Because of how much attention the college search and application process gets in our culture, many seniors and their families focus on getting in, rather than actually making the transition from high school to college. This can result in a tough first semester! We’d like to propose a different view: getting into college is just one step on a much longer journey. Once you’ve gotten in, the work of preparing yourself for college really begins. (We call it “work,” but it’s exciting!)
This is a family process: your parents need to begin to prepare themselves for the reality that you’re about to leave, while you need to consider what you want to make of your college experience, and anticipate some of the possible stressors.
Here’s a list of books that we recommend to both students and parents to start that conversation. We hope they help you and your family create a positive college transition!
The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College (Harlan Cohen): Perhaps no other book has become a staple for college-going students like this one. With humorous stories about everything from resolving roommate issues to navigating romance, Cohen’s book is a fun introduction to the social challenges you’ll probably encounter in college. Though this book is directed toward students, parents often find it insightful as well. But for a more parent-centric guide, consider the “parent’s edition” of the same book.
Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years (Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger): Mixing anecdotes with research, this book is an excellent primer for parents worried about managing the transition to college. Most parents know that college is a time for you as a young adult to grow in maturity and independence, but they may still wonder how much they can (or should!) protect you from some of the challenges of college. This book helps answer the question, “How can I support my college student without going overboard?”
There Is Life After College (Jeffrey Selingo): While we know the post-college transition seems very far away, it’s never too early to think about what you can do to prepare for a “soft landing” after graduation. Selingo puts particular emphasis on internships and academic research as some of the most important experiences that you can have in college, and makes the excellent point that these things often play a more significant role than your major when you are applying for jobs.
What’s most important for you and your parents to do at this juncture is to begin the conversation about transitioning to college, and it’s not too early to start to consider those post-college questions as well. By beginning college with a sense of what’s possible—the exciting opportunities as well as the challenges—you will be able to navigate those unfamiliar waters much more safely.