They're in! Now What? Parents, Keep It Real

Maureen Tillman

Guest blogger Maureen Tillman's got some tips to help you and your child with the transition.

Our post today comes from Maureen Tillman, L.C.S.W. She has served as the organizer and curator of The New York Times' Local College Corner, and is also the creator of College with Confidence, a comprehensive psychotherapy service that supports parents and young adults through the college experience. She has offices in Maplewood Village and Morristown, New Jersey and also provides educational seminars, training, phone and skype consultations.

Strategies for a successful college transition

The retention and graduation rates in this country scream out that American students experience significant challenges staying in and succeeding at college.According to the non-profit organization American College Testing, the national retention rate for four-year institutions is 67.6 percent at public schools and 68.7 percent at private schools. Completion rates are even starker. Just over half -- or 55.1 percent -- of students in private institutions, and 39.6 from public institutions, graduate in 5 years or less.

Many parents take an incredible leap of faith sending their children to college, spending an enormous amount of money as well as saddling their young adults with student loans in an uncertain economy.

Parents need to get real with their teens about what college really is. It's a valuable academic commitment in a world of wonderful opportunities -- and distractions.

One of the most important factors for success of college students is being real with themselves. This sounds easier than it is. In today's "bubble wrapped" society, most teens and parents do not realize how much support and monitoring they have received growing up, including parents, institutions and tutors. Too often, students used to constant support at home become overwhelmed when they arrive at college and don't reach out for support in a timely way, resulting in myriad of difficult outcomes.

Teens heading off to college need to understand what it takes for them to succeed in life -- socially, academically, and emotionally -- and how to make that happen.

How can parents start this process?

    1. Do some serious soul searching and evaluate how much monitoring and support your teen has had from you and others:
  • Are you waking them up in the morning, doing laundry, running errands, making their appointments?
  • Do you call the high school or college about information?
  • Do they have a tutor/therapist/psychiatrist/disability? Do they regularly spend time with a support team at high school?
  • Have you been making sure they meet deadlines?
  • Do you monitor/remind them often about their time and activities?
    2. Find a good time to talk:
  • State that beginning college can be a big adjustment and that you want to help them to get ready.
  • Explain that this will involve fostering their independence.
  • Ask what they feel you are still doing for them that they can do themselves.
  • Discuss recreating a support team on campus similar to the supports they are currently receiving.
  • Ask if they have any worries or concerns about transitioning to college. Whatever they express, listen, brainstorm for solutions, get information. Consult with a professional in the field now when they are still in your "orbit."
    3. Get the facts yourself. For resources on challenges at college as well as a successful transition, visit my website: www.collegewithconfidence.com

Follow Maureen Price Tillman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/maureenptillman

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New York Times' Maureen Tillman Blogs: Beware The Freshman Pitfalls

Maureen Tillman

Guest blogger Maureen Tillman's got some tips to keep you from being taken to task.

Our post today comes from Maureen Tillman, L.C.S.W. She is the organizer and curator of The New York Times' Local College Corner, and is also the creator of College with Confidence, a comprehensive psychotherapy service that supports parents and young adults through the college experience. She has offices in Maplewood Village and Morristown, New Jersey and also provides educational seminars, training, phone and skype consultations.

For high school seniors making the transition to college, this is the time to get real. It is crucial for these new graduates to be aware of the common stumbling blocks that many college freshmen encounter, and learn what they can do to help themselves have a successful transition from high school to college.

For many, this is the first time they will be leaving the nest, and it is now time to deal with the issues that will arrive when they are living on their own.

In my work I have talked with many college students on this first-year transition. Common pitfalls emerged from our discussions, some of which can have serious consequences. For example:

* Many students with learning and medical disabilities, ADD or ADHD have had support while growing up (including the monitoring of medication) from parents, tutors, schools and counselors — all significant factors in their academic success. But many students who decide to try college without this support find that this decision leads to a ticket home.

* Drinking and partying when homesick or down can spiral into deeper depression and academic failure.

* Freshmen tend to frequently text, call and use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Too much of this can take away from meeting new people and feeling connected.

It is helpful if students look ahead and learn all they can about the college terrain before they leave.

Here are three suggestions to help students in their transition:

1. Talk to a variety of college students who have recently finished their freshman year. Ask them about their challenges and how they navigated them. What myths were shattered? And what do they wish they had known previously which would have allowed for them to have been more prepared?

2. Be realistic. You can do this by taking responsibility for yourself before you leave and take on tasks that your parents may have assisted in, like becoming literate in finances, making your own daily decisions and managing stress. Use the summer months to practice self-advocacy and assertiveness in challenging situations that may come your way.

3. Read the student handbook, “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College,” by Harlan Cohen.

Freshman year at college offers a window of opportunity for students to reach out, join activities and make new friends. Yet many high school students cling to myths that could affect their ability to fully enjoy this time of their lives. When you hold those conversations with rising college sophomores you may know, don’t be afraid to raise some of your assumptions about college life; you might be surprised by their response.

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