Preparing Your Student to Succeed
Before Your Student Goes: Preparing for Change
Most students (and sometimes parents too) have expectations about what college life is going to be like. We hear stories from family members or friends about how great school can be, and we see shows and movies that portray college life as the best time of your life. These edited clips and memories are not every student’s reality. They also don’t take into account the culture of different campuses nor are they inclusive of the normal ups and downs students experience as they transition to a new campus. It’s recommended that parents and families do not tell students that college will be “the best four years of your life.” This could set unrealistic expectations and could make the transition even more difficult. College is a time of growth and exploration, which may be fun for many students, but not everyone will have that same experience.
Learn how you can talk with your student to prepare for this emotional time and what to expect during the adjustment period.
Academics: Making the Adjustment from High School to College
It’s quite common for your student to be nervous about the differences between high school and university academics. In general, as a high school student, your student’s daily schedule was very structured with several hours of classes and activities each day. Several classes lasted an entire year, had no more than 25-30 students and were spread out over 9-10 months’ time. Your student studied to prepare for tests, and reading assignments were short in length and often reviewed in classes. Teachers laid out a schedule and reminded you of important deadlines.
This is not necessarily how things are in college. Students choose their schedule; they may have days with no classes or large periods of time in their day where they aren’t in class. Their classes may have 100+ students (depending on the size of the institution). Homework is not always directly related to what will be on the test, and there may be more reading than in high school. In addition, while professors want students to succeed, the responsibility falls mostly on the college student—professors may not remind students about homework assignments and may not reach out if a student is failing a test or class; it is the student’s responsibility to remember assignments and to ask for help.
Helping your student expect and adjust to these changes ahead of time could set them up for success when they start classes. Help your student be their own advocate. Discuss these important tips for making the adjustment from high school to college and setting your student up for success.
Sleep: A Critical Part of Well-Being
Sleep is an essential function that protects our physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Sleep is especially important to your college student. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine,
- Sleepiness and poor sleep quality are prevalent among university students, affecting their academic performance and daytime functioning.
- Students with symptoms of sleep disorders are more likely to receive poor grades in classes such as math, reading and writing than peers without symptoms of sleep disorders.
- College students with insomnia have significantly more mental health problems than college students without insomnia.
- College students with medical-related majors are more likely to have poorer quality of sleep in comparison to those with a humanities major.
- College students who pull “all-nighters” are more likely to have a lower GPA.
- Students who stay up late on school nights and make up for it by sleeping late on weekends are more likely to perform poorly in the classroom. This is because, on weekends, they are waking up at a time that is later than their internal body clock expects. The fact that their clock must get used to a new routine may affect their ability to be awake early for school at the beginning of the week when they revert back to their new routine.
Talk to your student about the importance of getting enough sleep and show your student these sleep resources so they can better manage sleep on their own.
Helping Your Student Manage Stress
Stress is a completely normal reaction to events or stressors in our lives, and the student experience is full of events that can be stressful. While it can be hard to see your student stressed out and you may want to rush to the rescue, it’s better if they learn how manage their stress in a healthy manner. Show your student our resources on stress so they can learn to better manage their stress their own.
Helping Your Student Manage Their Medications
If your student has an issue or condition that requires daily or frequent medication and will need to manage medication on their own, there are a few things you should help your student do before they leave for school. Your student should bring a supply of medication with them to campus, as well as develop a plan for refilling the prescription and getting future prescriptions by themselves. There may be a student health pharmacy on campus or a pharmacy in town that your student can use. Mail order prescriptions are another resource. Help your student do some research and find out what the best option will be for refilling prescriptions.
It’s important to note that the first semester of college, with all of its transitions, may not the best time to go off of a current medication or try a new medication. If your student discusses with you the need to stop taking or change medications, have them speak with a health care provider first.
Here are some tips for acquiring prescriptions before leaving for school.