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Heading Back to College?

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

Is your student heading off to college this fall?

Preparing to leave home and heading off to college can be an exciting yet nerve wracking experience. As a mother of an upper elementary kiddo, I often times imagine what it will look like when I no longer have a 4th grader, but a college student to foster a relationship with. Although it feels like this is so far in the distance, it never hurts to begin thinking about how I will adjust.

Many times, incoming freshman experience a variety of mixed emotions ranging from excitement and newfound freedoms; while also having to address the conflicting feeling the fear of the unknow brings. Moreover, the pressing issue an incoming freshman may experience is the pressure to meet high parental expectations.

In most scenarios parents have their student’s best interest in mind, however this may not be communicated well through the behaviors that are exhibited by the parent. As a result, a parent’s high expectation of their incoming college student may cause harm to their students’ self-esteem, resulting in emotional and academic distress.

A study, which involved surveys of 174 students and 230 of their parents was conducted by the University of Central Florida which examined how parenting styles may strongly influence how students adjust to college.

According to research out of UCF, “It is essential for students to have at least one parent whose style combines warmth, a demanding nature and democracy; for a smoother transition from high school to college.”

While parents tend to be concerned with their student’s academic progression, dating, as well as their personal maturity; an excessive amount of access the parent has to the student may be unhealthy, resulting in negative self-esteem for the student.

Usually because of technology, parents and students have more access to one another through frequent checks-ins. While having a healthy parent and student relationship is necessary; healthy boundaries should always be discussed and explored. Doing this could result in the student feeling empowered by their parent to explore their independence in a healthy manner, while also creating a healthy and safe space for the student to come to the parent when in need. This fosters healthy empowerment, positive view of self and a healthy transition into adulthood for the student.

Having healthy conversations with your college student may be helpful during this transition. For instance, discussing how much time one another would like to be contacted throughout the week via phone and text, could help foster positive relational boundaries between all parties.

Asking your student if there are any topics of conversation they would like to keep off the table and giving them the space and the prerogative to keep those aspects of their life private, could support their positive self confidence and display a level of trust you have in them.

Lastly, grades and academic performance is essential in being a successful college student. As a parent, addressing your concerns around academia to your student, may be helpful in fostering a healthy parent and student relationship. Additionally, allowing your student to share their concerns in a non-judgmental setting may give them space to be and remain transparent, resulting in a healthy parent and young adult relationship.

Ultimately, your student wants to be trusted, seen, heard and treated as a young adult. Does that mean they will be perfect? No, but it does allow for a healthy and supportive relationship to grow.

So this year, as students are experiencing college for the first time, parents keep in mind that everyone is still learning including you. Give them a little grace as well as yourself and set healthy boundaries that both parties can agree and adjust to.

Happy Fall Semester


University of Central Florida. (2008, August 17). Parents' Expectations, Styles Can Harm College Students' Self-esteem. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 13, 2021 from

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