One of the most challenging things about your first year in college is going to be your parents.

For 18 or so years you have followed their rules and the decisions that affect your life are often in their hands. Now as you go away to college those decisions become yours, and the power your parents hold in your life diminishes. This may seem scary, and the added responsibility will come with added stress, but one of the fundamental and wonderful aspects of college is the opportunity to take control of your life, your finances, and your responsibilities in a forgiving environment. Sadly many college students either do not take advantage of this opportunity or allow their parents to deny them the freedom to learn how to live life on their own.

Many colleges are not allowed to give out your information to parents or anyone else, this includes your schedule, grades, living assignment, or even the acknowledgement that you are enrolled as a student. This is for your safety and privacy, but it also creates a firewall between you and your parents. Utilize this to choose your own path in college and avoid pressure from your parents.

Choose your own classes.

I knew many people who let their parents help them or even had their parents force them to take classes or a major they had no interest in. Remember what I said about parents not knowing? I knew many people who lied to their parents (in no way am I condoning lying, merely referring to the choices of others) and told them they were taking 20 units when they took 12 or that they were a Biology major when they actually were taking dance. It’s your time in college and it’s your life, choose classes that interest you and that you will enjoy (This is obviously not always possible, but as best you can). Choosing classes is not always easy so if you need help, ask a friend, you’re RA, or a counselor, trust me they know more about it than your parents and it will help you in becoming able to make your own decisions and deal with the consequences if you are to choose poorly.

College is a safe environment.

Most any bill you have can be deferred or put into a payment plan. If you oversleep and miss a class, you aren’t going to detention or get kicked out. And when you bomb a test, many times there are opportunities to improve or make up the points. (Also if you time it correctly you can drop the class without any negative marks on your record, though why do a bunch of work only to quit?) The point is that college is a place to practice life, set your schedule and learn to manage it, create your budget, and do work assignments in a forgiving environment where mistakes are learning opportunities. If you never allow yourself to be immersed and exposed how will you ever keep your head above water once you have left?

Final words.

Now I am not saying to cut the umbilical and never talk to your parents, or to never go home; just utilize the freedom when you leave in order to grow as an individual. Learn to be a productive individual member of society who pays their bills, shows up on time and pays their taxes. Maybe it sounds too grown up but it’s the kind of things they used to teach in school and now you must learn on your own, thankfully college is a wonderful test environment in which to dive into the deep end but have a lifeguard or two there to bail you out when it all goes wrong.