Transition tips for college freshmen and their parents
August 26, 2010
All across America students are packing up and heading off to
begin an exciting new chapter of life: freshman year.
And though mom and dad may be wiping their eyes, they need to
let their students go.
“Even after 17 years of working in student affairs, I'm still
moved by the anxiety, anticipation and excitement the freshmen and
their families experience during this time of year,” said Deb
Waller-Frederick, director of residence life at Mount Saint Mary
“When our freshmen move in at the end of August, we host
multiple events that ease the transition including a reception with
faculty and staff so parents can get to know the people who will be
interacting with their students on a daily basis once they return
home,” added Waller-Frederick.
Mount Saint Mary College will welcome its largest ever residence
population to the scenic campus overlooking the Hudson River on
August 28 and 29. Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, president, celebrates a
mass just prior to the families’ departure from campus.
To help minimize transition jitters after the farewell,
administrators and faculty members at Mount Saint Mary College
offer the following suggestions.
Communication is key.
“Cell phones and text messaging are great for instant
communicating although parents may not always get an immediate
reply from their freshmen,” said Waller-Frederick.
“Since calling home for reassurance when things aren’t going
well is typical, we try to encourage our students and their
families to limit parental involvement in issues that could be
handled by the student on their own. We recognize that parents
worry, but when it comes to college, parents need to push their
young adult to communicate directly with administrators at the
college,” said Waller-Frederick.
Parents’ new role as coach.
During opening day, Mount staff, student athletes and
upperclassmen are on hand to help as parents unload the last box.
As they kiss their kids goodbye, mom and dad need to realize their
role is shifting from a hands on daily caretaker to a coach from
“The concept of In Loco Parentis (In Place of the Parents) may
not be in fashion at many colleges today but it’s still a concept
that we try to remember at Mount Saint Mary College,” said Dr. Rae
Fallon, associate professor of psychology. “Each student is
assigned an academic advisor who helps in planning the course
schedule and encouraging the student to become successful and
“Parents need to take a bit of a back seat and should direct
their child to the appropriate available resources on campus such
as talking to their RA (resident assistant), seeking a tutor or
visiting the counseling center. Even the most adaptable student can
sometimes feel overwhelmed by a relatively simple question. When
the parent points their son or daughter toward the person or office
on campus that can help, it’s a major step in their continuing
development and maturity,” said Fallon. Mount Saint Mary College
has resources that help students become spiritually, morally,
intellectually and socially successful, she added.
Give them space.
“Parents should feel comfort in the knowledge that the
foundation they’ve built in their child for 18 years is going with
them to college,” said Michelle Taylor, director of enrollment
“However, parents must realize their children are now busy young
adults – both academically and socially -- and they should respect
their new independence and avoid the tendency to hover. It’s about
letting them grow, not letting them go. And students should be
mindful to keep mom and dad in the loop which helps ease any
From classroom to lecture hall.
“Each student needs to make the jump from high school to college
learning. We can help them recognize their strengths and
vulnerabilities and encourage students to ask questions even if
they seem silly or mundane, said Fallon, whose department of
psychology is one of the most pursued fields of study at the
“Students need to recognize as early as possible if they may
need extra help with a difficult course and should go directly to
the professor to ask advice on how to prepare or study more
effectively. The people who are most successful in college or in
life are usually the ones who are proactive and do just a little
bit more than expected,” said Fallon.
Mount Saint Mary College offers strong fields of study in
education, the health professions, business, human services and
liberal arts, she added. It is the only private college in the
mid-Hudson Valley to offer a four year degree in nursing as well as
master’s degrees. For information about the college, visit
Fill the nest.
“If your child going off to college yields an empty nest at
home, then parents need to rediscover the hobbies they haven’t had
much time for in the last 18 years,” said Waller-Frederick. She
added that parents can plan special times with each other or spend
extra time with younger siblings.
“All the excitement of starting freshman year can be mixed with
a sense of loss for parents. Parents can seek out other moms and
dads whose children are leaving home for the first time and share
their feelings and get support.”
Send care packages.
“Students love to get packages from home,” said Taylor. “Parents
can send holiday packages, baskets around exam time or something
just for the fun of it. Things like microwave popcorn, change for
doing laundry, family photos and/or news from home are always a
welcome way of saying ‘I’m thinking of you’ and of course, homemade
chocolate chip cookies not only make your student feel good, they
help the process of making friends be a whole lot easier!”