Beginning the College Adventure

The summer is quickly coming to an end. Many parents are preparing to send their children away to college for the first time. As you prepare for this important leave taking, what expectations do you ...

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The summer is quickly coming to an end. Many parents are preparing to send their children away to college for the first time. As you prepare for this important leave taking, what expectations do you have of your first year college student? Are those expectations clearly expressed to your son or daughter?

Going away to school is a very expensive proposition. The first semester of one's freshman year can be potentially more expensive than you expect, especially if you are not clear with your son or daughter.

Remember, college is not high school. Whether it is a local community college or life on campus at SUNY Albany, college life today is very challenging.

As a college freshman, it is very easy to get distracted by all the partying. The first semester of freshman year is like party central. Every night someone is having a gathering that meets way into the early morning hours. Students eat and drink too much. Too many don't make it to their early morning classes.

Very quickly, freshmen realize that no one will be calling home and no one will be yelling at them. They realize for the first time in their lives, they can do as they please. No one is going to come chasing after them. If they miss class, they miss class and now it is their problem.

The average campus freshman has a meal plan and a laundry service at least for his or her bed linens. He or she comes and goes as he or she pleases. Although many colleges and universities have a dry campus policy, there is little that they can do to enforce that rule.

Some schools have a hard time forcing zero tolerance on campus. However, if they do catch students engaged in underage drinking, there are serious consequences.

The other reality that most of us as parents need to realize is that most of our college coeds are not attending schools in the middle of the Iowa cornfields, but rather they are attending schools located in college towns or cities. Thus, local businesses make a fortune on entertaining college students.

As we send our children off to college for the first time, we need to hold them accountable. We cannot micro-manage their academic or social life, but we can be clear about our concerns and expectations.

For many of our kids going off to school for the first time, it is freedom land. There is no curfew and there are no adults hovering over them telling them what to do. They spend the first few weeks settling in, getting used to community living, sharing and adjusting to a wide range of human behavior and different personalities.

They also begin to shape and define a routine for school, work and play. Some freshmen manage this well. Other freshmen get buried alive. They get so distracted with their newfound freedom that they lose sight of why they are away at school in the first place.

Many professors don't have an attendance policy. So, if the new college student starts cutting, most probably, no one will say anything. Unfortunately, if they start off that way, they get buried in work that is undone and they become overwhelmed. To cope with being overwhelmed, it becomes easier to party and hang out to all hours.

Some colleges and universities are assigning freshmen advisors to connect with freshmen more intensely during their first semester in order to protect them from poor decision-making.

For many first semester students, time management is their greatest challenge. Even the brightest students can get disarmed by the work expectations of some of their college professors. Unlike high school teachers, they are not going to call home and give parents the heads up if Johnny is not going to class and handing things in on time.

As a concerned parent, if you call and try to see how your son or daughter is doing, even if you are paying the huge tuition bill, you are not entitled to any information unless he or she has given the school permission in writing to share that information.

If your son or daughter is put on academic probation or receives an "in danger of failing" notice in the middle of the semester, you will not be notified. If your son or daughter is away at school, those notices will go to his or her campus address. If they are commuters, the notices will be mailed to them at home, but will be clearly addressed to them.

College should be the best time of a young person's life. Your son or daughter should seek to enjoy the experience to the fullest, both the social opportunities and the academic opportunities as well. It is a time when many young people really grow and mature. It is a time for students to discover and/or pursue their career paths. It is also a time when important social relationships are formed which can change people's lives forever.

As your sons or daughters prepare to leave for college for the first time, encourage them to use all their opportunities. Caution them to act reasonably. College is a very costly adventure. Cutting a class could be wasting as much as a hundred dollars a class depending on the tuition structure. It is not unreasonable to expect your son or daughter to maintain a certain grade point average. If you are paying all the tuition costs, it is not unreasonable to be made aware of courses that are being dropped. Keeping the lines of communication open is key.

Our relationship with our children must change as they go away to school. We have to be less controlling. However, that does not mean that we suspend our expectations or the reasonable consequences for non-compliance.

Hopefully, most of our college freshmen will make it through their first year unscathed, a little wiser and more responsible because of the adventure!