By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
August reminds us that the summer is quickly coming to a close. Football teams begin to practice. College students begin to leave for the new semester.
Among our college students leaving for school will be this year’s freshman class. It should be an exciting time in the life of any young person preparing to go away to school. It is the next step in his/her journey.
Unfortunately, too many of our college freshmen are not prepared for the challenges that living away at school presents. For many, it is the first time they are away from home for an extended period of time without any parental supervision or any accountability. No one’s going to tell them when and what to eat, when to shower, go to bed, get up on time and get to class.
The first month is a major adjustment for the new student. There are parties and social events almost every night. College freshmen must learn effective time management to be successful. It’s very easy to get lost in the excitement of this newfound freedom and not invest oneself into one’s most important priority: school.
The freshman who becomes consumed with partying and socializing and puts his or her academic obligations on hold will probably not fare well at the end of the semester. College academic life is very different from high school. In high school, your teachers stay on top of you. They contact your parents when you cut and don’t hand in work. In college, professors treat you as an adult. They expect you to come to class and hand your assignments in on time. They don’t call home if you cut or if you don’t hand work in. Usually you receive a failing grade and/or depending on the attendance policy of the class get dropped from the class.
Parents of first-time college students need to realize even though you might be paying your child’s tuition, the college is not going to communicate with you about your son or daughter’s academic progress. So it would be wise before your student leaves for college to talk about communication; when and how frequently you will connect. It would be advisable to talk about academic performance and your expectations, but most importantly create a climate that keeps the lines of communication open at all costs with your student.
Most colleges and universities have a wellness center. You should make sure your college coed knows where the center is and what services it offers. More colleges are providing spiritual support by recruiting clergy from the major religious denominations and inviting them on campus to provide religious services during the school year.
The college landscape of today has radically changed from 20 years ago. My experience as a college educator is that many of our college students are ill prepared for college life and the challenges that living away from home present.
As parents we cannot control how our children think or how they act. We can lead by example but need to convey our love and support for them especially when they struggle. Most importantly, we need to hold them accountable for all the choices that they make.
Fr. Pizzarelli is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.