A note for parents of college students:

When we hear the term “transition” in reference to college, we often think about new students. In reality, ALL students experience transition throughout college and for the rest of their lives. Therefore, learning how to cope and thrive in the midst of change is an important skill to learn.

sunflowers - thrive
Photograph Credit: UGA Photographic Services

Students in their first year are learning how to cultivate new friendships, calibrate the amount of study time necessary to achieve desired grades, and how to make decisions without parental oversight. Talk with your student about his or her expectations for college. Ask open ended questions about what s/he anticipates will be challenges and strengths as s/he begins college. Reassure your student that it is normal to be anxious prior to a transition, and encourage him or her to get involved in extracurricular activities, student groups, or other fun activities in addition to focusing on academics. For information on how to get involved with University Health Center student groups, click here.

Although they may not be new to campus, students in their second and third years continue to experience changes as they navigate the middle years of college. Continue to check in with your student regularly and do not simply assume that the second and third years will be less challenging. Signs of struggle may be less obvious as students are less likely to live in residence halls where changes in behavior may be noticed by other students or housing staff. Some students may not be forthcoming about symptoms of depression or anxiety, but a brief check-in about basic health (eating habits, sleep habits, exercise), and academic/social engagement could provide a gauge for how your student is functioning.

Parents of seniors, congratulations! It is almost graduation day, but do you know what that means? Another transition is on the horizon, and your student is likely preparing for the job market, applying to graduate school, or feeling uncertain about where the path out of Athens leads. It may be helpful to identify past transitions experienced by your student. How did s/he cope? Look for strengths illustrated in past behavior and use these examples to provide reassurance during periods of adjustment when your student may struggle with uncertainty or self-doubt.

The many transitions your student will encounter during the college years can feel like transitions for parents as well. It is normal to feel conflict, excitement, sadness, ambivalence and all the other feelings your students experience. It may even be helpful for you to talk about your concerns with family, friends, clergy or other sources of support as your student transitions into young adulthood.

UGA is a large campus with a wealth of resources and opportunities. If your student does experience difficulties at UGA, encourage them to seek guidance from professors, academic advisors, the Center for Academic Enhancement, Career Services, and/or Student Care and Outreach.  We recommend early referral of students who may be experiencing adjustment concerns so they can receive support before experiencing crisis situations. If you notice a change in your student’s mood, energy, academics, or general functioning, please encourage him or her to call Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at 706-542-2273.

Written by: Amanda Pileski, PhD, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)
CAPS is a department of the University Health Center, on campus at University of Georgia.
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