What Teens Feel When They Leave For College, But Don’t Tell Their Parents

Going away to college is a huge transition for many young adults. Some teens are nervous about heading to college, while others are excited and eager to get out of their hometown. There are things students may worry about, but not want to mention to their parents.

Teens want to be independent when they go to college but need their parents’ help. (Twenty20 @titovailona)

10 things teens really feel when they leave for college but don’t tell parents

1. We are scared to be living on our own for the first time

After living with family for our entire lives, it can be very nerve-racking to finally live on our own without family nearby. Keep this in mind if your student seems more on edge or anxious during their last few months at home. While students may say they are excited (and they probably are), they are likely also feeling a bit nervous about the prospect of being on their own in a new environment. 

2. We want to make the most of college but are concerned that it might not be what we expect 

Almost every high schooler has seen movies or social media videos about what college is like and has envisioned how their life in college will be. Students may feel pressure to live up to their own expectations and to attend every “fun” event to make the most of their college experience.

Many students put pressure on themselves to do everything because they want college to be exactly how they imagined it. Because students have a certain vision of how they expect college to go, one thing that doesn’t go as they envisioned it can be very upsetting. Tell your student that college is all about being adaptable and learning who you are, and it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. 

3. We want to be independent but are scared we may need your help 

Although many students are very excited to finally become independent adults, a lot of new college students are also nervous that they may need their parents’ help for something and their parents are sometimes hundreds of miles away. It is helpful to reassure your student that they can call whenever they need something or just need someone to talk to. 

4. Because of social media, we compare where we are going to college to where our peers went

The reality of today is that many students did not end up getting accepted to the university they always dreamed of attending. Students may worry that they chose the wrong school, or if they should have taken a gap year or gone to community college. This can put many freshmen on edge. Parents can offer reassurance that where you end up going to school doesn’t really matter in the long run; it’s all about what you make of it. 

5. We want you to come for parents’ weekend

Although things might be different this year because of the pandemic, if your student’s school has a parent’s weekend definitely go if you can. This may end up being a favorite memory of college because it allows parents to enjoy events and meet their child’s friends’ parents as well. 

6. We want to make a good impression on everyone in the dorms 

While moving into the dorms, many teens are extremely nervous and want to make a great impression on everyone they run into. Further, most students don’t need your help making friends for them, so just let them make friends on their own and introduce themselves. Parents introducing their child to other students can sometimes be embarrassing to freshmen. Just try to let them be independent and encourage them to start the conversation with other students during move-in. 

7. We are nervous about how challenging classes will be

In high school, many teachers ingrained in teenagers’ minds how hard college is going to be, and how much more work it would be compared to high school. This can be especially concerning for freshmen who are on the school sports team or planning to participate in Greek life.

Students worry that they won’t be able to keep up academically or socially. You can reassure your student that each class typically only meets two to three times a week, and assignments are usually larger, meaningful projects such as essays instead of busy work. Colleges also offer academic support and most professors want to help.

8. We will miss our family immensely and are nervous about feeling homesick or lonely 

One of the biggest fears new college students have is anticipating loneliness. For students from out of state, this can create anxiety. After living at home for their whole lives, and hanging out with siblings and parents on weekends, not having family nearby can be hard.

It is an adjustment going from having dinner with the family every night to eating at the dining hall, but reassure your student that they will eventually make friends. Everyone in college is eager to meet new people; in classes or just waiting in line to buy coffee, they could meet one of their lifelong friends. 

9. We are grateful for your support for the past 18 years 

We are extremely grateful for all of your help for the past 18 years. Even if we don’t show it by saying thank you, just know that we truly appreciate you. Thank you for driving us to activities, making dinner, cheering us on at sporting or artistic events, volunteering at school, making holidays special, taking us on vacation, exploring new places, supporting our interests, giving us advice, helping with school, and being there for emotional support. 

10. We love you, even if we don’t always show it 

Entering college is stressful, and sometimes we forget to tell our parents that we love them and are so appreciative of them!

Parents, thank you for all of your help in preparing us for college, we are very thankful for you! 

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About Madeleine Korn

Madeleine Korn is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the 2019 to 2020 school year, she was the advertising director for The Bottom Line newspaper at UC Santa Barbara. Prior to that, she was an intern for United Airlines in both 2018 and 2019, where she was involved in projects to improve the customer experience. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

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