Dear Son, My Little Bit of Advice as You Head to College


There is a tradition of parents writing an obligatory college drop off letter to your freshman college student. I have read a few examples, and some of them are beautiful, poignant. They are to offer advice and throw out some words of encouragement. So here is my attempt!

teen boy by a lake
Here is my advice to my son before he leaves for college. (Twenty20 @christening)

The first month of college feels like a whirlwind

The next month or so is going to feel like a whirlwind. You may feel very uneasy at times. There will be a lot coming at you very quickly. As dad puts it, “like drinking water from a firehose.”  You may feel like everyone else knows what they are doing (they don’t). Remember that you are ready for this. Not only are you ready, you are highly capable of success.

It may not feel like it this first month or two, or even this entire first year, but you can do this. Just remember in times of confusion, or anxiety, or utter panic, to stop, breathe, assess the situation and then move forward.

Personally, I have found that when I didn’t understand what is going on, or when I felt like the Professor left something out, if I went back and carefully re-read the syllabus or the course materials, or the directions, the answers or the timing would be there.

Asking for help from others always works, too! Keep in mind that what you *think* you know (or heard, or read) might be very different than what is actually expected.

I feel confident that the college you chose is a good fit for you, but that is for you to determine. Give it a year or so to find your place there. It is a world-class education and will open your already brilliant mind to new ideas. You are already a very fun person to talk to about complex ideas and subjects. I can’t wait to have even deeper conversations with you about the things you will learn, the shows you will work on, the deep friendships that you will make.

I have just a little bit of advice about living on your own. I feel that I can make this pretty brief, as hopefully, dad and I have done a good job up to this point of guiding you towards adulthood so you can avoid being one of those freshmen who goes completely crazy once the parents drive away.

Dad’s brief advice

  • Remember to eat regular, healthy meals.
  • Make your room as comfortable as you can as a place of sanctuary. You will need it.
  • Take time for yourself to re-energize if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Good sleeping habits are part of good health–but don’t rely on sleep aids.
  • Schedule your time wisely, and don’t procrastinate. Writing all your deadlines down on a calendar (not just on your phone) is a good way to keep track of your commitments.
  • When you drink (and we figure you will) be very careful about with who, what, where and when. Also how, (as in don’t mix alcohol.) Being falling-down drunk is about as pathetic as it gets. So is being stoned.
  • Have fun and make friends, but don’t jump into other people’s drama too quickly. You have a keen sense of being able to sniff out people that aren’t worth your time and energy. But at some point they will sneak under your radar. Just be measured and careful these first few weeks about who you let into your circle of trust and who you confide in. Keep in mind that your college is small enough that it will be hard to avoid people.
  • Going to college is just another step for you. If it feels new and unfamiliar, that’s because it is. You have already taken hundreds of new and unfamiliar steps already in your 18 years. You are well-practiced in the art of moving and moving forward and have shown that you can do it successfully. You should give yourself credit for that. It is a life skill not many people of your age possess.


You know how proud we are of you. I know everyone keeps saying it, but this truly is an exciting time of your life. It can also be scary and unnerving at times. If you can power through that and stay focused, you will be fine. Also, you know I am always here for you. Always.

This is a beginning for you. A beginning to a big, juicy, wonderful life. The path won’t always be clear. Sometimes you might wonder about the trip you are taking, but remember that there will be remarkable things to see along the way, and fantastic people to meet. And, if you’re really lucky, you will continue to grow and know yourself even better.

I love you and I will miss you, but you already know that!


The author wishes to be anonymous. 

More Great Reads:

Clean is Sexy and 58 Other Pieces of Advice for Young Men



About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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