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 leave their hometown. There are things students may worry about but not want to mention to their parents.

Teens want to be independent while attending 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 nerve-racking to finally live on our own without family nearby. Remember if your student seems more on edge or anxious during their last few months at home. While students may say they are excited (and probably are), they are likely also nervous about being alone 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 college life and has envisioned how their college life will be. Students may feel pressure to live up to their expectations and to attend every “fun” event to make the most of their college experience.

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

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

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

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

Today’s reality is that many students were not accepted to the university they had 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 go to school doesn’t 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 be 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 

Many teens are extremely nervous while moving into the dorms 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 let them make friends independently 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 conversations 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 would be and how much more work it would be compared to high school. This can be especially concerning for freshmen on the school sports team or planning to participate in Greek life.

Students worry they won’t be able to keep up academically or socially. You can reassure your student that each class typically only meets twice a week, and assignments are usually more significant, 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 challenging.

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; they could meet one of their lifelong friends in classes or wait in line to buy coffee. 

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

We are incredibly grateful for your help for the past 18 years. We genuinely appreciate you, even if we don’t show it by saying thank you. Thank you for driving us to activities, making dinner, cheering us on at sporting or artistic events, volunteering at school, making holidays unique, 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 and appreciate 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. After graduating, she worked in marketing for a cybersecurity company for a year and a half. For the past year, she has been traveling the world while volunteering in hostels. Some of the countries she has visited include Portugal, Croatia, Greece, Albania, Cyprus, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and more. You can follow along with her travels on TikTok and Instagram. She loves writing and creating videos and really enjoys working for Grown and Flown!

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