From good study habits to time management: Setting your teen up with freshman year tips

From good study habits to time management: Setting your teen up with freshman year tips

Student working on laptop on University of Northern Iowa campus

As your high school senior prepares to take the exciting leap into college life, it's natural for both parents and teenagers to feel a mix of anticipation and apprehension. To ensure a smooth transition into this new chapter, here are some valuable freshman year tips for parents to share with your soon-to-be college student.

Find the best study spot

There is no shortage of potential places to study on campus or even off of campus. Some students may thrive with the background noise that the college’s student union provides, while others may need the silence that can only be found in a library. Others will want the privacy of their dorm rooms. Encourage your teen to practice good study habits by experimenting with different locations and finding what works best for them.

Keep important dates top-of-mind

The academic transition will get a whole lot easier for your college student if they have good time management practices in place. This should include going through all their syllabi at the beginning of the semester and putting important dates into a calendar, either digitally or physically. Then your teen can also set reminders for themselves — on their phone or in a planner — to help them keep track of important dates and smaller tasks that may be needed to complete larger goals.

Get to know professors

It can be intimidating to meet with your professors as a college freshman, but it’s well worth taking the initiative. Ideally, your teen should connect with each of their professors early on in the semester and then do it all over again next semester. Professors will have office hours, which are dedicated to meeting with students throughout the semester. If your teen has a relationship with a professor and they end up needing one-on-one instruction, the professor is more likely to be understanding and provide extra guidance. Professors will also appreciate this initiative. It may even set your teen up for some recommendation letters down the road. Overall, getting to know professors sets your teen up for academic success.

Luckily, at the University of Northern Iowa, getting to know professors is a little easier than at some larger universities. There’s an emphasis on professors teaching the classes rather than graduate assistants. And with a student-to-faculty ratio of 16 to 1, students can expect professors to actually know their names. It’s all part of our students-first culture at UNI that makes the college experience more meaningful. 

Talk to classmates

Some students get to class and immediately get on their phones ahead of the lecture. While this is the easy choice, the better one is for students to take the time to introduce themselves to the students around them. Making friends in class gives them something to look forward to, helps them adjust to campus life more quickly, and gives them a study buddy to encourage good study habits. This will especially come in handy if your student ever has to miss a class and needs to talk to someone who attended. 

Maintain open communication with roommates

Living on campus is a great opportunity to meet new people and get involved in activities. However, living with a roommate isn't always easy. Encourage your child to have a conversation with their roommate early on about house rules and dorm room chores like taking out the trash and vacuuming. They should agree on a system that’s fair to both parties before it becomes an issue for one or both later on. It’s also a good idea for your student to exchange schedules with their roommate so they know when their roommate will be coming and going.

Don’t be afraid to explore majors

Some teens may enter college feeling completely confident in a chosen major. If that’s the case with your teen, great! But if they are on the fence about their major or they have no idea what they want to major in at all, assure them that’s okay. They have time to take general education courses, and colleges like the University of Northern Iowa provide a dedicated exploratory program so your teen can discover different options before committing to an area of study.

Get involved on campus early

It can be tempting to allow for an adjustment period where your teen is just taking classes and focusing on studies. But it’s actually better for your teen to mix things up with student clubs, organizations and/or intramural sports earlier rather than later. This will ease the academic transition and allow your teen to feel right at home sooner. It will also help them make friends and give them greater overall satisfaction in the college experience. 

Prioritize health

Of course, as a parent, you want your teen to be eating right, exercising and sleeping well.  Having these good habits in place will not only be good for your student's physical health but will also reduce their stress when they are feeling overwhelmed and help them succeed in college. Encourage your child to take advantage of free resources like the recreation center, make balanced meal choices at the dining center and not fall into the trap of pulling all-nighters.

Be money smart

If you haven’t taken the time to discuss good financial habits with your teen, college is the perfect time to start. Whether your teen is paying their own way through college or they are just responsible for discretionary spending, it’s important they go into college armed with some basic financial literacy. Talk about making a budget and sticking to it. Advise your teen to be on the lookout for college student discounts at local restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores and the like. They can be a great way to save.

The University of Northern Iowa thinks that managing money well is so important that it has a financial literacy requirement for first-year students. There’s the option for them to complete the Live Like a Student course in person or the online Panther CashCourse for all kinds of smart freshman year tips on managing money.

Stay connected with home

You and your teen should also discuss how you plan to stay connected while they’re at college. Even if your teen is looking forward to the extra independence, they will get homesick at some point. Some teens may make daily phone calls home, while others may require just a quick weekly check-in. Having communication touchpoints in place will relieve homesickness and help you as a parent cope with missing your teen.

Check with university resources for more freshman year tips

When you know that your student is going to a university that will prioritize making their academic transition a smooth one, you can rest easy as a parent. The University of Northern Iowa provides ample resources for students in the form of helpful staff members and even upperclassmen who have been in your teen’s shoes. From orientation leaders to resident assistants and more, make sure your teen knows to seek these people out and ask them for help as needed. 

Real, relevant academic excellence for a world that expects future-ready graduates.

  • 94% of UNI grads find success within six months of graduation.
  • UNI graduates more teachers than any other university in Iowa.
  • UNI graduates more CPAs than anywhere in Iowa.
  • UNI is ranked a top regional public university by U.S. News & World Report.
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