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Thinking About College

By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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Uploaded: Jun 30, 2017
(Written by Lori McCormick)

If you recently graduated from high school and are off to college in the fall, enjoy your final weeks of summer. You worked hard and deserve a little down time before ramping up for your next phase of life.

Heading off to college is an exciting time, but can also be a time of caution, uncertainty, and stress. Transitions, regardless if you are entering a new school year or heading off to college, can trigger stress in individuals. My advice, take it or leave it, is to find ways to cope with transition. Here are a few (of many) tips that might help alleviate some of those stressful situations that could arise.

For students:

1. As high school students, you had a pattern to follow that you had little control over. College completely changes that. You now have to establish the pattern yourself and adhere to it. Thinking about time management and discussing it with your parents before you begin college will be essential to your success.

2. Become familiar with your new college surroundings. Even if your college is nearby, as is Foothill College, it’s still a new environment. If your campus is close enough to visit over the summer, do so. If not, websites have increasingly improved over the years, so you can take virtual campus tours. Thanks to social media, it is easy to link up with current students so that you can begin building friendships and networks. The more prepared you are before day one of your new college, the more equipped you will be to start off on a positive note.

3. Start communicating with your new roommate(s) before the school year begins. Discuss what shared items you each can bring to your dorm. There’s no point in having three microwaves, in your space-challenged dorm, right?

4. Research which types of clubs or activities you might want to join. Be careful not to overload your schedule with too many activities, especially in your first year, but joining a club might be a helpful way to make friends and feel connected to your new school and community.

5. Bed, Bath, and Beyond has become the preferred place to buy “All Things Dorm,” and, no, I do not get any kickback for mentioning them. Students just love the convenience of shopping for everything they need in one store, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond has figured out how to easily do this. You can order locally and pick up in your new college neighborhood.

6. Write a letter to your future self. I know, this might sound corny, but I encourage you to do this. In your letter to yourself, explain how you feel right now – your fears, excitement, uncertainty, your hopes and dreams, and include a note of encouragement to yourself. Tuck this letter away – store it somewhere at your parents’ home, or if it is in electronic format, schedule to send it to yourself at a later date. I usually recommend reading your letter about 6-12 months after you write it. You’ll be amazed how much you’ve changed in those few months! You can also write a letter to yourself annually as a reflective exercise of your academic, personal, and professional growth.

7. Your family is going to miss you terribly. You are setting off on a new adventure, but they aren’t. They are left with your absence. Parents, siblings, extended family, friends – they are all rooting for you and feel the same mixed feelings you probably have. Simply put, don’t forget about the village you are leaving behind. This includes your teachers! Remember those amazing people who wrote your letters of recommendation and who taught you the foundational information you needed to take this next step? They would love to hear from you! A quick email to say hello and thank you goes a long way.

For Parents:

1. Let them go. I know, easier said than done! When I was in my first semester of college, I wanted to desperately to move back home. I remember calling my parents and begging them to come home. They said no and told me it was time to learn how to live my life independent of them. Those were tough love words to hear but within a few months, I acclimated to college and never once looked back. It also changed the dynamic of our relationship. It was the first time I realized my parents trusted and respected me as an adult. It was a challenging but beautiful transition.

2. Life skills. Prior to your child leaving the nest, teach him or her how to do their own laundry, how to buy groceries (silly, right? Not really…) with healthy and economical choices; these are things your children take for granted because it’s always fallen on your shoulders. Time to pass the torch and teach these invaluable life skills. Give them a longer leash to let them learn independence, but be there in case they fall. Love and support them (you already do this, obviously!) but remind them you love them.

3. Communicate. Let your child know you are struggling with this transition, too. Set up a time, perhaps weekly, to check in with each other. This transition is tough on everyone!

There are many transition tips you can find, especially if you have specific circumstances, such as learning or physical barriers. Get to know your resources on campus. Being an advocate for yourself has never been more important than now.

Embrace the change and know that transitions are not easy or quick, but an all-in effort makes it smoother for everyone.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by local mom, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jul 18, 2017 at 5:20 pm

If you'd like to increase readership, how about an article about recent UC admission statistics that were just published. So scary to see lower admission rates for California students than out-of-staters, and continued increases in application volumes.

And then there's the issue of the abysmal college graduation rates at most of the Cal State campuses. What can be done about that? Parents would be happier to send their grads to Cal State if there was a reasonable chance of graduating or transferring to a UC. It doesn't look likely with 20% graduation rates.

There are so many topics to research and discuss.

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