By Caitlin Fahey for CollegeTipsForParents.org
The transition from high school to college is difficult. For the parents. For those of you who are sending your children to college for the first time, I’m sure you’re a nervous wreck. But a college education is what every parent wants for their children today, isn’t it? I survived my freshman year (and so did my parents). I went on to mentor freshmen for two years, and am currently a graduate assistant, teaching two sections of freshman English. I can assure you, you don’t have to worry as much as you think you do.
Many of you probably worry about the fact that your son or daughter is alone in an unfamiliar place. How safe is their campus, you might ask yourself. In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, you aren’t the only anxiety-ridden person. Schools all over the country are stepping up the security measures. At my alma mater, there are emergency phones so evenly distributed throughout the campus that an orientation leader boasted, “There isn’t one place on campus that you can stand without at least one blue light in view.” The blue lights on the phones signal a place where one push of a large “help” button immediately calls 911. Since Virginia Tech, many schools have also implemented an emergency text message service, so that in the case of a campus-wide emergency, students may be alerted anywhere.
I bet I can guess your next worry: alcohol, right? Universities today are not only associated with higher education, but with keg parties and binge drinking. However, I’m sorry to say that it’s not your place to lecture. But rest assured: universities don’t like the “party school” label anymore than you like imagining Johnny too hung-over to make it to Chemistry. Since my college days, I’ve also seen dorm security tighten up, and many campuses assign freshmen and sophomores to “dry” residences, where no alcohol is permitted. Likewise, for two years I was a mentor for a “First Year Experience” class, a one-credit course designed to help freshmen adjust. We had a unit on drug and alcohol abuse and educated the class about everything from legal repercussions to the signs of alcohol poisoning. If you can’t stop a college student from drinking, you can help them drink responsibly.
No matter what I say, I’m sure you still have doubts in the back of your mind. What if something does happen? Chances are, your child’s school has an abundance of resources. I teach freshmen English to a relatively small class. Because of the intimate classroom setting, the students tend to open up to their English teachers. I’ve had students come to office hours to talk about boy troubles, or use in-class writing to rant about how they think they are failing chemistry. I have a number of referrals I can make in these situations. Mental Health Services offer confidential counseling for students fighting depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. There is an Advocacy Center that also offers counseling and advice for extenuating circumstances, and study resources such as the Writing Center and tutoring services. Besides, there are so many recreational facilities and student activities on campus, that there’s a good chance your child will get over their homesickness and be in good spirits all semester.
For the parents, college brings a lot to worry about. Are they eating? Are they safe? Are they doing well in school? College is just as much a transition for the student as it is the parent. The bright side is that the four years of university will fly by. Suddenly, you’ll realize that the child you left in a strange dorm four years ago has become a young adult.
This article was originally written for CollegeTipsForParents.org by Caitlin Fahey a few years back, when Caitlin was pursuing a Master’s degree in English while teaching two sections of First Year Composition, a college writing course for college freshman students. As an undergrad, she similarly served as a freshman year mentor in a First Year Experience program. In addition to teaching, Caitlin’s interests include writing, theater, and film. As an experienced college student, she has some useful insights for college parents regarding: College Drinking, Campus Security, College Health, and other typical worries of College Parents.