As parents you may be experiencing some apprehension - or even relief - about the fact that your daughter or son (hereafter referred to as your “student”) is entering university. We have put together some suggestions regarding things you might wish to think about prior to the commencement of classes. The “tips” may help both you and your student deal with some of the transitional issues which will likely be encountered. The more awareness you have and the more planning you do now, the more effective you will be in carrying out a supportive role for your student.
Be aware that changes in your student will affect your relationship and how you go about your parenting. As they step into adulthood your role will evolve from “coach” to “cheerleader”. It can therefore be helpful to reflect back on changes you experienced as you moved through significant transitions in your own life.
- What major transitions have you experienced?
- If you attended university, what was your first year like for you?
- What changes did you undergo?
- How did you cope?
- What did you learn that might be helpful now?
TIP: Through the course of any changes - be it in dress, interests, relationships, or level of academic achievement - your continued support will be an important part of your student’s success.
TIP: Understand that many concerns, problems or changes may be related to one of the 3 “I’s” - Independence, Intimacy, or Identity.
An expression of the following is not uncommon:
- stress and fatigue
- money problems
- relationship problems
- adjustment to Toronto problems
- career indecision
- misgivings about choice of academic program
TIP: A frank discussion will often help, and sometimes a suggestion that they speak to someone in the Centre for Student Development and Counselling or another Student Service department is all that is needed to get started on a solution to the problem.
University is more demanding and competitive than high school and an increased workload requires more hours of study. As a result the pressures can be great and the stress levels high.
TIP: Don’t be surprised if there is an initial drop in grades or concern about “workload”.
TIP: If your student indicates that they are experiencing academic difficulties suggest that they investigate the services and programs offered through Learning Support or the Centre for Student Development and Counselling. Check out Student Life and Learning Support or our website for specific information.
TIP: Encourage your student to become familiar with Ryerson’s academic policies and procedures as doing so can prevent avoidable problems later on.
TIP: Consider how will you respond to a failed grade? Talk about the possibility of initially lower grades ahead of time.
If your student is living away from home, you should give some thought to how you are going to communicate. This will be particularly relevant during the few months. How often will you communicate with one another? Will you be phoning, text messaging, e-mailing, using Skype or Facebook?
TIP: Send pictures and news items from your hometown paper.
TIP: Don’t make surprise, unannounced visits.
TIP: Expect the frequency of communication to lessen with time, particularly if a satisfactory transition is made.
TIP: Ask questions, but not too many! Express interest without appearing intrusive.
TIP: Anticipate that there may be more “bad news” than “good news”, at least initially.
TIP: When students are under a lot of pressure and stress they can experience a fair measure of insecurity so, when those first communications come, avoid responding by saying, “But these are the best years of your life.”
Do you need to talk to your student about any of the following issues?
- how to do laundry
- personal safety
- leading a balanced lifestyle
- alcohol use
- managing money
- and any others you can think of
TIP: Ask your student if they would like to discuss any of the above or whether they have any other fears or concerns about which they want to talk before leaving for Ryerson.
TIP: Be sure to discuss safety issues with your student before leaving for the city. Some will already be street-smart and others will not. What is the nature of your student’s experience in this regard? Encourage your student to find out about campus safety and security procedures, the role of campus security, traveling around campus at night, emergency procedures, harassment policies, etc.
Transitioning to university life can be a challenging experience for some students, especially if they are living away from home for the first time. While it may be difficult for you to monitor all aspects of your child’s adjustment to university life, do your best to stay in regular communication with your child. When you are in touch, there are several things that you can watch and listen for:
- Withdrawn and distant from close friends and family
- Marked personality or mood changes
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Loss of motivation
- Hopelessness about the future
- Statements about suicide or death
- Significant shift in academic performance
- Frequently tearful
- Difficulty getting out of bed, sleeping more than usual, or difficulty falling asleep
- Excessive irritability or anger
- Frequently missing classes or handing in assignments late
- Significant changes in appetite, eating habits or weight
- Self-harm (e.g. cutting themselves)
- Difficulty making friends
If you notice several of these signs, try to openly discuss them with your child. If you continue to be very concerned about them, encourage them to seek support from the Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling.
Ryerson places great emphasis on providing a variety of supports to help students meet the challenges they will face. We are interested in promoting the success of your student. Many services and resources are provided through Student Services. If your student experiences a problem encourage her/him to seek assistance - EARLY. For a wide range of program information, visit the Ryerson Student Affairs website.