Young woman loading her car to leave to college as her parents look on

What Not To Do As A Parent of a College Freshman

Going away to college is a significant transition for both the student and the parent. The old ways of doing things are out the door. For parents who are used to being heavily involved in various aspects of there children’s lives, this is a difficult adjustment. You have spent years waking them up, making sure they study, encouraging them to go to sleep, and reminding them of important dates and deadlines. Now, they are on there own. You may be tempted to continue to help them, but it is crucial to their development that you don’t.

I have spoken to and coached many college graduates over the last few years. Almost all of them talk about how their parents were so involved in there daily lives that they never truly learned to become independent. College is supposed to be a time of growth, self-development, and transformation for a student. When you continue to do things for them, you rob them of this opportunity. Here is a list of what not to do as the parent of a college freshman.

Call The Teacher

You may be surprised that this even needs to be said. When I started my coaching, this wasn’t even anything that I considered had to be addressed. However, after conducting a research study that involved speaking to college employees, I was blown away by how much of an issue this has become. When a student is having trouble in a class, it’s the parent that ends up calling the teacher and requesting a meeting. This is a massive problem on several levels.

First, your child needs to learn how to communicate their issues on there own. Professors are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to having conversations with those in authority. Your child’s boss is going to be tougher and less accepting when they enter the real world. Second, the professor is going to lose respect for your son or daughter because they did not address the issue themselves. Lastly, your robbing your child of learning valuable life skills such as problem-solving and conflict resolution.

Wake Them Up For Class

Habits are tough to break. As a parent, you are used to waking your child up each morning and help them start there day. Thanks to cell phones, you can continue this routine if you wish. However, you are doing more harm than good. Yes, you can ensure they never miss a class, but at what cost?

Your child needs to learn to be self-reliant, and following a routine without prompting is a big part of that. Yes, it is possible they may oversleep in the beginning and miss a class. However, that is a valuable lesson that will stay with them for a long time. They need to understand their choices have consequences. It is better they learn this lesson now in college then be late for work and lose their job because of it. Again, it comes back to preparing them for the real world.

Give Into Homesickness

Many college students report feeling some degree of homesickness during their freshman year. This will be amplified if your child had several friends who are staying home for college. They may call home and dramatically claim how unhappy they are at college. What they are really saying is that they are homesick and looking for the same type of companionship and happiness they once had at home.

It is critical as a parent that you stay strong and suggest alternatives to coming home. For example, encourage them to attend campus events and meet new people. Suggest they study or watch TV in the common area and start a conversation. The best thing you can do is help them understand what they are feeling is universal and will go away. Make sure they know that they will soon find there new friends and things will get better.

Over Communication

Obviously, you are going to want to check in with your child while they are away. The key here is to limit the messages and give them the space they need. If you smother them too much, they will begin to resent you and dodge your texts and calls altogether. If you always remind them of home, they will become homesick, as mentioned above. Lastly, they may see this an opportunity to ask you to solve every problem they are having instead of figuring it out on there own.

My advice would be to let them call you on the phone. It may not be every day, but they will feel in control of the situation. As for text messages, try to let them text you first. If you want to text them first, make sure it is something important. An example of this would be wishing them good luck on a test or asking about how their weekend was. Examples of unnecessary texts include random images, just saying hi, informing them about where you are, or anything else that can come off as annoying or trigger homesickness.

Try To Fix Everything

When your child has a problem, their initial reaction will be to run to you to fix it. They won’t even try to handle the problem on there own. These types of issues will include but are not limited to roommates, people on their floor, professors, homework, dining hall food, and other minor, solvable problems. As a parent, this has been your job for 18 years. Of course, you want to jump to action and help them. If you do this, how will they ever become the adult you sent them to college to become?

When your child comes running with an issue, ask them to explain it in detail. Then, ask them what they have done to solve the problem. If they can’t answer that, tell them to think about it for a day and get back to you. Encourage them to solve their own problems, but let them know they can run a solution by you if needed. It’s much better to tweak their ideas then do everything for them at the start. This way, they will learn the valuable skills they will need when they enter corporate America after graduation.


Transitioning from high school parent to college parent is incredibly difficult. Your world seemingly changes overnight, and you long for feeling wanted and useful again. If you have not done so already, begin working with your child to make sure the above issues never even present themselves. If they do, guide them in the right direction but let them figure the issues and problems out for themselves.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

Middle-aged woman sitting on the sofa reading a book

5 Books For Parents of First-Year College Students

As a parent, the college application process can be as hectic for you as it is for your child. You get caught up in a whirl-wind of campus visits, FAFSA applications, and deadlines. If this is your first time, you seek the advice of other parents, books, podcasts, and anyone else that can help you survive the chaos that can be college admissions. However, throughout it all, what gets forgotten is what happens when the chaos is over. What do you do when your child actually goes off to college?

You spend so much time focusing on getting them into college that you rarely take the time to prepare for the day when they leave home. This can leave many parents unsure of what to do and how to act. What should I do with all of this newfound free time? How often should I call my child? Will they know how to survive without me? It’s a challenging time for any parent and one that should be taken seriously. No matter where your child is in the college process, here are five books aimed to prepare you for the next step in your relationship with your new college student child.

Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide To Understanding The College Years
By Karen Levin Coburn


Letting Go has been providing parents guidance and advice for well over a decade. This book focuses on how to support your new college student on an emotional and social level. It is packed with stories from former college students and parents who speak openly about the different issues and challenges they had to overcome. Author Karen Coburn guides parents through difficult transitional challenges, including how to encourage independence, when it’s okay to intervene, what kinds of emotions your child will be facing, and much more.

How It Can Benefit You

To get the most out of this book, it’s beneficial to read it before your child actually leaves for college. As you read it, take notes about what challenges mentioned in the book might be an issue for your child. Then, set aside time to discuss the book with them. Have an open conversation about how they are feeling about being independent and if they understand the responsibilities they are being entrusted with. This might be the time to set ground rules such as how often they will call home to ensure you are giving them enough space.

The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only
By Harlan Cohen


The Naked Roommate is a funny and laid back guide for parents to prepare for the new world that their kids are about to enter. Written by Harlan Cohen, a trusted guru of all things college, this book is designed to collect and deliver fact-based advice to any parent of a first-year college student. This book is a collection of stats and stories from parents, students, and experts across the country. It covers a wide variety of topics such as preparing the summer before, keeping in touch, going to class, financial advice, dealing with roommates, handling homesicknesses, and so much more.

How It Can Benefit You

This book will prepare you for all the surprises you are in store as the parent of a college student. Again, this type of book should be read months before your child leaves for school. If something in the book concerns you, then you should raise it with your child. Otherwise, at least you have a reference guide on how to deal with the majority of issues that may arise during their four years away at school. 

Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro
By Jodi Okun


It seems like almost every day we read something about the student loan debt problem in this country. Several candidates for President over the years have promised to get this issue under control, and even a few have pledged to eliminate the debt entirely. In her best selling book, Jodi Okun tackles the issue head-on in a way that can help you prevent the issue before even starts. Jodi has decades of experience in the arena of financial aide and shares her sound and practical advice with you in this book.

How It Can Benefit You

Navigating financial aid can be complicated for any parent and downright overwhelming for any student. This book can help answer your questions and ensure you are making the right choices before and during your child’s college years. Before you make any decisions, read this book and highlight anything you don’t understand. This way, you can come up with specific questions to ask your family, friends, or financial advisor and get the specific advice you need.

From Mom To Me Again
By Melissa Shultz


As a parent, you spend nearly two decades being Mom or Dad to your child. That is a full-time job with a ton of responsibilities. For most, it keeps them so busy that it defines their existence and gives them their purpose. Then, their child goes off to school, and everything changes. This book tells the story of how one Mom dealt with these issues and reinvented herself to move on with her life.

How It Can Benefit You

As we mentioned earlier, the process of applying to college revolves solely around the child. However, the aftermath significantly impacts the parent as well. Adjusting to an empty home for the first time is not something to take lightly. You owe it to yourself to prepare for what life will be like after your child leaves for college. This book can provide the guidance you are looking for that isn’t always found in your more traditional college-based books.

How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap
By Julie Lythcott-Haims


This book tackles the issue of helicopter parenting head-on. Author Julie-Lythcott Haims speaks openly about the damage of helicopter parenting by telling stories of her time as a student dean. This book is a collection of her conversations with admissions officers, educators, and employers as she explores the varying ways parents have meddled in their children’s lives and the adverse impact it had on their future. She also provides practical strategies to help parents allow their children to make their own mistakes and develop the skills necessary for success.

How It Can Benefit You

Admitting that you are guilty of being a helicopter or overbearing parent may be difficult. After all, you want what’s best for your child. However, intervening every time there is a problem, and ensuring they never have to endure failure is a recipe for disaster. Just listen to the conversations and stories Julie has had with those in the educational and corporate worlds. If you think this is something you are guilty of, you owe it to your child’s future to read this book and begin implementing its advice.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.

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