The transition to OSU can be full of challenges and changes. Some students experience distress and difficulty adjusting to college life, which may result in emotional or psychological needs. The Student Counseling Center (SCC) has staff and resources to help.
As students transition to living and learning at OSU, parents and 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 little 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 and adjustment.
- Academic Functioning
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. Sometimes, a drop in grades occurs. Some students wait until late in the semester to react or become aware of academic difficulties. Students should seek assistance early so productive study routines can be established. For help with academics, students can consult professors, instructors, teaching assistants, advisers and tutoring.
With new found 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.
- Financial Concerns
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. Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid offers some information about financial literacy.
- Alcohol Use
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 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.
- Culture Shock
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.
- Roommate Issues
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. 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.
- Time Management
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. Simple strategies for managing time like maintaining a schedule, making task lists and studying at the library between classes can help.
- Values Clarification
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.
- Mixed Feelings
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.
- Crisis Calls
Sometimes, college students let stress and pressures build to an uncomfortable level and then call on parents/families for support. At these times, a support and listening can help. Sometimes, a problem-solving approach is more helpful. Many crisis calls leave the student feeling better but not the parent. Of course, real emergencies require immediate action such as contacting police, calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room.
- Home Visits
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 the 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.
- Changing Identities
Parents may consider adjusting their identities when their child leaves for college, especially if it's the last child to leave home. Some parents appreciate more time to develop interests or hobbies. 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.
- Sibiling Reactions
For families with younger children at home, watch for changes. For example, a younger sibling might seek more independence or responsibility as the eldest 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.
What You Can Do
- Watch for signs of distress
- Maintain contact
- Discuss values, finances, safety and alcohol use
- Provide any documentation to Student Accessibility Services so academic accommodations can be 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.
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.