Student Development Office

Family Guide To College Transition

It's finally here — the day your student attends college. You may have been anticipating this day for years with a variety of mixed feelings. While you are excited about what the future brings, things won't be the same for you or your student. It's normal for families to experience mixed emotions during this time, with a range of feelings from pride to anxiety to sadness. Families of college students have had similar experiences for decades, but recognizing the changes ahead and knowing some helpful hints can make this transition easier for everyone involved.

Whether your student is new or already familiar with the campus, this brochure will highlight many "tips" for a smoother transition for you and your college student at Western Illinois University.

Students living away from home for the first time

Tip #1 – Write

Students are typically eager to experience all the away-from-home independence they can during the first few weeks of school. However, the security of their family ties is still very important to them. They will check their mailbox regularly.

Tip #2 – Understand They May Miss the Family Connection

Students often deny the idea of homesickness. They are usually extremely busy meeting new people and adjusting to new situations. If they get involved, they will more likely escape the loneliness, homesickness, and frustration. (Even if they do not tell you during the first few weeks . . . they do miss you!)

Tip #3 – Expect Emotional Phone Calls, Emails, or Letters

Often when troubles become too much for a student to handle (a flunked test, ended relationship, or even a shrunken t-shirt), the only place to turn may be to write or call home. You may not hear about the "A" paper, new relationship, or other triumphs. Instead, you may hear only about the problems. If problems are serious, resources for students are available on campus. For assistance, call the Student Development Office, (309) 298-1884. In an emergency, contact Office of Public Safety, (309) 298-1949.

Tip #4 – Visit

Although students are often reluctant to admit it, they do like planned visits which include shopping, dinner, or things of that nature. Special weekend visits are fun. However, surprise visits are often overwhelming for the student.

Tip #5 – Ask Questions

College students are sometimes resentful of interference with their new found independence but most desire the security of knowing that someone is still interested in them. "I have the right to know" questions can be frustrating for your student. Discuss communication guidelines ahead of time to establish expectations on which you all agree.

Tip #6 – Accept that College May Be Challenging and Not Always "The Best Years of Your Life"

Some students may not know what they want to do with their future or achieve good grades while others may struggle with making new friends and finding things to do. If you stereotype college as the "best years," you may inadvertently be working against your student’s self-development. By understanding the highs and lows, you are providing the support and encouragement necessary for your student’s educational success.

Tip #7 – Expect Some Change

Change is inevitable, natural, and can be inspiring and beautiful. Occasionally it may be challenging. Remember that your student will basically be the same person who went away to school. Maturity is not instantaneous. Please be patient!

Tip #8 – Talk to Others

Talk to others who have gone through a similar college student transition. Often other families with college students understand your feelings, and you will be able to share your experiences.

Tip #9 – Take Photos

Take photographs of your student at college and have your student send photos home. This will help keep you close to what your student is experiencing.

Tip #10 – Trust Your Student

Make your love and respect known. Some of their decisions maybe a little scary from time to time, but your support and trust will offer the encouragement they need to feel confident in making good, solid decisions on their own. Let them know you trust them and mean it!

Enjoy Your Student’s College Years!

Adapted from: National Orientation Director’s Association (NODA) "Parenting A College Freshman"

Comments From Family Members Of WIU Students

"The most exciting thing about the University experience is that it provides one of life’s rare opportunities to grow, and the many resources available offer enormous possibilities."
--parent of a WIU student

"Quietly offer your love and support. Always let her know that you are there for her to support her decisions."
--parent of a WIU student

"Be supportive – in the long run the rewards are great!"
--wife of a WIU student

"Respect your college student. He is out in the world and away from home, if you respect him and his decisions, he will in return respect you."
--parent of a WIU student


The Student Development and Success Center assists with student emergencies and provides services to enhance student success and personal development.

Family Members Information

Other Helpful Links

Contact Info

Student Development and Success Center
Memorial 125
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455

Phone: (309) 298-1884
Fax: (309) 298-2361