Information for parents and families of residential students

As a parent and family member of a Case Western Reserve University student, you have become a part of the university community. This section of our website is dedicated to providing you with valuable information about the emotional lives of college students and their parents, families or guardians.

College is a time for exploration. As with all exploration, results cannot always be predicted. This can lead to anxiety for the student and the parent and/or family. The decision to attend a particular college is in itself an exploration, and even the most adjusted student may at times feel homesick or doubt him or herself. This questioning, changing and growing may at times seem to apply to every choice a student makes, from an academic major to friends. To the concerned parent, this may sound like a cry for help, a personal rejection or the beginning of a crisis.

Understanding what is truly happening will involve patience and careful listening on your part. Most often, the true purpose of a phone call is to vent frustrations and fears, so the student feels heard and understood. Once this is accomplished, students usually feel relieved and ready to move forward. However, for parents, a distressed phone call is often the beginning of a long night of worry, only to find out with the next day's telephone call that from the student's point of view, everything is fine. While every student is different, there are stages that most students frequently experience during college. Being prepared may help you distinguish between a problem and a crisis.

Developmental Milestones

The college years represent an important transition point in life as students begin to develop their own identities, academic goals and life-long foundations with the support of peers, family and mentors.

The First-Year Student

For the first-year student, transitioning out of the family home and into a diverse community of young adults presents a unique opportunity to shed their high school personas and embrace their independence. While away from home, students usually set their own rules, explore their own interests, and may attend to their own reactions without influence from others.

The Second-Year Student

The concerns of a second-year student are quite different from those of a first-year student. Second-year students face academic decision such as choosing a major. They may feel, for the first time, that the decision they have made is irreversible and they begin to connect their academic decision to potential careers. Managing their feelings and translating them into productive decision-making can be an important process. Students need to be allowed free reign to explore, which often means holding back some of those protective parental urges. Mistakes are a necessary part of the developmental process.

The Upper-class Student

At this point, the upper-class student has successfully navigated some of these new options and decisions. Your student is beginning to identify him or herself internally more as an adult. They may seek greater stability in their living arrangements and relationships, and have a clearer sense of who they are and what they desire from life. This sense of autonomy may extend to home, as they look less to family to provide that sense of stability. Some students may be less likely to go home for breaks, as they attempt to establish their own identity through internships, summer jobs and experiences abroad.

The Graduating Senior

As the graduating senior enters into the culminating events of his/her university career, they face graduation with mixed feelings of excitement and uncertainty. They spend much of this year trying to build their sense of competence and purpose and apply it to their plans after graduation. They may review their skills and reflect on what they have learned in college, consolidating their self-identity with a sense of meaning and clarity about their own strengths. This is also a time for saying goodbyes to life-long friends and mentors, while taking on a new role as a Case alumnus.