K-State experts say adjusting to college life a challenge for students and their families
By Beth Bohn
Homesickness, adjusting to a roommate and financial woes are just some of the problems new students may have to cope with as they adjust to college life, particularly during the first few weeks of school.
Kansas State University's Carla Jones and Heather Reed say there are steps both students and their parents and families can take to help ease the transition. Jones is assistant vice president for institutional advancement and senior associate dean of student life. Reed is assistant dean of student life.
For parents and families, Jones and Reed recommend:
* Encouraging their students to not come home on weekends, at least for the first few weekends. "It is important for students to start making connections with other students through campus activities and classes. It's also important that new students acclimate themselves to their college community so they'll begin to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings," Jones said.
* Helping their students to help themselves. "Parents should familiarize themselves with the types of services and assistance available at their student's college so they'll be able to pass on helpful suggestions when needed," Reed said. "K-State and other schools offer hotline number parents can call if they have questions or concerns about their students. Several books on making the transition to college also are available at bookstores."
* To avoid calling each other every day. "Frequent calling by parents or family members can become intrusive and give students a feeling that they are not really 'on their own,'" Reed said. "This also can work the other way. Sometimes students will call their parents for input on decisions they have to make, limiting the students' need to make decisions themselves. It's probably best to limit calls to just a few times a week."
A less intrusive option may be to e-mail or use instant messaging a few times a week, Jones said. "Keeping in touch and keeping the flow of information between students and their families is important -- just don't overdo it."
* To keep the cards and care packages coming. "Packages, letters -- with checks enclosed -- and care packages are still welcome by students," Jones said.
"While e-mail has probably replaced the letters that in the past went from home to college, I don't think it will ever replace how special getting a card or package from home can be," Reed said. "My own daughters loved getting cards and packages when they were in college. It is a special way of showing a student that they are in your thoughts and are loved."
* To expect changes in your student. "When they do come home on holiday breaks or for weekends, parents will notice their students may look, act and even sound differently. Families should prepare themselves that this will be a good thing as part of the expected growth and development of their student," Jones said.
Reed recommends asking students open-ended questions to find out how they are adjusting to college life. "Getting students to elaborate, rather than just asking questions that elicit a one-word response, can help parents detect possible problems."
* Giving students some leeway in financial matters, no matter who is paying the bills: parents, the students or both. "They need to have a say in how the money will be managed," Jones said.
* Having a talk about credit card use. Credit card applications can be widely available on college campuses, so understanding credit management could help some students avoid accumulating large debts, Reed said.
To make the adjustment to college easier on students, Jones and Reed recommend:
* Developing good time-management skills. "Students need to learn how to use their study time and free time effectively. There will be many demands on a student's time and evaluating and making a time-management plan can contribute to a successful college experience," Reed said.
* To consider getting a part-time job. "Having a part-time job can be a good way of gaining some time-management skills," said Jones, who recommends, if possible, that students work 10 hours a week. "Having a job gives students a place to be outside of class. A job also can be an incentive for a student to study and finish necessary chores, such as laundry," she said.
* Taking advantage of your school's resources for academic assistance, such as tutors.
* To never hesitate to ask for help -- whether it's from a residence hall assistant, academic adviser, fellow students or a faculty member -- and keep in mind that most problems encountered won't be unique. "Students need to take a moment to realize that everybody else is in the same boat," Reed said.
* Getting involved -- but don't overdo it. "I've had some students complain that they're bored. They're usually suffering from withdrawal," Jones said. "They were active in high school with sports and other extracurricular activities. But when they got to college, they decided to make a commitment to academics. It's important they find outlets to get involved in college life. It's also important that they find the right balance so they won't get involved in more than they can handle."