There are lots of things parents want to tell their children before they head off to college. This includes advice such as “study hard, don’t abuse alcohol, get enough sleep, do your laundry,” and so forth. College bound teens may not pay too much attention to parental wisdom as they head off to school. While there is so much that we want to communicate to them as loving parents we also need to be selective with dishing out advice. After all, most incoming college students don’t really want to listen to a long lecture from their parents about what to do and what not to do when they leave home.
As a college professor for many years I actually really enjoy teaching freshmen and trying to help them transition to college by talking quite frankly about behaviors that can be helpful or harmful during this very important life transition. These topics are now personal for me as I send my own son off to school this fall. He’ll head to Dartmouth which is 3000+ miles away from home and his watchful parents.
After many years of working with these young people I truly believe that if new students can follow the following 4 principles they’ll generally do fine in college and avoid some of the frequent troubles many students often find themselves in.
1. Take self-regulation seriously!
So many students get into a lot of trouble with self-regulation. Sleeping, eating, drinking, exercise, and so forth become problematic for far too many. Carefully following a few simple rules such as getting 8 or so hours of sleep each night (no matter what!), following CDC guidelines for alcohol consumption (i.e., no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 for women), getting 30 min of exercise most days, and so forth can go a very long way in avoiding physical, behavioral, and mental health related troubles. Self-regulation matters and should be taken very seriously for college students. Sure, this is obvious but it is so important to highlight.
2. Don’t skip class…ever!
Sure, sometimes students need to miss a class session due to sickness or an athletic competition but having a casual attitude towards class attendance is a very big mistake in my book. They miss class and they fall behind often making it that much more difficult to catch up. Students should go to class…every class and do themselves a favor and sit close to the front and center as well. If they are front and center they'll be less distracted and faculty will engage with them more.
3. Use student resources!
Colleges today tend to offer lots of student resources….which should be used freely and with gusto! Schools today provide so much in terms of student services that include academic and personal advising, peer mentoring, disability resources, psychological counseling services, campus ministry, and so forth. Tuition dollars pay for these helpful and comprehensive services and so students should try and get their money's worth!
4. Time is money!
Speaking of money...think of time as money to be managed and managed well. Students too often don’t use their free time (e.g., time between classes) productively. This is a problem in that students too often wait until the end of the day (when they are tired) to study and get things done. This is a big mistake. Using time between classes for study and other productive activities is critical to academic success. Wating to do anything of importance at the end of the day is a big mistake.
If students follow these 4 simple principles they’ll likely avoid many of the typical problems students encounter during their transition to college life. And for me, I hope that my son follows these principles too. He'll be glad he did.
So, what do you think?
Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP