As the father of five recent college graduates and a financial adviser for over 30 years, I have had first hand knowledge of the following realities of college. If you are preparing to send a student to college in the next few years, be sure to review these items and keep your eyes open.
The adjustment period:
Your student will go through an adjustment period before they make meaningful progress in college. It could last a week, a month or even longer, but they need this time to get comfortable with the new college experience. So be patient, let it happen and be supportive.
Students are on their own:
College professors will NOT be there to hold your hand or make you go to class. If you pass or fail, it is up to you to put in the effort. This is the time that students need to develop self-discipline, time management and social communication skills. If you do this well, your college experience will go smoother and be much more successful.
Students have lots of free time:
New students need to find ways to fill this free time with constructive activities. Video games and partying are not constructive. Join a campus club or intramural sport. Schedule a regular workout at the gym. Make meals a social time with some new friends. And don’t forget to visit your professors. If you have questions or need some extra help, make an appointment. If your teachers know your name, it can only help your grades.
Students will change their major at least once:
Don’t allow this to derail your graduation schedule. Make sure you get credit for any high school AP classes taken and consider taking CLEP exams for additional college credit. These will help you get ahead of schedule. Also consider taking 18 credit hours each semester. Most colleges do NOT charge extra for taking six classes instead of five. Keep on pace to graduate early or on time.
Students will attend parties and will be exposed to alcohol, sex and drugs:
Unfortunately it is part of college life, so accept it, talk about it and try to be supportive. Make sure to discuss safety, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, underage drinking and knowing what is in your drink at all times. Remind them that walking in groups around campus is safer than getting into a car filled with partying college students. Stress moderation, be upfront, share your values and trust they will make good decisions.
Students will spend their parents money on non essentials:
Video games, iPods, movies and many other items are purchased every year with money that should pay for textbooks or meals. Talk to your student before they go… let them know that education funds should be used for education needs only.
College campus life is like being on a vacation:
No one is forcing their daily agenda. Students decide what to do, or not to do. Campus dining halls offer hundreds of items daily with “all you can eat” privileges. Recreation activities include everything from volleyball to scuba diving. There are clubs for photography, computers and hundreds of other activities. Is it any wonder some students never want to graduate?
Students will gain weight… especially freshman:
That infamous “Freshman 15” is a reality for many students. The quantity and variety of food alone will add pounds. The dining hall dessert bar, with dozens of choices each meal are sure to entice many students. With fried food and alcohol consumption added into the picture, it gets even tougher. Talk with your student about good eating habits, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
The college doesn’t care if you finish on time:
It is financially better for them is you spend five or six years to get your degree. It is your responsibility to keep on track. Make sure that you know which classes you need to stay on pace. After each semester, meet with your student adviser to make sure you are up to speed.
Finally – You will NOT be fully prepared for the working world upon graduation:
Your diploma will open some doors, but you will learn more in your first six months “on the job” than you did in your entire four (or more) years of college.
To learn more about these topics and other books by this author, click here to visit his Amazon Author Page.