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High School to College: The Most Significant Transition Our Kids Will Face


Supporting your kid when they go to college is incredibly challenging, especially when they move far away from home and their childhood support systems. Fortunately, a new study has identified the four main stressors that new college students face: tackling multiple challenges at once, learning how to live independently, feeling supported by the university, and feeling like they belong. 

Tackling Multiple Challenges 

New college students must figure out how to balance their social life, academics, finances, chores, exercise, and diet immediately after transitioning to a completely new environment. Rarely, if ever, has your kid had to face all of these responsibilities at once, leaving them overwhelmed or unable to tackle these challenges effectively. 

Independent Living 

Living independently doesn’t always live up to students’ expectations. Your kid may not get along with their roommate as they had hoped, may not know how to approach difficult conversations with their friends, may struggle to manage self-directed learning outside of lecture, and may not understand how to be as successful or “put together” as their peers appear to be. 

Feeling Supported by the University 

It’s easy to feel lost in lecture halls with hundreds of other students, and your kid may not be aware of the resources available to them at their school or how to access those resources. Many students are also intimidated by their professors and administrators and don’t understand how to communicate their needs. Additionally, the requests for accommodations and mental health support are skyrocketing, and universities cannot meet the demand. 

Sense of Belonging 

The biggest indicator of success for your kid is whether they feel like they belong at their college. Your kid must enroll in activities like intramural sports, clubs, and extracurriculars for the first time. Without these structured environments, your kid is less likely to find like-minded peers and develop meaningful relationships, which leads to greater feelings of loneliness. 

How to Prepare for Success 

  • Routines: Routines make life more predictable and less stressful. If your student studies at the same place daily, they will get their work done faster and be more engaged with the material they’re learning. Routines also make space for healthy habits, like getting consistent exercise. 
  • Planning: Your kid should be able to attend all of the social events they want to, and if they take the time to make a plan at the beginning of the week, they can adjust their other responsibilities when necessary. Weekly planning will also help your students avoid last-minute cramping for assignments they didn’t realize they had. 
  • University Resources: Before your kid leaves for college, help them list all available resources, like peer tutoring or a writing center. When speaking to professors and administrators, they may also need clear instructions for accessing those resources, including the language. 
  • Intimidating Conversations: Confrontation with peers or communicating with professors gets easier with practice. Encourage your kid to practice specific scenarios they may face in college with you or another trusted adult to learn what to say and how to respond to different feedback they get. 

Parenting a child who struggles with executive function can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Let Untapped help!

Resources: 

Bridging the Gap 

Colleges Facing Increasing Accommodations Requests

The Transition from High School to College

Independent skills you’ll need to survive your first year at college

Campus support every first-year college student should use

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