Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Tips for Helping Your Student Transition to College

Information for Parents

For most young adults, the developmental and psychological challenges associated with the move from home to college can be both exciting and intimidating. There are many issues with which a first-year student must contend such as:

  • Being unknown and having to develop new relationships and friendships
  • Living in close proximity to another person in the form of a roommate and residing on a dorm floor
  • Having the freedom to make decisions about whether to use intoxicants or engage in sexual behavior
  • How to manage and prioritize one's time to accommodate new academic challenges
  • Being away from all that was predictable and familiar

It is Important to Talk

Recent research on student adjustment and behavior in college found that first-year students' conduct is significantly affected by the relationship and communication students have with their parents prior to and during the first semester. While being good listeners, parents need to be clear and firm about what they believe and what they want their first-year student to be doing at school.


The shift from a very familiar and comfortable social environment to one that is unfamiliar and less comfortable can produce sudden and severe homesickness. Parents should talk to their first-year student to consider what they can do to prevent or reduce homesickness. Sometimes it is as simple as anticipating that homesickness can occur. The usual remedy for homesickness is activity. This can include purposeful interaction with others, attendance and participation in all the planned orientation activities, association and interaction with the Student Orientation Staff and the Resident Advisors. For communication between parents and first-year students, it may be wise to limit interaction to a specific time of day rather than having frequent phone calls and text messages throughout the day. For very severe homesickness, the student can meet with one of the college counselors if they wish. For more information about coping with homesickness, visit the Lycoming College Counseling Services webpage and click on Resources in the menu.

Alcohol Issues

Recent research finds that students who avoid high-risk drinking do so because they do not want to disappoint their parents. Research also indicates that first-year students drink in a way that is consistent with their pre-conceptions about what drinking and partying will be like at college. It is important for parents to realize that attitudes and norms about drinking are different now than when they were young. In spite of what one sees on MTV Spring Break, the majority of college students do not engage in high-risk drinking and many students are abstinent from alcohol consumption. Parents are in the best position to influence their first-year student's drinking behavior by emphasizing their wishes and expectations about their student's conduct at college. Parents should ask their first-year student what he or she wants to do and will do when given the opportunity to drink. Parents should also have their first-year student make a verbal commitment about what they will do when they have the opportunity to drink alcohol. Another option is to have the first-year student write down a commitment about their conduct with alcohol. The parent can mail this statement to the student at sometime during the first semester. For more information about how to talk to your first-year student about alcohol read this helpful brochure: Family Alcohol Talk Guide

Time Management

The academic challenge of college is significantly greater than that of high school. First-year students will have the challenge of organizing class preparation time and leisure time so that they can succeed academically. The general recommendation for out of class preparation time is that for every hour of class time, the student should engage in two hours of out of class preparation. It is best if a first-year student designs his or her study schedule. The average full-time student should be studying up to twenty-six hours a week. It is prudent for parents to be attentive to this issue and ask their student when and how much studying he or she is doing. Of equal importance is what the student it doing to relax and have fun. Students can receive in-depth help in developing successful study habits by going to the Tutoring Services in Snowden Library.