The 2022 College Survival Guide


Most students will move from a tightly programmed home and school system to one where they often have little supervision and few adults monitor their day-to-day work, Dr. Apter says. While young adults have a greater capacity for self-management and self-control than at 14 or 15, organizing their workload can be a challenge.

If you’ve done most of what Dr. Kilbey calls their “life administration” so far, you might discuss their plans in this regard. “How are you going to know where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to do? Also ask, “Have you responded to all the emails you’ve received?” Have you filled out all the forms you are supposed to fill out? »

wait and watch

You can also discuss the need to pace yourself and get enough sleep. They probably won’t listen to you, but you’ll feel better after planting a seed of common sense in their head. If by any chance you’ve overlooked their household education, give shopping tips, reminders of what to keep in a fridge overnight, and last-minute laundry briefings. But don’t worry, they will learn. A shrunken, faded hoodie will teach them.

If you want to give your child a luxury, wait until you see what he needs. When my son got his place in college, I was convinced he would need a sandwich toaster. It sat unused for months because my son was on a low carb diet – beer is not a carb, apparently – and loved to cook. But the mattress topper and nice pillows (college bedding isn’t luxurious) were appreciated.

What we couldn’t do was help him make friends when, thanks to the college’s strict pandemic regulations, he was only allowed to socialize with the five people in his hallway. “I am alone,” he once said. It froze my heart. Thank goodness this year students will be free to mingle as they please.

However, not everyone is effortlessly outgoing, and some may struggle to make new friends. Dr. Apter suggests that parents encourage their children to go to a first-grade event that interests them, if only for a few minutes; to talk to the person in the next room, go down to the bar or cafeteria for just a little while. And to be patient. “It’s often very difficult to meet people you like in the first few weeks of college – it can take a while.”

Stay logged in

My son – who spent much of the first year isolated in his bedroom – now has a circle of friends that I suspect will last a lifetime. He and they estimate that you realize who your people are after about six weeks (“you’re exhausted from being nauseatingly nice to everyone”). And they advise, “Don’t spend a whole term trying to reinvent who you are.

If it takes time for your child to make friends, Dr. Apter says, “They may spend a lot of time on social media following what their old friends are up to and feeling like they’re not up to par.” So parents might suggest, “Don’t just follow people on Instagram or TikTok, talk to them. They probably have difficulties and doubts too.

If our kids are homesick, they won’t always admit it, says Dr. Apter. Parents can stay in touch, keep an eye, while respecting their space and autonomy. “A lot of families have WhatsApp groups, and being in those groups – even if they don’t join – keeps them in touch with their home,” says Dr Kilbey. “We have FaceTime, we have gifs. You want them to know they’re on your mind and still on their minds. It’s about maintaining that connection at a distance – and it’s up to us to do the groundwork. (Just because you don’t get a response doesn’t mean they aren’t thrilled to get the message.)

Every day I texted my son pictures of our cats, with updates. Or I would share funny animal-themed tweets. It was a discreet and non-invasive way to check in. If he answered, we would have a small exchange. Sometimes he would reveal a problem – he wasn’t sleeping well, he had hurt his shoulder, his room was freezing – and I would call. On the rare occasions when he sounded low, I would FaceTime him. What I – and other parents – quickly realized was that we always hear the worst. We felt upset, worried, texted the next day – and found that, having effectively transferred their stress to us, our child was relieved with ease.

Part of the challenge

As Dr Kilbey says, “When we’re in distress, we go back to our attachment figure” – in other words, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, sick or sorry for yourself, “you’re going to call your mother or your dad and whine and moan and cringe and “it’s the end of the universe” – and as a parent you worry, and the next day it’s “Oh no, it’s all screwed up, everything’s fine good!”

Of course, some pressure is natural, exciting, and part of the challenge, says Dr. Apter. We can remind teenagers that, for example, “When you’re stressed about a test, that doesn’t mean you’re going to do poorly. This means that your body produces adrenaline, which will help you improve your performance. Similarly, bad mood is not a pathological problem, she says. “It’s a signal that something is wrong in my life and can lead to questions like, ‘What do you want to do about it and what might help? “”

And if there’s a problem brewing (it could be rooted in money management, work, food, or a relationship), by making regular contact, you give them the opportunity to say something. thing, says Dr. Apter. “Looking for clues. Listen to their mood when they ring. Try to pause and assess what they want from you – is it, ‘I wait, I listen, you tell me.’

She adds: “When they feel that they are not following their studies, they can be very ashamed. Often they don’t tell their family until it’s a total mess – they’re better than younger teens at hiding their distress and feeling like things are falling apart. And they often handle it poorly, with alcohol or drugs, or by eating too much or sleeping too much.


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