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Freshmen, parents cut ties, smooth transition into college life

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Ellie Schamel, left, and her mom Gail Schamel enjoy ice cream at an ice cream social held during the 2008 Summer Welcome. Parents can keep in touch with their children while they are away at school by using e-mail, text messages and Skype.

When college freshmen first arrive on campus, mixed emotions can float in the air. 

Parents and students can be both excited and anxious about students moving away from home for a long period of time.

Resources at MU

Office of Parent Relations

  • Contact: Laura Page
  • 888-631-1098
  • parents@missouri.edu

Counseling Center

  • 573-882-6601
  • counseling.missouri.edu

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The transition is rarely smooth, but MU has support services for both students and their parents to help deal with the change.

FOR STUDENTS

The shift from school to college brings various kinds of independence along with new responsibilities.

Adjusting to these changes can be exhilarating but, at times, difficult. It is not easy to  be a little fish in a big pond again after the heady status of senior year in high school.

It can be overwhelming and exhausting to cope with decisions about health, safety, money and time.

Freshmen may discover that they miss the protected bubble of home, said Laura Page, staff member in the MU Office of Parent Relations.

“If a student is feeling overwhelmed, whether it is because the academic work is too tough or everything seems so big, it is very easy to choose to be in their room and miss their home and friends,” Page said.

She suggested several ways to manage homesickness and make the transition more pleasant.

Keep channels of communication open and talking with others about the new experiences.

“I used my resources like Skype on the Internet or iChat on my Mac, and of course the phone to text and call friends and family back home," said freshman Eric Hughes, who was at MU during the summer. "I talk to my dad every day still.”

Sharing feelings and experiences is a healthy way of coping, Page said. It can be especially useful to seek advice from an older sibling or friend who has been through the process.

It is also comforting for students to know that they are not alone. It is normal for freshmen to experience the same emotions during the first half of the semester.

The university encourages students to get involved in on-campus activities and make new make friends. A good start is by getting to know the people in the same residence hall.

If homesickness interferes with academic performance or persists for longer than expected, consider speaking with a counselor at the MU Counseling Center.

FOR PARENTS

The transition period is an equally difficult stage for parents, even if they were looking forward to a smaller household.

To feel anxious and overwhelmed is often a common emotion.

“We’ve had quite a few moms in tears this summer," Page, who gave several presentations to families during summer orientation, said. "Some are truly upset and emotional.”

Parents and students can start by becoming well-informed about the resources at MU. They can offer encouragement whenever students indicate they need it, she said.

Try not to be concerned if they don't call daily. Keep in mind parents are most surely the first point of contact when it comes dilemmas, insecurities and other problems, Page said.

Try to have thoughtful answers in order to guide them in the right direction or to those who can help, she said.

Once they begin to settle in, show interest. Ask questions about their daily experiences, she said.

To keep in touch regularly, it may be handy to be technologically savvy.  There may be some instances where sending text messages may be more convenient, while Skype and e-mail may provide more personal interaction at other times.

Even though it may be difficult, encourage students to spend most initial weekends on campus. This will give them the opportunity to get to know other people and make new friends.

As a result they are likely to become more actively involved in the space they will be spending the next three to four years.

Page’s advice for parents is “to step back, because the role of the parent is never going to be taken away from you. You will always be their mom or dad.”


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