Parent & Family Information
The transition to OSU can be exhilarating, full of challenges and changes. However, some students experience distress and difficulty adjusting to college life, which may result in greater emotional or psychological needs. The Student Counseling Center (SCC) has staff and resources to help.
Licensed and license-eligible counselors, psychologists and a psychiatrist provide individual, group and crisis counseling. Services also include a walk-in clinic, psychiatric evaluations and medication management. On-call counselors are available every hour of every day to respond to mental health emergencies. Parents may consult counselors about a student’s unique circumstances. Confidentiality limits information that can be shared for students already receiving services.
As students transition to living and learning at OSU, parents/families may want to
discuss homesickness, balancing independence with responsibility, financial concerns,
alcohol use, culture shock, roommate issues, time management and values. The following
information is intended as general guidance.
Homesickness is common the first semester of college. Students may alternate between
periods of increased contact with family followed by periods of decreased contact.
Homesickness typically resolves within the first semester, but may take longer for
some. Establishing connections, including friendships, involvement in organizations
and participation in campus activities, can help. Housing and Residential Life and Campus Life help students connect with other students. Students may also benefit from establishing
a point of contact for help (e.g., community mentor, adviser, professor) with problem-solving
Most new students are living away from home for the first time in a different city, state or country while adjusting to new academic demands. Transition to college may involve learning new skills like doing laundry or waking for class. Sometimes, a drop in grades occurs.
Influences on academic functioning include time management, stress management, commitment a to degree program and study habits. Some students wait until late in the semester to react or become aware of academic difficulties. We encourage students to seek assistance early so productive study routines can be established. For help with academics, students can consult professors, instructors, teaching assistants, advisers and tutoring.
Your college student has newfound independence. With independence, comes responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving, which can include decisions about lifestyle, attending class and social opportunities. As students adjust, they might make some learning mistakes. Part of parenting a college student involves letting go and trusting you taught them well while, at the same time, bracing for mistakes and being available for support.
Credit card companies sometimes target college students due to their lack of credit history, higher income potential and limited financial resources. Students benefit from learning about budgeting and finances before problems develop. Be honest and specific about who will pay for what and how much you will financially support your student. Gambling, especially online gambling, is a growing concern among college students. Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid offers some information about financial literacy.
It is important for families to discuss alcohol use. Alcohol continues to be the most
popular legal and illegal substance on college campuses. Safety planning is also an
important topic for discussion. For example, students should go to parties with a
trusted friend rather than alone, avoid accepting a drink from someone they don't
know and keep drinks covered at all times. It is also important to know where campus
emergency phones are located and install the Rave Guardian safety app. In addition, the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center is available to help.
At OSU, students are exposed to people with different backgrounds and perspectives.
Differences may include small town vs. large city, ethnicity, sexual orientation,
language, religion, country of origin, political ideology and many other types of
diversity. We encourage families to discuss diversity and openness to new experiences.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs offers programs and services focused on creating an inclusive atmosphere at OSU.
Having a roommate is an adjustment even if your student is living with a familiar friend. Differences in daily routines,, cleanliness and sleep schedules are examples of issues that can lead to conflict between roommates unless adequate communication occurs. We encourage roommates to talk openly and honestly about their living situation and attempt to resolve problems before they seek different living arrangements. Housing and Residential Life staff can assist with communication and problem solving in times of conflict.
Differences between a high school (e.g., structured) and college schedule (e.g., more
unstructured) is an adjustment for many students. While an increase in discretionary
time can be enjoyed by students, self-discipline is needed to meet academic expectations.
Study experts suggest that students study two hours outside of class for every hour
spent in class. For a three-hour course, that means six hours of studying outside
of class each week. Simple strategies for managing time like maintaining a schedule,
making task lists and studying at the library between classes can help.
We encourage you to discuss values with your student prior to college. Core values may already be established. Part of becoming an adult involves assessing new values and experiences to determine if and how to incorporate them into existing values.
As a parent, you may face your own mixed feelings, crisis calls, visits from your student, changes in your identity and managing reactions of family members.
It is common for parents to feel a variety of emotions about a child leaving for college. At times, a particular feeling may dominate or several feelings may occur at the same time, which add to a sense of being overwhelmed. Sadness is a typical feeling about the change in your relationship and spending less time with your child. Some parents report a void or sense something is missing. Siblings may feel left out of the student's life simply with decreased contact. Parents may feel excited and joyful about increased independence for themselves. It is okay to feel positive emotions. Transitions can be scary as families adjust. Know these feelings are normal and find some healthy ways of expressing them.
Sometimes, college students let stress and pressures build to an uncomfortable level and then call on parents/families for support. At these times, a supportive and listening style of communication can help. Sometimes, a problem-solving approach is more helpful. Many crisis calls leave the student feeling better while a parent may be too upset to sleep. Of course, real emergencies require immediate action such as contacting police, calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room.
Visits home by your student can be exciting, especially the first one. However, parents
can be disappointed when your college student comes home on Friday, drops off laundry
and goes out with friends for a good part of a weekend. Plan ahead and let your child
know how and when you expect to spend time with them. Remember, they are adjusting
to living apart from friends and family. If you plan to change their room to something
like a sewing or sibling room, inform them beforehand so there's no surprises during
their first visit home.
Another issue to consider is whether old rules will be enforced during visits home. Will your student have a curfew? Will they be expected to wake at a certain time? Discuss these issues before the first visit home and remember your student has been without these rules while at college.
Parents may consider adjusting their identities as they launch a child off to college,
especially if it's the last child to leave home. Some parents appreciate more time
to develop interests or hobbies while others pursue more activities outside the home.
Developing other aspects of identity can help you cope with the loss associated with
your student leaving for college. The relationship between parent and child may change;
anticipate a shift in power dynamics.
For families with younger children at home, watch for changes. For example, a younger sibling might seek more independence or responsibility as the elder child at home. Household chores might need to be re-assigned. Younger siblings may have mixed feelings about their older sibling going off to college, which can include excitement, relief and sadness. We recommend talking as a family to normalize and validate these feelings and plan for adjustments in family dynamics.
It is important for parents to take care of themselves during these transitions. A focus on physical needs including adequate sleep, consistent exercise, healthy diet and avoidance of unhealthy substances can go a long way towards managing stress and emotions. Talking about feelings with supportive others also helps.
- Watch for signs of distress
- Maintain contact
- Discuss values, finances, safety and alcohol use
- Provide any documentation to Student Disability Services so academic accommodations can requested before problems develop
- Plan for home visits
- Expect ups and downs including some learning mistakes
- Be patient with yourself and your student; transitions take time
- Be available as a safety support (e.g., crisis calls) while respecting your student’s independence
Consultation, Referral and Confidentiality
The SCC is available to consult with family, faculty, staff and students. If you have
specific concerns about a student, you can call our office to speak with a counselor.
Counselors can offer information about treatment, referral and providing support.
When referring a student to counseling, discuss your observations in specific terms (e.g., “I’ve noticed you've been very sad since your relationship ended”), express concerns, explain resources (e.g., walk-in clinic); allow the student to make their own decision and then follow-up.
In emergency situations, such as suicide risk, SCC staff might be able to break confidentiality and inform parents. However, in non-emergency situations, staff is unable to share information about students who use counseling services including attendance, appointment and treatment information. Students may give permission to allow disclosures of information. Parental consent is sought when a minor student seeks services.