Freshman Year of College 101: Talking Points for Parents

Young woman moving in to dormIt’s a moment 18 years in the making—sending your child off to college with all the emotions at full throttle. Joy! Sadness! Excitement! Fear! So much to do—so little time!

Cynthia Mester, PhD, LCPC with Memorial Behavioral Health, offers one big piece of advice to parents: be prepared.

“For the student and parent, it’s a new environment, new expectations, new freedoms and new ways of thinking about life,” Mester said. “The best way to minimize the stress and maximize the potential for positive adjustment is to be prepared.”

She recommends that parents think through the following topics and then make time for brief constructive conversations with their kids before college departure.


  • Creating a monthly budget
  • Bill payment including student loans
  • Pros and cons of working during college


  • The importance of making friends as soon as possible
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Roommate challenges
  • Checking in with family—how often and when


  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Personal safety


  • Managing independence and change
  • Adjusting to different academic expectations
  • Available resources in case of emotional distress

“Both the student and the parent will navigate a new-found level of freedom and independence because going away to college means neither will have the other directly within their scope of daily life,” Mester said. “Being aware of these areas before they begin to occur helps everyone involved.”

Cynthia Mester, PhD, LCPC

Cynthia Mester, PhD, LCPC

Dr. Cynthia Mester is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and director of The Children’s Center. She holds a doctorate degree in educational psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois Springfield.