Why the First Six Weeks of College Are So Critical

10 smart tips to help your fledgling student find success, stability and confidence

It’s not an overstatement: The first six weeks of freshman year can make or break a student’s college career.

The American College Testing Program, the nonprofit organization that administers the ACT, found that nearly 35 percent of freshmen drop out; more than half of them leave within the first six weeks of school. For all those freshmen who grew up in a structured and even hyper-coddled environment, going away to college brings a newfound sense of freedom. It can be utterly welcome but also incredibly overwhelming.

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Students are exposed almost immediately to binge drinking and drug use, and as a result, may engage in risky behavior — and this isn’t just nervous parents talking. By about the third week, the newness of college dies down and nearly 70 percent of freshmen admit to feeling homesick, as a recent UCLA survey discovered. This is also the time both the academic course workload and students’ overall feelings of stress increase.

In short, there’s a reason most colleges don’t hold their “parents’ weekend” festivities any sooner than six weeks after the move-in date. Brand-new college students need time to develop a sense of self and acclimate to their new environment.

Here are 10 tips — both do’s and don’ts — that will help your child transition successfully into college.

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1.) Do help your child move into the dorm, but don’t prolong the experience. Try to get there early, take care of what needs to be done — and unless there is a formal parent orientation session, leave quickly.

Letting students figure out where to put their empty suitcases, stash their empty boxes and get oriented to their surroundings is an opportunity for them to meet dorm mates and strike up conversations, which will not happen if a hovering parent is still standing there.

2.) Do not call the first night to see how things are going. Rather, text your child to let her know you arrived home safely.

And do not ask questions like, “How’s your roommate?” While this is high on parents’ worry list, in 99 percent of cases the student won’t have any real news to report yet — the roommates have literally just met. When a little time goes by and students do have something to report, they’ll let you know.

Related: The Three Best Traits of the Most Successful Students

3.) Do not ask immediately how classes are going, either. Some professors give just two or three exams over the course of an entire semester. Others give a series of quizzes or assignments.

Once classes begin, students need some time to settle in know and understand how they’re doing academically — and to get comfortable enough to approach the professor. Freshmen in particular will have no idea how a class is going until the first quiz, essay, or test.

Related: How to Thrive in College

4.) Do not call your child daily. You really shouldn’t call at all, frankly, during the first week.

And never serve as your child’s wake-up call at college! He needs to become a self-sufficient adult. Instead of calling during the first week, one New York City mother sent her child an email each morning that simply said, “Have a good day!” That was enough to satisfy her need for connection — and her child was happy she was thinking of him and not interfering. (go to page 2 to continue reading)  [lz_pagination]

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