One of the most effective ways of providing continued support to your student is by engaging them in a variety of conversations throughout their college experience. While physically apart, you can still have a significant influence in contributing to their overall success, health, and well-being. As it can be difficult for a student to be away from their family, we strongly encourage parents and family members to continue to be a positive source of guidance while still allowing them a sense of self and resilience to navigate the ups and downs of college life. While every family has their own unique values, culture, and approach to life, we encourage you to support your student through engaging in a variety of conversations. Go ahead and choose the questions that are right for you and your student below. Above all, we encourage you to not only instill a sense of reassurance through the challenges, but also impart to your student that you will be there for them through it all. 

Create a Communication Pact

As your student transitions to college, it is important to acknowledge the significant shift they will often times experience with a new found personal freedom along with increased responsibilities and stress. We find that it is beneficial when family members ensure they’re on the same page as their student in their expectations of communicating with one another.  Working out a plan for such things as frequency and communication avenues makes things easier for all. Some questions you could use to begin setting expectations for each other are:

  • How often should we chat together? 
  • What ways should we communicate?
  • On which decisions do you think it would be best to get my input?
  • What are your goals for this year?  How can I be supportive?

Overall Health and Well-Being

We know that your students mental, emotional, and physical well-being is critical to their success. We recommend you consider asking these questions and sharing your answers with each other. We encourage you to have a dialogue about your hopes and concerns for your student and to do so throughout their college experience. We also ask that you make sure to check-in on ALL the various aspects you imagine your student might experience in college.  

  • What are you looking forward to (or excited about) right now?
  • What are you concerned or nervous about? 
  • Are you enjoying _____?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed?
  • What are you going to do when things get stressful? What are some healthy and effective ways to cope?
  • What can we do to help? 

For additional help with how to start a conversation about difficult topics like mental health, you can contact the University Counseling Center for a consultation. Our staff are available to suggest ways to approach a student needing support, identify available resources, discuss options available for students, and help you identify next steps.

Academic and Career Support

College classes can be very different from high school. It is important that you support your student while they adjust to new courses and study schedules. The quarter system can move very quickly and it is important that students have a plan for their academic success.

  • What are some things you are passionate to learn more about? 
  • What are you excited to get involved in?
  • How has it been in creating a routine for yourself?
  • I know you've been quite busy, how has it been going with managing your time?
  • Have you checked in with your professor during their office hours?
  • Have you met with an academic advisor?
  • What careers are you considering? What steps are you considering to get there?

Alcohol and Other Drugs

As your student transitions to college, they will need to learn how to navigate an environment that may include alcohol and other drug use. We encourage you to start this conversation early. Having open discussions with your student before they arrive on campus and during their time here is important. Here are some tips for talking to your student.

  • How will you decide whether or not to drink during college? 
  • How are you going to handle pressure from your friends?
  • Do you understand the effects of alcohol and marijuana?
  • Do you know the consequences if you use illegally?

This may be the first time you have a conversation like this with your student and they might be reluctant to engage in the conversation. Encourage them to know institutional policies, local and state laws, and resources.

Intimate Relationships 

We hope that talking about healthy sex and relationships is not just one “talk”, but an ongoing conversation. College is a great time for students to explore relationships and we want to ensure that they are doing so in a safe, respectful, and hopefully exciting way. In your conversations, it is important to focus on positive goals of healthy relationships, but it is also crucial to address preventing any form of relational or sexual violence. Students receive so much misleading and problematic information about sex and relationships, so let your conversations be an opportunity to focus on sharing healthy expectations.

  • What are you looking for in a partner or relationship?
  • What kind of partner to you want to be?
  • Do you know your sexual/relational boundaries and how to communicate them?
  • Do you know how to ask your partner what their boundaries are at appropriate times?
  • Do you know what consent is, what it isn’t, and ways to ask for consent?
  • If you are intimate with someone and they say or imply no, how will you handle rejection?

Roommates and Friendships

It's common for students to be challenged by their social situations whether with their roommates, friends, or romantic relationships. It's also important for students to learn how to work through difficult situations with their peers so they can develop skills to help them in life.

  • Ask them how they might want things to be handled if the roles were reversed? 
  • What are some things you could say to your friend to begin to work things out? 
  • Is there something about your actions that you can change to help the situation?
  • Have you talked to your resident assistant about ways to resolve the conflict or situation?
  • What are you and your friends doing over the weekend or in the evenings to connect?


Money concerns can be a hard conversation, but it's impossible to plan properly without talking about both the nuts and bolts and the emotional aspects of finances. Talk to your student about your financial realities, and find out their expectations for their college costs.

  • How will you manage your budget?
  • What income sources are you expecting (family support, scholarships, loans)?
  • What do you think is a reasonable amount of debt to take on for your education?
  • Where do costly programs fit in, such as study abroad?
  • What scholarships will you apply for now for next year (2018–19)?
  • What values do you associate with money or how they view not having money?
  • What attitudes do you have toward debt?
  • How do you see your relationships impacting your budget? How will you cope with differences in spending habits (with a partner, roommates, family/friends, etc.)?
  • What financial goals do you have and what actions do you intend to take toward those goals?
  • How do you define the differences between a want and a need?