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Transition Time Conversations

Whether this is your first, second, or last student to go to college, this is a time of significant transition for your whole family. We encourage you to make time together to have important conversations as they prepare to become a college student. Talking about your expectations is important as you develop your relationship with your student on their journey to adulthood.


Maintain connection with your student while they are in college. Decide how often you would like to hear from them before they leave and discuss your expectations around check-ins and deeper conversations. A phone call, text, video chat, or mailing them a card are all great ways to stay in touch. There is no right way to communicate, and your plan may change over time as the demands of college become greater at certain times.


Now is the time to help your student transition to life on campus. Discuss daily responsibilities your student will need to manage, such as preparing meals, paying bills, managing priorities, laundry, and cleaning. Students will have more freedom in college and will have to learn to manage themselves in the new environment.


Your student needs to understand the value of their education, including the full cost of college and the support they receive. Now is a good time to set expectations you might have for them to assist in covering costs, including off-campus meals, incidentals, and spending money. If your student has a scholarship and cannot maintain the required GPA, it is important to discuss who would be responsible for filling in the financial gap.

Grade Expectations

Discuss early and often your expectations regarding grades. Many scholarships require students to maintain a certain GPA. Discuss what grades are required to keep that GPA, particularly if they don’t do as well as expected. If you want to see your student’s grades at the end of each semester, discuss this with your student and remind them often of the agreements you have made. Grades will be available at the end of each semester and provide a check-in point for you and your student to discuss their progress. It is also important to celebrate their successes during the semester. A card or text when they do well will go a long way.

When to Ask for Help

Remind your student that it is OK to ask for help. College is different than high school, and your student will be challenged in new ways. It is important for students to take advantage of the available help, such as the Learning Strategies CenterCornell Writing CentersCornell Health or physical and mental health resources, and their advisor and faculty members. We are all here to help your student and want to see them succeed!  Check out our video from Cornell Health with more tips on this topic

Risk Management

The late-adolescent brain promotes risky decision-making and behaviors in the service of reward-seeking drives. It is important for students to understand how to make responsible decisions. Families can serve as a space to listen to students about what they are doing and guide students to make better decisions. Check out our video from our Student Conduct & Community Standards office.

Handling Stress

College is filled with great times, but students will also encounter challenges. Whether it is a bad grade on an assignment, an argument with a roommate or new friend or a brush off from a romantic interest, students need to be able to stick with things when they are hard. Help your student to understand that these things might happen and help them to identify coping mechanisms. Check out our video from Cornell Health on handling stress and adversity.