6 Crucial College Transition Issues You Didn’t Think Of…Yet

college transition issues

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It’s a pleasure to welcome Crystal Chiang to the blog today, sharing about something I will eventually need: helping your child transition to college!

Crystal is the executive director of student curriculums at Orange. She is the co-author of The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations with Teenage Girls (Orange Books, April 2018), a resource for small group leaders. Check out her brand new devotional book for college students: Starting Now: A 30-Day Guide To Becoming Who You Want to Be In College. (check it out on Amazon in any country here or on Amazon.com below) It would make a great gift!

Helping your child transition from one phase to the next is never easy. You probably remember the first day of kindergarten, of middle school or of driving. Chances are, at each phase, you found yourself asking the same, very important, question:

Are they ready?

In elementary school, the answer to that question came in the form of school supply lists and lunch money forms. Maybe during the high school years, that question looked like putting an emergency kit in their car with a list of emergency numbers. And, after all those years of making sure they’re ready for what’s next , this stage may feel more familiar than new. After all, there is a lot of prep involved with starting college.

Maybe you’re spending this summer before college

  • Shopping for dorm supplies
  • Filling out financial aid forms
  • Discussing dining hall plans
  • Going over the basics of laundry…again
  • Or packing the emergency kit…just in case.

The list goes on and on. College-prep is a big deal for every family, but after spending the last year talking to first-year college students and asking about their experiences, I’ve begun to notice a trend.

College freshmen feel overprepared in some areas and underprepared in the areas where it counts most.

Over and over this year I’ve had conversations that went like this one:

 “Before I went to college, everybody felt the need to teach me how to separate laundry and balance a checkbook. Those things are important, but truthfully no one uses a checkbook anymore and I can figure out a washing machine. What I can’t figure out is how to make friends, manage the pressure I feel or keep my faith in tact in college. I wish somebody had talked to me about that”.

The truth is, our rising college students need more than cooking lessons or an emergency kit.  They need support and advice in some of the areas of life that count the most.

College freshman transition issues

  • Community: How do I make friends and where do I find the right people to hang out with?
  • Identity: How do I figure out who I am now that nobody cares who I was in high school?
  • Faith: What do I believe and how do I know that what I believe is right?
  • Integrity: What does it look like for my actions to reflect my values in college?
  • Freedom: When there are no rules, why would I give myself limits in anything?
  • Service: How can I use God’s unique wiring in me to impact the world around me…not later, but right now.

And often, they don’t know how much support they need in those areas until they’re already on campus.

So how do we prep them for some of these big life decisions and support them when they may or may not live at home?

Here are two ways to help your college student adjust to life in their freshman year:

Give them the tools to decide for themselves

Part of life at this stage of development is self-authoring, or deciding for themselves who they are and what they value. But there’s no guidebook in this area. And if we aren’t careful, it can feel like we’re leaving college students to figure out some of life’s biggest questions on their own.

In fact, that’s why my friend Gerald Fadayomi and I wrote Starting Now. We wanted to give college students some real tools for discussing those six big ideas above and figuring out who they are and who God wants them to be as adults.

2. Give them a team

Over and over research confirms that the success of students (and really, all of us) rises and falls on whether they have advisors or mentors in their lives. Of course, this idea isn’t new.

The book of Proverbs puts it this way, Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:20 NIV).

This is especially true in the first few months of college where life can be tricky and the right decision isn’t always clear. 

In this first semester, there will be times your brand new young adult may feel hesitant to ask you for advice because it feels like they should have it all figured out by now. That’s why oftentimes students rely on the advice of peers to make big life decisions in college. But imagine if your son or daughter had someone to turn to other than friends, roommates or that guy down the hall whose dorm smells like Doritos.  

Imagine if they had a team of adults that you know and trust who would take some time to encourage, advise or challenge them this year.

Imagine if somebody other than you was talking to them about the big ideas of community, identity, faith, integrity, freedom and service and reinforcing all you’ve taught  them to this point!I am so convinced that a team of mentors would be a gamechanger for new college students that I wanted to make it as easy as possible to make that happen. That’s why my friend Gerald and I created OnMyTeam.org, a free service that helps your college student make the ask and helps their adult mentors remember to follow up regularly.

No matter how you prepare for college this year, here’s one thing to remember: They still need you.  No matter what culture says about graduation being a finish line or 18 being adulthood, parenting isn’t over by a long shot.  There are more conversations to have and bigger questions to help them figure out.

And, they need more than ever…starting now.

Crystal Chiang is the executive director of student curriculums Orange. She is the co-author of The Art of Group Talk: How to Lead Better Conversations with Teenage Girls (Orange Books, April 2018), a resource for small group leaders. 


More about “Starting Now: A 30-Day Guide To Becoming Who You Want to Be In College 

Successfully navigating life’s transitions requires wisdom and confidence. This is especially true of the transition from high school to college. Where do students begin when it comes to handling such a huge life change? What do they do when their confidence falters? How do they handle the inevitable failures, disappointments and freedom that come with the beginning of adult life?

In their new devotional, Starting Now: A 30-Day Guide to Becoming Who You Want to Be in College (Orange Books, May 15, 2019), student ministry veterans Crystal Chiang and Gerald Fadayomi speak directly to students in their first year of college, navigating them through the both exciting and terrifying first days of school. 

In fact, Starting Now is meant to begin on the very first day of college, with six weeks of thought-provoking ideas related to community, identity, faith, integrity, freedom and service with five devotions per week, followed by a “starting now” activity to use as a plan-maker for their future or a reminder of what God says is true about them.

Check out the book on any Amazon storefront here, or on Amazon.com below.

Chiang and Fadayomi help students think through not what they want to do in college, but who they want to be. They also emphasize the importance of building a team of mentors from among adults they may already know, giving practical tips on how to reach out to these adults and what to ask from them. Readers and adult mentors can visit interactive tool www.OnMyTeam.org to learn more.