The University Record, September 6, 1994

Parents: Don’t worry. First year is time of transition, experimentation

By Jane R. Elgass

“You dropped off the kids or they dropped you off, and you’re worried. That’s OK.”

Whether it’s the first child or the last one, entering college is stressful for both parents and children, Geraldine Markel told a group of parents at a parent orientation program last Thursday afternoon on “Changing Roles and Changing Expectations.”

“You fear your child won’t be safe, and she’s only concerned about how close her room is to her classes. You’re also fearful of her vulnerability when she has to make some hard choices, but you have to give your child time to adjust,” said Markel, who is associate director of the Reading and Learning Skills Center.

Agreeing with one father’s assessment of the U-M as an “intellectual boot camp,” Markel characterized the Uni-versity as the “Olympics of academics. This is a highly competitive, stressful environment. The Michigan tradition is a tradition of scholarship. Students need to realize that they already have succeeded because they were accepted as students. They need to learn to concentrate on their strengths, and not worry unduly about their weak points.”

She noted that many of the new students were the cream of the crop in high school, getting all As without much effort. Some of these students, she said, may not have been particularly challenged in their classes. “College will be a challenge for them because they may not have the skills that will help them be successful, such as organizing one’s time, taking good notes, prioritizing work to be done.”

Many students also worry about their grades. If they get low grades, they are afraid to tell their parents, Markel said. They don’t want to disappoint them.

“The first year is a time of transition,” she said. “Getting a C is not a dishonor. There may be a dip in grades and in confidence, but that’s only temporary.”

The parents were urged to try to anticipate problems that may come up, Markel noting that just anticipating them is a way of addressing them. “Label the problem ahead of time, talk it out, list things the student can do.”

Markel also told the parents not to panic if the child experiments. “There are a wide variety of options here, lots of things to explore,” she said, adding that some can learn only by experience.