College dorms are filling up with new recruits this very minute, some bringing far more than any freshman ought to own, while others come with only a suit case or two. All, however, seem to come equipped with a big smile that works hard at camouflaging fear-filled eyes. You read that right, not tear-filled (maybe some of that, too), but mostly fear-filled.  You’ve seen the look. You probably saw it in the mirror looking back at you in your own freshman dorm.  

Newly arriving college kids don’t know what to expect, and you, as a parent, know these kids don’t have a clue. So it’s your job to enlighten your child as best your can.  It’s tricky because if you say too much your know-it-all offspring will turn you off, even though they’re scared and wish they could reach out and touch you one more time, but don’t want you to know it.

So how do you help your child make this leap of faith from high school to college without it ending in a serous crash? We suggest you have a little heart-to-heart counsel time together, keeping it simple and direct. It may be the very thing that saves them from a world of disappointment. Do it in person, if they’re still home, or by phone if they’re too far away to meet with. Whatever you do, don’t text it or email it. You need to know they are listening and responding as you speak. Let them ask questions and make comments. Listen to them without being derailed from the duty at hand. Here are twelve items to discuss.        
1. Examine your reasons for wanting to attend college.
Decide your passion, your purpose for attending college, your goal for future employment. What are you trying to achieve by going to college?  If you clearly and simply outline this on paper and in your mind, you will be far more likely to achieve it.

Elder Dennis Neuenschwander said, when speaking to students at BYU Idaho recently, “Lofty destinations of lasting worth are composed of intensely personal dreams, aspirations, and ideas that demand the very best in you to reach them. The destinations you set for yourself must inflame your imagination and bring passion to your life.  They must be worthy of the sacrifices you will surely make for them.” (“I Take My Journey” BYU I devotional, May 4, 2010)    

Some students graduate college with no employable skills at the end. They simply enjoyed taking classes. Learning can be invigorating and fun, but it has to be more than that!  There must be an end purpose, with an employable skill acquired, and the sooner you achieve that goal the better.
2. College is not even remotely like high school.  

If you could buy a grade in high school by cozying up to the teacher, talking your way out of a failed grade with a simple make-up paper or a sad story, you need to know those days are over. The only thing that counts in college is doing the work, and doing it right. A scholarship can be easily lost and no amount of begging will bring it back.  So work hard and don’t lose your scholarship! If you don’t have a scholarship, the same applies: do the work or lose your privilege of being in college.     

Some students learn the hard way. They think it’s a party time, with studies coming in far too low on their list of priorities. These students end up having to repeat classes, or being ousted all together.  You were supposed to have learned how to study and work hard in high school. If you didn’t, then there is no time to lose, learn it now.  Professors are not known to engage in pity parties. You were accepted into college because the admittance office figured you were serious about learning; now’s the time to prove them right. Or else. As one student put it, “Apparently some administrator was biased against students whose GPA starts with a decimal point, so I was soon expelled.”                      

3. If you’re struggling with a class, admit it and get help.

Ask questions, work with other students who “get it”. Remember that a text book is there to be read, so read it and read it again until you understand the concept being taught. If you need more help, make an appointment to visit with the professor. Their job is to help you learn, so be honest about what you need from them, clearly expressing what you’re struggling with. Teachers succeed when students learn. Let them help you.

4. There is more to college than just studying.

A true education for a successful life involves balance. Most students don’t have an over-indulging sugar daddy paying their way, so they must get a job. That would be you, and actually it’s a blessing.  If you look at your college employment as another phase of your education then it’s paying you double. However menial a job may be, there is something positive to be learned from it. It may be as simple as learning to get along with fellow employees, following a boss’s orders, or learning how to manage your time and money more efficiently — all crucial in real life.
5. Having a social life is part of the balance.         

Having a good time with friends is important. However, if your social life is too heavy, weighing down one end of your college teeter totter, then that means your studies are way up in the air and about to be bumped off. That’s not balance.  You need both to make college a pleasant experience.  Just don’t expect your social life to balance equally with your academic pursuits. So get off the teeter totter and start scheduling your time appropriately.

When you study wisely and have a job, it may be challenging to include a social life. Still, you must find a way, or you’ll burn out. Just do it judiciously. Choose the most important social events you want to be involved in and have some fun.

Enjoy dating different people, just make sure you date only the kind of person you want to marry, one who is temple worthy with your same goals.  And don’t just hang out in groups. Date! It’s only through dating that one-on-one conversations occur and really getting to know a person takes place. Keep the dates simple and inexpensive. (For more on this read Elder Dallin H. Oaks speech to college students “Dating versus Hanging Out” in the June 2006 Ensign.)
6. Set realistic goals.

In the words of Elder Neuenschwander, “Great destinations are not achieved in a single step or by ‘sudden flight’, but by the accomplishment of numerous smaller or interim goals all along the way.  These interim goals should be written down and placed where you can see them often.  I recall entering a missionary apartment in Greece and noticing a number taped to the ceiling.  When I asked what it was, the missionaries told me that it was their baptismal goal for the month and that they had put it on the ceiling so that it was the first thing they saw each morning when they opened their eyes and the last thing they saw at night before they fell asleep.  The setting and accomplishing of daily goals lead you little by little to your destination.”  (Ibid)

When you have a paper due, set a goal to have the research done by a certain date, then another date to have the paper written. Follow this patter with all your classes, setting goals that lead to successfully completing the course.  This step by step process will lead you to reaching your ultimate goal of graduation. Keep that final goal planted firmly in your mind.  

7. Be true to who you are.

Remember who you are. You know you are a child of God and that you can call on Him any time to help you achieve your goals. Make sure they are aligned with His eternal plan for you and all will be well. You don’t have to be like anyone else. Just be you. No matter where you go you will have many different people encouraging you to compromise your values. If you handle this college experience with determination to be true to your values, you will be prepared for whatever faces you the rest of your life.

That applies to dating, too. After a date you will no longer be coming home to face mom and dad, but you will wake up every morning to face yourself and the choices you have made.  Remember the words of President Monson: “There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so.”  (Thomas S. Monson, “Examples of Righteousness,” Ensign, May 2008, 65–68)

8. Don’t watch any form of pornography.

Block it from your computer, cell phone, iPod touch, iPad or any other electronic device you may have.  There is a terrible price to pay for students becoming involved in pornography. Men and women. It takes over their brains and stops their ability to learn effectively. One young woman got so involved with it she failed her classes, called home crying and begging for help to overcome the horrible habit that had stolen her college life. As President Hinckley said, “Pornography, with its sleazy filth, sweeps over the earth like a horrible engulfing tide.  It is poison. Do not watch it or read it. It will destroy you if you do.”  (Ensign Nov. 1997)

9. Get along with your roommates.

They are not siblings so don’t pick fights expecting them to love you anyway, like your little brother does. Roommates have to have good reasons to like you. Do your fair share of taking care of your room or apartment. It’s not fun to live with a slob. It’s also important to not be run over, so set appropriate boundaries. Outline shared duties and stick to it.  Of course, there may be times you help each other out in a pinch, but if you’re the one always getting caught in their pinch, that won’t work. Nor will it work if they’re always having to do your part.

Treat your roommates with respect and never gossip about them with others.  The objective is to get along with them so college life will be a pleasant experience for you and them.   
10. Use your money wisely.

You can’t have everything you want, so don’t call us when the well runs dry.  Just be wise with what you have.  The story is told of a college student who wrote to his dad saying, “Dear Dad, No mon, no fun. Your son”.  The reply came back, “Dear son, so sad, too bad. Your dad.”  Since we love and want you to succeed we won’t interfere with your progress by making your road too easy.
Here’s an important little warning. Far too many students get caught up in credit card debt. You need to live within your means, not your parents’s means. Financial expert Dave Ramsey gives wise counsel on the use of credit cards. It’s simple: “Don’t use them.” They‘re enslaving. And remember, you are not a bank, so don’t loan money. Loaning money is a sure-fire way to lose a friend. When they can’t pay it back they will avoid you like the plague. If they ask, just say, “I wish I could, but I can’t.”
11. Be active in your college ward.  

Don’t ward hop. Some students go from one ward to the next and never really belong. Have your membership records sent to your assigned ward, accept callings, and be involved. This is the Lord’s plan to help keep you safely watched over by home teachers, visiting teachers, and a caring bishop. It will give you opportunities to serve, and bring you a great deal of comfort and fun as you are involved in ward activities.

12. Take care of yourself.

Eat healthy food. Don’t skip meals, it will take a toll on your ability to be alert and retain information. Same with sleep. You body and brain require a good night’s rest. Dr. David Garrison, a university physician, says, “Lack of sleep affects academic performance more than you think.”  You can’t think clearly without it and It’s a fact that without sufficient sleep you become a sure-fire candidate for illness. (The Daily Colegian online, 11/29/05)  You are not invincible.

Your body needs good food and rest to replenish and function properly.   Be safe. Choose safe friends who honor your values. Walk in safe places. Recently a coed running alone along a wooded area near the Provo River, in the middle of the day, was beaten and raped. Guard yourself! If you run, do it in open areas where others are present. Don’t go out alone at night. Go in pairs or groups, like the missionaries do. It’s for your safety.  

The greatest safety of all is in living the teachings of Jesus Christ. Rely on Him.  Pray always for guidance, then listen carefully for the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. Do this and you will feel Heavenly Father’s protecting arms around you.

College in many respects is the first real journey into adulthood.  Both parents and children need to recognize this and build on it.  A parent who becomes over indulgent and ready to immediately rescue the poor decisions of their children create an unreal world and an unrealistic expectation. We hope these suggestions will help you prepare your child for this most important journey.