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Making the transition to university or college not so difficult

As many are getting ready to leave home for college or university, if they haven’t already, it’s important to remember transitioning from Secondary School to College or University can be particularly difficult. But, this too can be a challenge for many parents who are faced with a catch-22 about how involved (or uninvolved) they should be. There are always media stories about drinking, assaults, and property damage on campuses – and parents wonder how to keep you safe as you begin your post secondary adventure.
The transition to college or university is almost certainly one of difficulty for many young adults, and their parents' role continues to be important, but there will be some significant changes. 
Pressures facing young people as they leave home...
As soon as you arrive on campus (or settle into your housing) you need to make new friends and social connections, and learn that you will have to make decisions not only about your class work, but about your social life.
Along the way you’re sure to encounter many stressful situations, but keep in mind you’re not alone and most likely your roommate or the person across the hall is faced with similar problems.
Things that may stress you out as you transition into College or University:

  • Changes in your sleeping and eating habits
  • Coping with more responsibilities and workload
  • Managing your finances and more pressure to take part in social activities.

These changes will bring out new or maybe unfamiliar emotions that you have never dealt with before. It’s a good idea to understand this and perhaps discuss these new emotions with your parents or even your friends. Emotions like anxiety, worry, sadness and confusion are pretty normal. Feelings of inadequacy, disorientation, depression or aggression may be more intense and could become more disruptive.
No matter what you’re feeling, talking about your emotions when entering college or university will make the transition easier.
Now your parents need to find their balance point along the scale of still being your parents.  At one end you may have parents who are too-involved -- too strict, intrusive, or even smothering. At the other end they can be those parents who seem not-involved at all-- uninterested or disconnected to what you’re going through, and come across as too rigid and uncompromising.
But hopefully, like I had, you get the parents who can find the mid-point, who become your rock and keep you going and help you excel.  Here’s my interpretation of what the “ideal parent” looks like when helping you transition to university or college:

  • Interested in your new life
  • Informed and available when needed
  • Respectful of privacy
  • Able to express their expectations in a supportive (non-demanding) way.

One last bit of advice from me: most students end up getting on fine with their studies in the end, so don’t panic if things sometimes seem difficult. Even very experienced students struggle with their courses from time to time and this doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing. University/college learning is meant to be challenging, after all you wouldn’t get much out of it if everything was easy.
What do you think? Do you have tips for transitioning students or maybe you can tell us what helped you transition?