Relations

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.

Southwestern celebrates and supports our first-year students who are the first in their family to attend college (First Generation College Students). The Captain’s Academy is a place where our first-year, first-gen students can find social connection and support as they journey through their unique college experiences.

Monthly Guide to Key Issues, Transitions and Emotions Many First-Year Students Experience

Month Student CONCERNS Advice for Parents

Registration for spring classes

Preparing for Final Exams

Making travel plans for the holidays


Ask your student what they would like to do while home for the holiday.

Remind your student that adequate preparation time for final exams is important to their success. Remind them about the value of adequate amounts of sleep, proper eating, rest and relaxation in addition to following a routine of study habits.

Be supportive of your student during this month and through the short holiday.


Final exams

Anticipating semester grades

Winter Break

Financial challenges

Time management


Talk with your student about academic major choices. The Center for Career & Professional Development is a great resource.

Talk also about the Greek system; fraternity and sorority rush occurs in January at Southwestern

Look to the future for positive results and encourage your student if their 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; discuss local, regional, and national news, and show interest in the work they’re doing at Southwestern.

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 (512-863-1486) 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 Registrar staff will check in with your student.

Suggested Reading for Parents

We highly recommend that all parents review the Southwestern Families Magazine, 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.