Parents: Understanding Teens’ Anxieties About Going to College

There has been a tremendous response from readers of Blog #5 on “7 Tips on Avoiding Arguing with Teens Over Writing the College Essay”. Thank you so much. Many of you wanted to hear more about parenting teens, so here is some guidance about understanding how you can prepare them for the transition to college and reduce tensions. For more guidance about the adolescent years, read:

It’s important to understand what stresses teens are facing senior year and how you can help them become independent and in doing so, calm their nerves about the big changes ahead in their lives.

1. Understand that teens face leaving the security of the family “nest” and the friends they have known their whole life to live and study in an environment that is unknown and different. A visit to the college campus, an interview with an admissions officers, and even advice from friends/siblings who have attended the college is little information about what it is really like to live there. If possible, I recommend spending a night at the college to learn about college life. This has to be arranged ahead of time through the office of admissions. Spending a day at the college, attending classes with a student, is another option. In this way, teens will have the opportunity to see the professors and lecture halls.
2. Realize that teens need self-monitoring skills, a preview of the workload, and strategies to succeed at college. At college, they must independently organize their time and be self-disciplined about studying. Since the dorm room is often loud and the hallways busy, your teen should understand that he or she will have to go to the library or find other quiet areas to study. College discussions should include information about homework expectations during freshman year and how to plan out assignments. Make sure that college visits occur when classes are in session. Go into the library to check out where students are studying and ask the person who is giving you the tour where he studies. Also, does your teen know how to take notes? Oftentimes, students do not have sufficient note-taking skills – this should be addressed with tutoring.
3. Help teens become more independent about doing their homework and organizing their time as a junior or senior. Encourage them to decide when they are going to study and when it’s okay to just “hang out”. You won’t be able to supervise them in college. Also, many teens have iPhones or smart phones. Look for apps that they can program to remind them when papers are due or appointments are scheduled or have them use the calendars on these phones to type in this information. Also, getting up in the morning for school needs to be their responsibility – you won’t be there to wake them when they are in college.

Helping them become more independent will calm their fears about transitioning to college life, give them confidence, and may soothe the tension that arises over writing the college essays. It’s telling them “You can do this!”

12 thoughts on “Parents: Understanding Teens’ Anxieties About Going to College

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