3 For You: What to Expect When Expecting...a College Freshman
News | May 12, 2020

In Tri Delta’s new series, “3 For You,” we’re covering the best tips from experts as we navigate our current situation during COVID-19. Tri Delta alumna Dana Bekurs, Louisiana/Lafayette, Assistant Dean of Students at Birmingham-Southern College, provides advice to parents who will soon have a college freshman attending school in the fall. Read her three tips below, or listen to the podcast.

We’re experiencing a lot of uncertainty when it comes to higher education going into the fall term. Graduating high school seniors, particularly, are trying to determine how to head off to college in this strange atmosphere, and their parents are also trying to navigate this new experience. Dana Bekurs serves as Assistant Dean of Students at Birmingham-Southern College and is the parent of a high school senior headed to college in the fall. She shares her advice on how parents can best support their college freshman.

Tip #1 Expect challenges, successes and changes

Every college freshman faces challenges. These can include:

  • Time management
  • Learning to be independent
  • Roommate conflicts
  • Exercise and self-care
  • Learning critical thinking

The first year is spent figuring out how to figure it all out. Successes come at different stages in the first year but can include joining student organizations—like Tri Delta—using resources like tutoring or the counseling center, good grades, new friendships and learned balance.

There are so many changes that will occur in your college freshman. The student you get back in May is not the student you sent to college in August. Students are interacting with people they’ve never interacted with before, learning from different people and having experiences they never thought they would have. Know that your student will likely change their major. Students go into college with limited life experiences. College provides experiences and exposure to new interests and classes that they didn’t even know existed. These new experiences help students start to feel good in their skin and develop into the person they’re going to become.

Tip #2 Support your student—But don’t do it for them!

When a problem arises move like your feet are stuck in molasses! There is temptation to swoop in and take care of it, but give your student time to fix their own problem. The best way to support them is by telling them about the university resources that are available for them.

You can also support them by sending them care packages—they love that! Visit your student and take them to lunch. Let them show you their room or give you a tour of the campus. Family Weekend is also a great time to visit.

Stay out of administrative issues. Don’t email the teachers, and don’t check your student’s email. Stay out of their challenges unless you hear that voice that tells you there is something really wrong. There may be times when something serious might be going on. If so, you can always contact the Dean of Students Office for help.

Tip #3 Encourage a growth mindset

Carol Dweck developed the idea of a growth vs fixed mindset. Fixed mindset students will avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless, ignore useful feedback and are threatened by others’ success. Growth mindset means they fail and grow. Growth mindset students embrace challenges, persist despite obstacles, see effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism, and learn from others’ success.

College is a place where you can make a mistake and learn from it. It’s important to allow your student to fall and skin their knee. They will pick themselves up and learn how to ride that bike—it just may take several tries. A quote from our very own Tri Delta Sara Blakely says, “Failure is not an outcome. Failure is not trying.” Encourage your student to keep trying, and help them navigate their challenges with support and guidance, not by doing it for them. Remember, you are the consultant/coach now; you aren’t the one going to college. It’s time for your student to embrace the unknown and learn from all the experiences they are about to have.

Want more? Watch this video, or find more helpful 3 For You.

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