Understanding the Transition to College

The transition to college is a time of excitement in the life of your son or daughter. University students experience greater autonomy, intellectual stimulation, increased choices, and new explorations and relationships. Most families adjust fairly well. For some families, excitement about the transition also brings feelings of ambivalence and concern.

Staying informed may help you take proactive steps. Below, please find suggestions to help your child succeed at school. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers extensive services for students on campus. CAPS staff members are also available to consult with parents.

What You Can Do to Support Your Child

Stay in Touch
Even though your child may express the need to be independent, he or she still needs to know that you are available to talk about normal events and difficult issues. So discuss with your child a reasonable plan for you to stay in touch on a regular basis whether it is through writing, emails, or over the phone.

Allow Space
Let your child set the priorities for some conversations. Ask open-ended questions and give him or her room to explain him or herself to you.

Discuss Expectations
Set up some time to talk to your child and agree on expectations, e.g., how often you expect to be seeing or speaking with him or her, money matters and so on. Negotiate a realistic plan.

Be Realistic About College Life
College life is quite hectic and most students find their time crammed because of numerous academic and social obligations. Plan in advance so the time that you have becomes meaningful. Take the time to remind your children to take care of themselves physically and emotionally as well as academically. A balanced life that includes work, play, and rest is essential to a healthy student.

Pick your Battles
Conflicts are a part of the parent-child relationship. However, you may want to prioritize what is really important to you and decide which issues you are willing to let go.

Encourage Your Child to Make Use of Penn Resources
Penn offers numerous resources to enhance your child’s experience while in college. (See Penn Resources section at the back of this guide.) Penn is a big place but you can help your child by suggesting various resources when you think it is appropriate.