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The Transition to College

Your seniors have paid their deposits and are college bound! The hard work submitting college applications, discussions about fit, and considering award letters is now over. It is time to celebrate a job well done. Hurray!

Given all the intellectual and emotional work involved in applying to colleges, it makes sense that we all pay much attention to the selection and application process. Equally important, is the next step: the transition to college.

As you move through the summer, here is what you should keep in mind as you all prepare for the changes ahead.

Emotions Can Be a Roller Coaster

Joy and anticipation fill the celebrations around graduation. At the same time, many beloved and familiar routines and relationships are bound to change.

What students might miss:

  • Childhood friends
  • The comforts of home
  • Familiar routines
  • Consistent and present family support
  • Our tight-knit school community

What parents might miss:

  • Daily interactions with your teen
  • Faculty and school staff who are happy to connect with you and help out

Acknowledging the gamut of emotions and even naming them can help. They are completely normal: excited and joyful anticipation as well as nervous excitement, caution and fear of uncharted waters.

College Brings New Expectations

Academics

College expectations of students’ work may differ from high school. College professors are normally less forgiving of late assignments and lack of class participation. Students should read each course syllabus closely to learn about expectations and requirements. Most St. Mary’s grads sturdy study habits serve them well in college. Students should also be ready to take advantage of tutoring, academic support and faculty office hours.

School Communication

Transitioning to college means that parents no longer will receive regular communication from teachers and counselors about their daughter. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs how and what university personnel are allowed to share with parents about grades and student’s personal matters (including class selection and visits with a school counselor) without prior written consent. If you want to be able to discuss anything about your daughter with school officials, she must sign a FERPA waiver giving you access to information about her academic life.

We recommend you talk together and come up with a plan before her first day of classes as to how you will get the crucial information about her well-being while also allowing her to assume responsibility for her own affairs at college. It is important that she continue to step into her adult life, manage her responsibilities, and advocate for herself. 

Family Expectations

As your daughter becomes more independent, have regular conversations about family expectations. Most students assume they will continue their current lifestyle while in college. How do you see this? Expectations might shift when she returns home for holidays and vacations. Is she able to stay out later? Have access to a car? What expenses will she be responsible for? What access will she have to a shared credit card, if any, or will she be expected to fund her own activities? How often will you check in via phone or text? If your daughter will be attending college within driving distance of home, how often do you plan for her to return?

Set-up for a Smooth Transition

  • Both parents and students should watch for communication from the college about housing, billing, orientation, meal plan choices and forecasting for classes. Colleges will send vital information to ensure a smooth start in the fall. Missing a deadline could be costly.
  • If your daughter has a learning difference and accommodations will be necessary in college, encourage her to connect with the Learning Services office on campus before school starts. They may require a copy of her St. Mary’s Classroom Accommodation Plan (CAP) and a current evaluation to determine needed accommodations.
  • Similarly, if your daughter has a medical and/or mental health condition that will require continued monitoring, have your daughter call the health or counseling center to determine how best to access services on campus or in the local community and set up relationships.
  • Acknowledging the flurry of emotions that accompany this big transition, preparing thoughtfully for the changes ahead, and knowing about and taking full advantage of the orientation and support services offered, can smooth, but not alleviate some of the bumps ahead.

Recommended Resources

“It Happened Here” documentary on how students have advocated for change on college campuses in addressing incidents of sexual assault (available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, PlayStation and Xbox).

“The Naked Roommate: And 107 other issues you may run into in college” by Harlan Cohen.

If your teen is entering college with a diagnosed mental health disorder, you may need to take extra steps as a parent. Please read the articles below, courtesy of our counseling department:

What’s Your Plan? College with a Mental Health Disorder

Emotional Health & Your College Student: A Guide for Parents

Managing a Mental Health Condition in College

As always, feel free to connect with your students St. Mary’s Academy counselor or outside counselor with questions or concerns.