You were patient when they needed help tying their shoes, you encouraged them to try again when they fell off their bike, and you were supportive when they didn’t make the game-winning goal. You’ve been a teacher, a cheerleader and an advice columnist.
Despite years of guiding your child, nothing really prepares you for the moment you drop off your student at college and let them fly solo. St. Edward’s tries to make the transition from freshman year to graduation as easy as possible for students and parents alike. We talked to several parents who’ve “been there, done that” and found out that it’s not as tough as it may seem.
Get Support from St. Edward’s and Other Parents
“There were hundreds of unknowns,” says Tricia Stephens, whose daughter Ashley ’21 just completed her freshman year. “Is she going to be able to take care of herself? Is she going to make friends? Is she going to be happy? Is she going to be comfortable being out of state and far away from us?”
Luckily, Tricia and her husband, Keith, found reassurance on campus, especially at a parent event during Orientation week. “We got to talk to administrators who calmed us down and let us know that our stressed out kids were normal and would adjust. We also met some really nice parents from all over the world who felt the same way we did, so that made us feel better,” Stephens says.
Allow Independence and Know That Mistakes May Happen
Belinda Reyes, whose son Adam ’18 is close to college graduation, remembers having to walk a fine line when Adam started his freshman year. “I wanted to maintain our close-knit relationship, and yet allow him that independence as a young adult,” Reyes says. “I knew he was going to make mistakes because he doesn’t have that life experience yet. But we needed to allow him to make mistakes and still be there to steer him in the right direction.”
Reyes and her husband, Adrian Leal, were pleased when their son took advantage of resources on the hilltop, like his academic counselor, as well as the Health & Counseling Center, which helped with occasional bouts of anxiety. And he quickly found a way to maintain his faith life as part of the campus choir, a group that also traveled to Europe twice during his college years. “It helped develop his maturity,” Leal says. “When you’re in a choir, you have some responsibilities, especially when you travel and represent your school.”
Be a Good Listener
It only took Amy Kutschbach about half a semester to figure out that her freshman daughter, Ellie ’21, no longer needed a problem solver but rather a friendly ear. “Initially I tried to help her with each problem by making suggestions, but then I realized that if I just listened to her, she came up with a solution by the end of our conversation,” Kutschbach says. “It was fun to see the transformation of an 18-year-old high school student to an 18-year-old freshman college girl and see the adult decisions she was making.”
MORE SUGGESTIONS FROM HILLTOPPER PARENTS TO EASE THE COLLEGE TRANSITION
- Plan a couple of extra days before or after your visit so you can get familiar with the St. Edward’s campus and the surrounding areas in Austin. Find your favorite restaurant or place to hang out when you’re in town.
- Participate in blessing your child during Mass at Orientation Week, and be blessed by your child at Mass during Homecoming & Family Weekend.
- Use a video chat app to communicate face-to-face.
- Encourage your child to step out of his or her comfort zone by going to a college sporting event, joining a club, or taking advantage of free group activities on campus.
- Just be patient, breathe through all the struggles and tumultuous emotions during that first semester, and have faith that it’s going to work out.
- Sending small care packages is nice too!
- For older students: Let them send out the résumés, but offer to take them shopping for the perfect interview outfit.
- Remember that St. Edward’s is a home away from home for four years and that a lot of growth happens each year. Take a photo with your student each fall, and book-end it with a spring photo in a spot that holds special meaning. Look back on the photos at graduation to see how far you all have come!
By Lisa Thiegs