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When College Is a Four-Year Journey: Senior YearVicki Nelson
Though first-year students come to campus with diverse backgrounds they share common hopes and dreams. They want to be successful in college, and they hope to make life-long friends.
Colleges and universities structure campus life to help students achieve these goals, doing everything they can to support academic and social success. A satisfying out-of-classroom experience is important to students feeling connected to their school, and when students are connected they’re more likely to stay in school and graduate.
Does this play out differently for students who live at home during college? Without the experience of living in a residence hall, commuter students must work harder to make meaningful connections so they truly feel part of the campus community.
Here are three ways to support and encourage your commuter student.
Students learn from their peers, and the freedom to spend time with friends and classmates in a spontaneous way is important. Students who live on campus don’t have curfews, or stop what they're doing to be at the family dinner table. They can continue a group discussion into the evening or go to a movie or lecture or out for a bite with friends.
If you have a college student living at home, you now have another adult in the house. That means they come and go as an adult; you may rarely see them for meals; you might consider keeping their family responsibilities to a minimum.
This may be very different from high school! To smooth the transition, talk to your student about:
This can happen by:
Part-time work (preferably no more than 15–20 hours a week) increases a student’s chances of doing well academically and has a big social benefit, too. Student employees meet more of their fellow students as well as more faculty members, administrators and staff — a great network for career mentorship, professional references and all-around support.
As parents, our expectations about family roles need to change when our commuter students enter college.
What doesn’t change is our role as our student's number one source of support.
Our hopes, dreams and fears are the same as theirs. We want them to be successful and to cultivate lifelong friendships.
Even when our students still live at home, it’s important to give them the same freedoms that we would if we had left them and their suitcases in a residence hall. They've earned the right to spread their wings, even if they are returning to the nest at night.
When your college student starts their first semester, it’s not just a big deal for them. It’s a big deal for you, too. Get the First Semester Guide for College Parents now!