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Surviving the summer before college

Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

What’s the best source for good advice for soon-to-be college freshmen? Talking to other students who have “been there, done that” will provide a much more accurate picture than any parent lecture that begins with “When I went to college …”

Julia Johnston and Mary Kay Shanley are authors of the newly released “Survival Secrets of College Students” and they got the inside scoop from hundreds of interviews with college students. The first chapter in “Survival Secrets” focuses on “That Long-Short Last Summer at Home.”

This summer, before your children get to experience independence on a college campus, is just as confusing for them as it is for you parents.

Do you maintain a curfew? Are you more flexible with their chores and responsibilities? Everyone wants as stress-free a summer as possible. So when kids are testing the limits and boxing you into a corner, you might hear yourself saying, “When you’re living in my house, you’re under my rules; what I say is the law.”

That is not the best opening for calm dialogue or a negotiation.

Here are some ideas from Johnston and Shanley for parents to share with their children that may help make the transition easier for everyone:

1. It has finally hit Mom that you’re leaving. Set aside some “mom and me” time with her each week or she’ll start crying. Even if you do this, she may still cry!

2. Share your mail/emails from college so your parents will know what’s happening.

3. Discuss courses you’re planning to take as well as your roommate and dorm selection.

4. Do the little things your parents want you to do, even the ones you consider to be “stupid.”

5. Go places with your parents. Initiate ideas of things to do besides eating out and shopping for dorm items.

6. Don’t flaunt any alcohol use or sexual activities; avoid confrontation.

7. Confession may be good for the soul but it’s hardly ever good for the parents. Don’t share too much information.

8. Work, work and work to save money for college.

What’s the worst thing a parent can say to soon-to-be-freshman? “This is going to be the best four years of your life.” College is not Shangri-la.

Most people recall their college experiences with fond memories, but if you dig a little deeper most everyone will remember some tears, insecurities and lonely nights. Don’t paint a picture of perfection and set expectations too high. No college can deliver that.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.
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