The College Checklist for Parents: What is your Millennial Missing?



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Now that summer is moving along and we are about 6 weeks from the start of the fall semester, much is being written about preparing college students for the upcoming semester.  For most families, preparation involves trips to retail stores to stock up on clothes, comforters, food, and electronics. What does your student need? Lists of items are created, revised, and checked off as containers quickly accumulate in the house. You’ve likely read numerous college survival lists noting the top 20-100 things students need to bring to campus.

I encourage you to take a moment, put the lists aside and focus on an item that you can’t purchase at Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, or the Apple store.  Parents, the item is determining how you can REALLY be most helpful to your college and college-bound student in developing critical life skills. Much has been written about parenting millennials, in particular the negative impact of overbearing, over-involved “Helicopter Parents” on the development of life skills.  Resiliency, self-confidence, problem solving, decision making, and adaptability are a few notable examples of life skills connected to successful transition from high school to college and from college to career.

This past week I appeared on “The Price of Business” hosted by Kevin Price where we discussed helicopter parenting and some of the implications on student development.  Click below to listen to the audio:

A recent, timely article (definitely worth a read) highlighted an excerpt from a book on the potential effects of helicopter parenting. The article noted among other things research suggesting correlation (not causation) between overbearing parenting styles and risks of symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

To be clear, the article is not identifying parents as the sole reason for the increase in psychological symptoms among college students. In my 15 years of working in higher education settings counseling, coaching, and teaching college students, there has been regular dialogue and media attention attributing blame to parents. However, parenting styles are only a part of a constellation of factors leading to the circumstances facing millennials.  Experts also point to the influence of social media, teaching approaches, education systems placing an over-emphasis on passing standardized tests, and of course technology (cell phones, I-pads, etc.).

Unfortunately, the dilemma for many millennials lacking the development of critical life skills doesn’t end after college graduation.  In fact, enabling the problem only continues during career transition.  Did you know that there are a percentage of college graduates whose parent(s) accompany them on their first job interview?  Are you aware that there are a number of companies that will send “progress reports” home to parents of a newly employed college graduate? Click here for more details. This trend has led to concerns and challenges among higher education administrators, mental health professionals, and future employers.

Parents, as you review your “Get Ready for College Checklist,” be sure to create a separate commitment list and include the following Take On College Awareness Points!  Be mindful that we are not to saying that you don’t pick up the phone when they call for help.  The point is to increase your awareness of teachable moments for your college and college-bound students and communicate with them in a way that facilitates the development of critical, adaptable life skills that will benefit them as they transition into careers.

The Parent Checklist of 10 Awareness Points to help your student maximize their college experience!

1. It is critical that your college and college-bound student develop the capacity to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

2. Commit to being “responsive” and not “reactive” to decisions facing your college student. (See #4 & #5)

3. Resiliency develops from adverse circumstances, suspend your desire to immediately fix it for them especially situations involving interpersonal conflict.

4. Avoid starting a “reactive” sentence providing solutions: “You should….” “You need to….” “Why don’t you…”

5. Use “responsive” phrases that challenges them to problem solve: “What will you do?” “Tell me the benefits of that choice?” “What options are you considering?”

6. Coach your student to initiate contact with professors outside of class, particularly after receiving a subpar grade.

7. Encourage participation in campus activities emphasizing celebration of cultural diversity.

8. Coach your student on trouble-shooting by having THEM research and utilize campus resources before they get to campus.

9. Be mindful that PRACTICE will lead them to successful transition = Problem solving,Resiliency, Assertiveness, Communication, Time management, Independence, Confidence,Emotional Intelligence

10. Be sure to connect with other like minded parents interested in helping their student maximize the college experience and prepare for a healthy, confident transition!  See more at:

As always, we enjoy your feedback!

Take On College would love to help you reach your Peak Performance level this semester. To find out how we can help you crush your next (or current) semester,e-mail Dr. Joel today!