As your student takes on adult responsibilities, your role will change, but your student still needs you. Students need you to support their growth, development, and independence, and to be a stable force in their ever-changing world. On occasion, they even need your advice—but they may or may not ask for it.

The beginning of a college career marks many changes in students and their relationships with family and friends. It can also mean changes in beliefs, values, behaviors, and attitudes. Parents and family members provide a crucial support base for these new experiences. Understanding and adjusting to these changes is an exciting challenge for both students and their families.

From the increased academic workload to the pressures of making new friends to the new amount of unstructured time, students may experience a great deal of stress or anxiety related to their new responsibilities as a college student. You can help your student prepare for these new responsibilities by discussing expectations ahead of time and by allowing your student to practice these skills before arriving on campus. The more comfortable your student feels about managing these responsibilities, the less stressful they will seem in the fall.


One of the main theories in college student development is by Arthur Chickering and Linda Reisser. Chickering and Reisser use a Vector Theory to identify the primary areas in which students will face challenges during their college years. The vectors are in order. Thus, you can expect that your son or daughter will need the most assistance with the first one or two vectors during his or her first year. You may see him or her struggle with the later vectors a few years from now. Catholic Campus Ministry is here as another support system as they continue to grow and question.

    1. Developing Competence: “Can I make it here?”

    2. Managing Emotions: “How do I handle my feelings?”

    3. Moving Through Autonomy toward Interdependence: “From Parents to Peers”

    4. Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships: “Friends and Acquaintances”

    5. Establishing Identity: “Who am I?”

    6. Developing Purposes: “Where am I heading?”

    7. Developing Integrity: “What are my values?”


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Source: University of Michigan: Parents and Families, Chickering, Arthur W. and Reisser, Linda. Education and Identity (2nd edition, 1993) - Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.Banner Credit: Unknown