Being a college student during the pandemic is something that none of us ever expected. Our lives have completely changed, and it is very disappointing to not be able to experience college the way we imagined it.
Everything is so different this year. The pandemic has also had a negative effect on the mental health of many college students. A lot of parents are unsure of how they can support their college student during the pandemic.
How parents can support their college student
1. Give us space to grow while also being there to support us
“I think that the advice I would give to parents is that college is kind of a time to explore different interests and hobbies and because it’s a transitional period to more independence and responsibility as an “adult.” It’s important to give students enough space to grow while also being there as a support system for them!” – Irene Chen, senior at University of California, Santa Barbara
2. We aren’t home for a break, so we don’t have tons of free time
“I think the most important thing for parents to remember is that students are not coming home for a break and aren’t coming home to just relax and hang out with family. A lot of these students were forced to come home and are used to being able to do whatever they want and go wherever they want. It’s important to keep in mind that for college students, it is totally normal to go to bed at 2am and wake up at noon.
Parents need to remember that college students’ world was basically turned upside down and that students are very busy with school work and won’t always have time to hang out with the family. A lot of college students feel super overwhelmed with online school. It would be helpful if parents would just talk to us about how our day has been and ask us if there is anything they can do to make our lives easier.” Sophie Robinson, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara
3. We are in a weird place emotionally and a lot of us are experiencing mental health issues
“I think it is important for parents to know that their kids are going to be at an emotionally weird place right now because students have lost a very significant part of their life. A majority of everyone’s college experience is going to be cut short due to the pandemic. Friendships that could have been made have not been made and friendships that could have flourished are not flourishing because we cannot see anybody.
Parents need to know that students are probably going to be more on edge when they are at home versus how they would normally feel if they were just visiting home. The reason a lot of us are sad is that our college experience has been taken away. The first two years of college were amazing for me and now basically, I have to go back to how life was before college.” – Logan Tomaselli, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara
4. Check up on our mental health to make sure we are okay
“What I would probably say to my parents is that college is definitely a huge change for students coming from high school and mental health is a really big concern, so maybe just calling and checking in a few times a week and making sure that we’re not getting too overwhelmed or just not putting too much outside pressure on us, considering all the pressure that is already on us to adapt to a new environment while trying to be a successful student.” – Jenna Pennella, freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara
“I think that college students experience a lot of emotions including stress, sadness, loneliness, etc. and sometimes it’s easy to take out feelings on family so I think it would be good advice for families and parents to always be understanding and provide emotional support for students like being patient with them or engaging in fun activities together. Also, I think some parents think that college students only want independence and don’t check up on them and I feel that it is better to check up on kids once in a while. Talking with family after not seeing them can be comforting for students even if they don’t explicitly ask parents to call them.” – Rebecca Li, senior at University of California, Berkeley
5. We have a lot on our plate
“I think a lot of parents grow older and forget what it is like to be in your early twenties and not have everything figured out. I feel like as a parent, you have already found your identity and you already have a solid group of friends, and that’s not the case in college.
In college, we are super busy because we want to have a social life, maintain good grades, find an internship or job, meet new people, and travel. I think as a parent the priorities are different, so you might not always see eye to eye with your child, because we want different things in life and engage in different activities than our parents.
In terms of supporting, I think parents and students need to talk to each other and talk about hardships or achievements. I think communication is important to maintain support and consistency and give them advice or just listen. – Amber Li, senior at Arizona State University
6. College is different than it used to be and we have so much schoolwork to do
“College is not the same as when they went to school. We are not partying all the time. It’s actually stressful and hard. If parents could try to empathize and better support our stress and being understanding it will always be beneficial.” – Jacob Young, senior at California Polytechnic University
7. We won’t be able to just drop everything and do chores immediately
“I think parents should understand that when college students are at home, we have so many obligations relating to schoolwork, clubs, or Greek Life. So if I am staying at my parent’s house, they need to understand that I am busy and won’t be able to drop what I am doing to do chores or watch younger siblings.” – Melody Nunez, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara
8. We need a quiet space to focus when we are at home
“Something I need while at home is to have a quiet space to do my homework, free of distractions. I know sometimes my family will be loud or distract me, but I really have a lot of schoolwork to do and need to focus on that and can’t be distracted while I’m in class or doing homework.” – Ally Williams, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara
9. A lot of us are worried about finding a job when we graduate because of the pandemic
“It is super unfair that this happened to us during our college years. We all planned to be a college student or even be abroad right now and everything has been canceled. It’s so disappointing for all of us. And we have no idea when the pandemic will be over. There is no certainty when things will go back to normal and it is kind of scary that we will probably be entering the job force during COVID-19, so a lot of us are also stressed about job insecurity.” – Maddie Wilson, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara
10. It is helpful to be understanding and supportive of our decisions
“Something my parents have done really well is that they have been super understanding about the challenges that come with doing online school. Being online for the entire day is not good for mental health and even is just super straining on the eyes.
My mom checks on me to make sure that I go outside every now and then to take a break from the computer screen. My parents also bought me blue light glasses which were very helpful. I even told my parents that I am so unhappy with online schooling and that I was considering taking a quarter off and my parents were supportive of this decision because online school is so different from school in person. We also are given so much work but don’t have as much freedom as we had before COVID-19.” – Sarah Settles, junior at University of California, Santa Barbara
“I’ve had a handful of friends who are only studying something because it’s what their parents want instead of what they’re interested in. I think it’s difficult to become successful in a discipline that you have no interest or passion in. I’d say parents can support their kids by urging them to do what they love even though it might not be as profitable because they’ll be happier.” – Cristina Mansir, sophomore at University of California, Santa Barbara
“Parents should be supportive of the career/major that their child chooses. Don’t force your child to pursue something that they’re not passionate about or have no interest in. Parents need to understand that students are constantly stressed about tests/exams etc. and should have personal space. My parents never leave me alone and I always get interrupted.
Parents need to understand that it is normal for students to be up late at night studying. My parents don’t believe that students should be sleeping late. They always say ‘College students don’t sleep this late. You’re just procrastinating.’ As the first in my family to graduate from college, my parents don’t understand what it’s like to be a college student. They always make assumptions about what I am doing with my education and have their own beliefs about how college students are supposed to act. Most of the time I do not fit this role in their eyes.
They constantly interrupt my class lectures, when I need to study, do homework, or just need a little break to myself. There is no privacy. When I chose my major, my mom was not happy with me because all her coworkers’ kids were pursuing careers in the medical field and she wanted that for me. Although I knew she had good intentions, I knew the medical field was not for me.
So I decided to pursue business. Parents should be aware of their child’s mental health. Sometimes students push themselves too far to achieve high grades and excellence to impress their peers and parents, that it causes a lot of mental and emotional issues. Stress, anxiety, and depression arise. So definitely encourage and support rather than enforce.” – Vivian Gin, senior at Sacramento State University
11. We appreciate the little things
“I think parents being supportive emotionally is huge during this time. Moral support is also super helpful. Even just the little things make a difference, like making me food or having a comfy space ready for me when I get home.” – Athena Katsouridis, senior at University of California, Santa Barbara
“Something new that my parents started doing is that if they know I have a test, they’ll text me the day of or night before wishing me luck. That’s always nice to get a message about right before a test. It helps ease the stress of online school and just shows how much they care about me.” – Saskia Jacobson, junior at Arizona State University
12. Empathize with us and put yourself in our shoes
“I think that the best thing parents can do is support their kids as much as they can and really empathize with how they feel. It’s tough to miss out on the college experience right now and having parents who are understanding is the best thing. Checking in with one’s kid on mental health is super important. Don’t try to problem-solve this pandemic, just listen and be there for them.” – Isabella Walker, freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara
13. Make sure your child is taking steps to prepare for graduation such as finding internships
“Check in on your kids to find out if they are doing well in their major and if they have taken steps to figure out what they want to do after graduation. A lot of students flunked out of college because of the lack of guidance and the motivation to find out about the future after college” – Chi Nguyen, junior at Arizona State University
Being a college student during the pandemic is not easy, and we are all navigating through it in our own way. I hope these heartfelt comments from college students living this reality will help parents understand our world and provide insight into how parents can support their college student.
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