How College Freshman Can Be Prepared for the First Year

Starting the Conversation

Although there are multiple ways to start a conversation with your young adult, most experts recommend keeping pre-college conversations casual. Avoid lecturing soon-to-be students and instead engage them in the conversation by asking questions about their thoughts on a particular subject rather than listing all your rules and recommendations.

The College Opportunity

Going to college is a wonderful gift that not every teen will have the opportunity to experience. Whether it is grades, money, or other circumstances that keep kids from attending college, your student needs to realize that not everyone is heading off to college for four years in the fall. This is a huge and very expensive gift, they are about to receive and they need to recognize that. Fostering a thankful heart and a sense of gratitude for this opportunity will prepare your child to take this experience seriously and make the most of it.

Budgeting and Money

Beyond tuition, college brings a host of new expenses that need to be discussed openly and honestly with your student. First-year students will be encountering a whole new level of financial responsibility and need to be guided along the way. It is very easy to waste money without even realizing it. But, the more frugal your student learns to be, the less debt everyone incurs.

Behavioral Expectations

It is always a good idea to sit down with students and explain what is expected of them. For instance, you might talk about the importance of going to class every day and not skipping classes. You also might want to share how you expect them to handle academic issues if they arise. Do you expect them to notify you when a course grade drops below a C? Maybe you would also like for them to reach out to a professor for help or to advocate for themselves if the grading seems off.

Communication Rules

Perhaps one of the most important conversations you will have with your student is how you will communicate with one another while they are away. Too many times, parents and students have different expectations of what this will look like. Parents expect more communication and students expect less.

Binge Drinking

Talking about college drinking can be a challenging subject but one that needs to be addressed. It is important to keep this conversation factual and to avoid being overly preachy or emotional. Start by explaining that binge drinking involves having four to five drinks in a short period of time. Additionally, tell your teen that binge drinking is a real problem on college campuses, with 60 percent of college students 18–22 drinking in the past month, making it an issue they may feel pressured to participate in.

Sexual Safety

Sociologists who study sexual assault call the beginning of freshman year, the “red zone” or the riskiest part of a college, especially for a young woman. In fact, some estimates indicate that 73 percent of college sexual assault victims are freshmen or sophomores, and 88 percent of gang-rape victims are freshmen.

Mental Health Issues

Research shows that it is not uncommon for teens to experience a variety of mental health issues throughout college. For instance, nearly 75 percent of all mental health conditions start before the age of 24. This should not be surprising since college is a big transition and places a lot of stress on the developing teenage brain. What’s more, for many college students this is the first time they are away from the protective family cocoon that provided so much comfort and security.

Release Forms

Once your child is 18, you will not have access to their grades nor will you have access to their medical records. That is unless they sign a release form allowing you to have access to that information.


While you are having all those discussions about not walking alone on campus at night and the importance of having a buddy at parties, you also need to talk about protecting their identity on campus. Too many times, roommates feel like they should share everything. And while it is fine to share Clorox wipes, pencils, and paper, it is not acceptable to share passwords to computers, smartphones and so on.



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