A New Chapter: Helping Your Student Transition to College

You’ve read through quite a few life chapters with your student so far. From first steps to first loves, no one knows those pages quite like you. But just when you thought you knew those pages inside and out, it’s time to start a brand new chapter—The College Years.

Transition Time

When your child begins looking ahead to college, a major family transition has begun. The college choice process is complex and emotional. One thing is true—the search, discovery, and application phases can be a great opportunity to practice letting your child take the lead.

Our goal is to help students identify questions and provide answers, connect you to resources on campus, and welcome you all to campus should your student choose the University of Oregon.

Potential goals for you include building your child’s self confidence with appropriate tasks for them to shoulder on their own, rewarding accomplishments with positive feedback, and giving suggestions when needed. Open communication and clarity will be your friends.

Once the choice is complete, engage as fully as possible in the orientation process. The UO has a specific track for parents and family. Then, come with your child to move into the halls and begin the college years.

An Evolving Relationship

From the first days on campus, your student will begin to evolve, explore new subjects, meet new people, and become even more of who you already love. Being on campus doesn’t mean that they no longer need their parents. It’s important for you to stay connected and involved. Start by setting a schedule for phone calls and writing a first letter.

Your student still needs your wisdom, counsel, and love—just in different ways. Balance your conversations between what’s happening on campus and what’s happening at home. Ask questions to elicit ideas rather than offering to fix things for your student. Students build confidence when they can experience success by figuring things out for themselves.

Your student will be taking risks and making mistakes. Risks can lead to positive growth, such as tackling a new subject area, joining a club, or applying for a scholarship. Offer support but don’t be afraid to let your student stumble as he or she takes risks. The goal is that students say no to risks that are unsafe, but take risks that challenge and inspire them.

To show them you’re interested without being intrusive:

  • Ask questions about what your student is learning, rather than about test scores or grades
  • Ask your student what interesting people he or she has met
  • Actively express interest in something your child shares by asking follow-up questions

Taking Responsibility

Some parents’ first instinct is to step in to solve problems for their students. The UO’s Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards recommends that you wait 24 hours before intervening on your student’s behalf. You may find that the student has solved things for him or herself. Learning from and take responsibility for their own experiences can be one of the most valuable lessons students learn in college.

When students take responsibility for their choices and actions, they take basic steps such as:

  • Developing healthy study, eating, and sleeping habits
  • Being mindful of their emotional health and mental responses
  • Making responsible behavioral choices
  • Following the Student Conduct Code
  • Being academically honest
  • Having personal integrity
  • Seeking academic assistance when needed
  • Being a positive member of the campus community

Our Role: Treating Students as Adults

A great way to support your student is by understanding the university’s role. We’re not here to take over the parenting role—that’s solely up to you. We are here to help your student develop into a responsible, healthy adult.

The University of Oregon is a public research university committed to teaching, discovery, and service. We strive to:

  • Provide your students opportunities to achieve in academic and non-academic areas.
  • Coach them on managing the physical, emotional, and intellectual effects of change and stress.
  • Encourage them to discover more deeply and express fully who they are.
  • Support them to develop lasting friendships, academic support networks, and healthy relationships with a wide range of people from many different perspectives and backgrounds.
  • Help them identify and pursue their life’s purpose or passion
  • Provide learning environments that focus on critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving—developing the broad knowledge base and essential skills to achieve career success and fulfillment in the process.

We also:

  • Welcome students as well as parents and families asking for help.
  • Treat students as adults, involving them directly in solving the issues that arise.
  • Intervene if we become aware of potentially dangerous behavior.
  • Respect students’ privacy, but as mandatory reporters we can’t always promise confidentiality in matters of safety. We will involve others to ensure their well-being when necessary.
  • Educate students about ways to keep themselves and others safe and connect them to numerous campus resources

These are just a few of the campus community members who will provide support for your student:


Not only do we treat students as adults at the UO, but many of them are legally adults. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of students’ educational records. It applies to all schools receiving funds through the U.S. Department of Education.

Information from their student records cannot be shared with others—including parents—unless students give written permission. The law does allow an institution to disclose records without consent in some special cases. These include situations deemed health and safety emergencies.

Although we recognize it can be frustrating to no longer have the same access you’ve previously had to your student’s records, we can still partner with you. FERPA prevents us from sharing specifics of a student’s situation or status, but it does not prevent us from walking you through processes or connecting you and your student with the appropriate resources.

We will send you FERPA information, but you can also find it online.

Your Student’s Well-Being

Like you, we want our students to flourish, learn from mistakes, experience triumphs, and to stay healthy. And there are ways you can help in these pursuits.


Staying well can be a tall order for busy students. Yet, it’s vital to their success. So, consider:

  • Sending healthy snacks
  • Touting the benefits of good sleep
  • Modeling positive behaviors
  • Suggesting simple ways to incorporate physical activity into their day
  • Taking emotional issues seriously and encouraging your student to talk to someone such as a counselor, a resident assistant, an advisor, or a campus clergy member

With your encouragement and support, students can stay well at school.

Alcohol and Other Substances

It’s possible that your student will be tempted to experiment with alcohol and other drugs. You can help your student make wise choices by:

  • Creating open lines of communication for mutually respectful conversations
  • Empowering your student to make a different choice
  • Learning all you can about substances
  • Not glorifying your own college experiences that may have involved drugs or alcohol
  • Helping your student learn from mistakes

An Integrated Support System

Asking for help is a sign of great strength. You can help ensure your student knows that. Students who are struggling with various concerns can turn to:


The primary reason your student is at college is to learn. Be an academic supporter by:

  • Expressing interest in what your student is learning and experiencing.
  • Encouraging your student to seek academic support from a tutor, advisor, or faculty member.
  • Asking about class projects and papers—listening and offering encouragement.
  • Suggesting your student gets more involved in class by sitting closer to the professor, participating actively in class discussions, asking questions, or seeking additional information outside of class.
  • Offering creative ways to balance classes with work, social life, and extracurricular activities

Social Belonging

Studies say that students who are involved in campus life are more likely to stay in school. When students get to campus, they are searching for a sense of belonging. Getting involved in a campus organization is a positive way students can belong. Your student will find more than 250 student-led organizations on campus. From political to multicultural to academic, your student is sure to find a group of interest.


Smart money management is a lifelong skill that will greatly benefit your student. Some students are money-savvy while others struggle with these concepts and need extra help. To that end, we’ve developed the Financial Flight Plan, a set of money-management tools and a student-written blog offering great tips and tricks for living on a tight budget. Ideas go beyond simply eating ramen and include advice about budgeting, spending, borrowing, using credit, and setting financial goals. Additionally, you can encourage smart financial practices by:

  • Warning your student not to apply for credit card offers.
  • Setting spending limits if your student is using a credit card that you provided.
  • Having your student chip in to pay expenses rather than relying on you entirely.
  • Working together to set up a budget plan for the year.
  • Keeping an eye out for scholarship opportunities.
  • Consulting financial aid and academic department staff about scholarships or re-evaluation of aid packages, when appropriate

Personal Safety

Campuses can be very safe places, as long as students play it smart. Share these safety tips and encourage your student to be mindful about personal safety. Students can increase their chances of staying safe on campus by being aware and employing these practical safety measures:

  • Walk with a friend and avoid isolated areas.
  • Plan ahead to have a designated driver or use a taxi, public transportation, or UO’s SafeRide to get around.
  • Know where to find emergency phones and well-lit pathways on campus.
  • Don’t accept beverages from strangers or drink from one left unattended.
  • Keep your room or apartment or other personal valuables locked.
  • Keep valuables out of sight.
  • Don’t give out personal information to people you just met in person or online.
  • Report any obscene phone calls right away to campus police.
  • Never become so intoxicated that you lose the ability to keep yourself safe.

You can learn more about campus safety and crime on the UOPD’s website.

Preparing for a Bigger World

Your students’ world is going to become bigger while they attend college. The things they learn, people they meet, and discussions they engage in will contribute to them becoming the best people they can be—global citizens, compassionate friends, critical thinkers, and curious, open individuals.

Consider your role in shaping your students’ beliefs. Your students may identify new ideas, have new experiences, and challenge themselves while people are challenging them. For example, a roommate with very different political views, a friend from a different religious upbringing, or a classmate from a different country will open your students’ eyes to new points of view. A student who is open to diversity will experience the world much differently than one who is not.

As your students prepare for a bigger world, a strong sense of confidence and self-sufficiency will stand them in good stead. Allowing your relationship to evolve as your student starts this new chapter requires compromise, flexibility, and trust—on both your parts. With these tools at your sides, college can be a wonderful experience for both of you.