Oklahoma State University

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Student Counseling Center

Information for Parents

The transition to OSU is an exhilarating time for your student and full of challenges and changes. However, a significant number of students experience distress and some have more difficulty coping or adjusting, which may result in greater emotional or psychological needs. The Student Counseling Center (SCC) at OSU has staff and resources available to help in a variety of ways. Licensed and licensed-eligible counselors, psychologists and a psychiatrist provide individual, couple, group and career counseling; crisis intervention as well as psychiatric evaluations and medication management. On-call counselors are available every hour of every day to deal with mental health emergencies. Also, parents (and others) can consult with counselors regarding their student’s unique set of circumstances. Confidentiality will limit information that can be shared with parents and others for those students already receiving services. Online screenings that are completely anonymous are available to help students learn more about their symptoms and help them decide if counseling is appropriate.

Please click on the following topics to get more information:

Transitions for Students

Transitions for Parents


Mixed Feelings

Academic Functioning

Crisis Calls


Home Visits

Financial Concerns

Changing Identities

Alcohol Use

Sibling Reactions

Culture Shock


Roommate Issues

How to Support Your Student

Time Management

Consultation and Confidentiality

Clarifying Values


Students in Distress

Transitions for Students:

As students transition to living and learning at OSU, a number of issues should be addressed. These include homesickness, academic focus, balancing independence with responsibility, financial concerns, responsible alcohol use, culture shock, roommate issues, time management and value clarification; just to name a few. The following information is intended to provide general guidelines as to what to expect with these areas and how to deal with them. For more individual-specific information, we encourage you to consult via phone (405-744-5472) with one of our counselors.


Feeling homesick is common for students and typically occurs during the first semester of college. Students tend to alternate between periods of increased contact with family through visits, phone calls, texts and emails followed by periods of decreased contact. Homesickness typically resolves within the first semester, but may take longer for some. The best cure for homesickness is establishing connections at college. This can include friendships, involvement in clubs and organizations or participation in campus activities. Department of Housing and Residential Life and Student Leadership and Campus Life help students get involved on-campus. Many students are helped by establishing a point of contact for help with problem-solving and adjusting to the transitions of college life. This may be a resident assistant, an academic advisor, an instructor or some other person.

Academic Functioning:

College students are adjusting to several transitions at once and this can be overwhelming. Most new students are living away from home for the first time, have moved to a different city, state or country; are learning to deal with differences between high school and college academic demands and are living independently. Sometimes this change requires learning how to do one’s own laundry or being able to wake up for class. During this time of many transitions, a drop in grades may occur.

Influences on academic functioning also include time management, stress management, commitment and interest in degree program and effective study habits. Academic performance is better managed after transitions are successfully navigated. Some students will wait until the end of the semester to react or become aware of academic difficulty when it's too late. We encourage new students to get help early in the semester so that productive study routines can be established for a successful academic career.

For further help with academics, an OSU student can consult professors/instructors, teaching assistants, academic advisors and tutoring resources


All of a sudden, your college student has a lot of independence that they may not have had in the past. With this independence, comes increased responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving. This can include a lack of curfew, living away from parents for the first time, the freedom to miss class and lots of social opportunities. During this adjustment to increased independence, students will be making some ‘learning mistakes’ while transitioning to college life. New experiences, opportunities, choices and exposure to people and ideas must be managed. Effectiveness increases with practice.

The counterpart to independence is the responsibility that comes with being a college student. Like most other qualities, responsibility is learned through life experience. Part of being a parent of college students involves letting go and trusting that you have taught them well while also bracing for mistakes or problems and being available as a support.

Financial Concerns:

Credit card companies target college students due to their lack of credit history, higher income potential and current lack of funds. Students should learn to budget their finances before problems develop. Be honest and specific about who will pay for what and how much you can financially support your college student. Gambling, especially online gambling, is becoming more of a concern among college students. Some students work part-time (or even full-time) to pay for a college education and it is important to balance time spent working with adequate time for academics and self-care.

Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid: Financial Literacy

Alcohol Use:

It is important for families to talk about responsible alcohol use and waiting until the age of 21 to drink. Alcohol continues to be the most popular legal and illegal substance used on college campuses and can create many legal, academic, social and personal difficulties. Parents may consider talking with their college student about safety planning issues. For example, students should go with a trusted friend to parties rather than alone. Also, students should avoid accepting a drink from someone unknown and keep drinks covered at all times. It is helpful to know where emergency phones are located on campus.

The OSU Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center is available for help with alcohol and other substance use issues.

Culture Shock:

At OSU, students are exposed to people with different backgrounds. These differences can be small town vs. large city origin, ethnic, cultural, sexual orientation, body size, language, religion, country of origin, political ideologies and many other types of differences. We encourage families to discuss this exposure and be open to diversity experiences. The Office of Multicultural Affairs is focused on creating a more inclusive atmosphere at OSU.

Roommate Issues:

Living with a non-family member can be quite an adjustment for most students even if this is a familiar friend. Differences in daily routine from cleanliness to sleep schedules can create roommate conflict unless adequate communication occurs. We encourage roommates to talk openly and honestly about their living situation and make attempts to resolve problems rather than seeking different living arrangements. The SCC or Department of Housing and Residential Life can assist students in developing communication skills or problem solving at these times.

Time Management:

A major transition for most college students is adjusting to differences between a high school schedule (longer day, very structured, little free time) and a college schedule (shorter day, more unscheduled time). While the increase in free time can be enjoyed by students, it requires self-discipline to meet the academic expectations and requirements, as well as general independent living needs. Most experts suggest that a college student spend 2 hours of studying for every 1 hour enrolled in class. For a typical 3-hour course, this means 6 hours of study outside of the classroom. Simple strategies for managing time can help immensely including: 1) maintaining a schedule, 2) making task lists (and crossing off items upon completion), 3) keeping a time-piece on hand and 4) taking advantage of breaks between classes by studying in library.

Clarifying Values:

With all of these transitions and the new independence of college students, we encourage that you discuss family values with your daughter or son prior to the start of college. Core values may already be established. Part of becoming one’s own person involves assessing new values and experiences and determining if and how to incorporate them into what exists.

Students in Distress:

For more information on recognizing the signs and symptoms of more serious distress as well as strategies for interacting with a distressed student and tips for making a referral for counseling, click on the link above.

Transitions for Parents

As parents, you may find yourself dealing with mixed feelings, crisis calls, home visits from your college student, changes to your identity and reactions from siblings of the college student. Below you will find general information on these topics as well as tips for managing these issues and taking care of yourself.

Mixed Feelings:

It is very common for parents to feel several different emotions related to their child going off to college. At times, a particular feeling will dominate or several feelings can occur at the same time adding the sense of being overwhelmed. One typical feeling is sadness about the change in relationship and spending less time with your child. Some parents report feeling a void and have the sense that something is missing in life. Parents may have a feeling of being more ‘left out’ of their child’s life simply with the decreased amount of contact. Parents can also feel excited and joyful about the increased independence for themselves and their child. It is okay to feel these positive emotions. These transitions can be scary as parents adjust to a different home life or fear for the transitions of the college student. It can be difficult to adjust to the decreased amount of control in a child’s life. Know that all of these feelings are a normal part of this experience and find some healthy ways of expressing them.

Crisis Calls:

Sometimes, a college student will let the stress and pressures of their transitions build up to an uncomfortable level and then call on their parents for support. At these times, a supportive and listening style of communication can best help the college student. Some times, a problem-solving approach is more helpful and this will depend on the situation and the typical style of the individual. Know that most crisis calls leave the college student feeling better afterwards while the parent is typically too upset to sleep! Of course real emergencies require immediate action such as contacting the police, calling 911, going to an emergency room, etc.

Home Visits:

Visits from your OSU student can be exciting, especially the first one. However, many parents and siblings (and other family members) are disappointed when the college student comes in on a Friday, drops off their laundry and then goes out with friends for a good part of a weekend. Plan ahead and let your child know how much and when you expect to spend time with them. Remember that they are adjusting to living apart from friends as well as family. Also, if you plan to change their bedroom to something else like an exercise room, a sewing room or if another child is claiming it; make sure and inform your college student beforehand so that there is no surprises during that first home visit.

Another issue to consider for home visits is whether old rules will be enforced. Will there be a curfew? Are they expected to wake up at a certain time? Discuss these issues before the first home visit and remember that they have been without these rules for some time while at college. The level of autonomy at college may be different than the expectation while visiting home.

Changing Identities:

Parents may consider adjusting their own identities as they launch children off to college, especially if this is the last child to leave the home. Some parents have more time to develop or further interests or hobbies while other parents may decide to pursue more work outside the home. You might consider volunteer activities or travel. Developing other aspects of your identity can help with the loss felt by your son or daughter leaving home. The relationship between parent and child will change during the child’s college years. Look for a shift from pressure to guidance and a change in the power dynamic with the child being closer to the same level.

Sibling Reactions:

For those with younger children remaining in the home look for changes in family dynamics. For example, the next youngest child might begin seeking more independence and responsibility as they become the oldest in the home. Household chores might have to be re-assigned. Siblings will also adjust to the mixed feelings of having their sister or brother go off to college. This can include excitement, relief, sadness and depends to a large extent on the sibling relationship they have with the college student. We recommend you talk as a family to normalize and validate these feelings as well as plan for adjustments in family dynamics.


It is important for parents to take care of themselves while making this transition.

A focus on physical needs including adequate sleep, consistent exercise, a healthy diet and avoidance of unhealthy substances can go a long way towards managing stress and emotions. Talking about your feelings with supportive friends, family or a trained professional may help as well.

How to Support your Student

  • Maintain contact, especially the old-fashioned ways with letters, care packages, etc.
  • Discuss your values on the topics of sex, money, safety and alcohol use
  • Proactively address individual need
  • your child has a learning disability, it can help to provide documentation of the disability to Student Disability Services so that accommodations can be sought prior to academic problems developing.
  • Plan ahead for home visits
  • Expect ups and downs including ‘learning mistakes’ and be patient with yourselves and your college student. Remember that these transitions take a long time and do not happen overnight.
  • Be available as a safety support (e.g., crisis calls) while balancing with student’s independence
  • Consult with SCC staff as needed

Consultation and Confidentiality:

One service that the SCC provides is consultation to parents, other family members, faculty, staff and students. If you have specific concerns about an OSU student, you can call our office at 405-744-5472 and ask to speak with a counselor. Counselors often provide case-specific advice regarding treatment options, making a referral and how to provide support as well as answering questions.

To access services, the student has to make an initial appointment called an Intake Interview. Policy does not allow for others to make or cancel appointments for a student.

For successful referrals, it is recommended that the parent discuss observations in very specific terms (e.g., “I’ve noticed that you have been very sad since your relationship break-up”), express concerns, explain resources (including providing address and phone number of the Student Counseling Center), allow the student to make the decision and then follow-up with the student.

In emergency situations, such as suicide risk, SCC staff might be able to break confidentiality and inform parents. However, during non-emergency situations, SCC staff is unable to provide any information about students who access services including information about attendance, appointment scheduling and focus of treatment. Students may give permission to allow these disclosures. Parental consent is sought in situations where the student is a minor accessing SCC services.


During business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.--12 p.m. and 1--5 p.m.), students can call 405-744-5472 or come to 320 Student Union and request to see the on-call counselor. After hours, a crisis counselor can be reached through the OSU Police Department at 405-744-6523.

Student Counseling Center
320 Student Union
Stillwater, OK 74078
405-744-5472 phone
405-744-8380 fax

Hours: M-F, 8 a.m. -- 5 p.m.

If you are a student in crisis, an on-call counselor is available. After 5 p.m. and weekends, counseling staff may be reached by contacting the OSU Police, 405-744-6523.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 February 2017 09:26