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High School to College Transition – GIVE IT TIME!

The transition from high school to college can be one of the most formative changes in a student’s life. Living away from home, finding and making friends, figuring out where they fit on campus, rising to new academic challenges – it can be overwhelming! This is a change both students and parents can and should prepare for. Here are some good tips for making the leap from high school senior to college freshman!

For Students:

Expect to feel uncomfortable in your first semester – and maybe the first year! That is OK! That is NORMAL! Be open to that discomfort and understand that all the other freshmen around you are feeling it too! (Including your friends at other schools who are posting fun pics on Instagram – they are feeling it too!).

This is your first time living away from home. Maybe your first time living with a roommate. Of course it’s going to be uncomfortable and challenging. Expect it and then you’ll be prepared when those feelings arise.

Harlan Cohen, author of The Naked Roommate, advises college freshmen to consider finding “People, Places, and Patience” as they transition to life on a college campus. Find people by showing up to clubs or activities that interest you or being willing to talk to people you don’t know yet. Who knows where you will meet a friend? Find places that you can connect to and feel comfortable in – a church or religious group, student center, intramural sports team, the gym. Put yourself in places where you can meet people. You will never find your people or places by sitting in your dorm room! Go to everything! Walk the campus! Smile and be friendly!

Most of all, have patience as you navigate this big change. Remember that it took you a while to find your friends in high school. It will take a while in college too! Be patient. If you’re feeling lonely, call home or go work out at the college gym, or go knock on your suitemate’s door. If you need to take a break one weekend, go home for a few days. It can give you a nice reset.

The best advice is to GIVE IT TIME.

For Parents:

Freshman year of college is a tough transition for you too! You have raised your child for 18 years and now it’s time to let go a little bit. So let go. Let your child manage their own life; let them figure things out on their own; let them be uncomfortable in this new environment. (Yes, this may be hard!)

However, it is important to still stay connected. Make a communication plan – maybe they will call every other day around dinner time? Or just on Sundays. Talk about how and when you will connect. If they are unhappy one day, just listen, let them “dump emotion” if they need to. Ask if they need to be “heard, hugged or helped” before you offer advice or assistance.

If your child really can’t manage their homesickness, let them come home for a weekend or encourage them to seek guidance from their RA in the dorm. Keep in mind homesickness is not just normal, it is to be expected! Allow them to feel it, offer support, and listen. (And connect with other parents who may be missing their children too!)

Again, heading to college is a big moment for all of you. Understand that it will be bittersweet, exciting, challenging and a little uncomfortable. Talk about these things before your child moves to college and prepare for these feelings.

Most of all, GIVE IT TIME.


For more information or to set up college counseling, contact me!

Kelly Clinch

Independent College Consultant

Clinch College Consulting

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