Four Skills to Help Your Child Gain Control over their College Experience

When you think about your student's college experience this year, does your chest start to tighten? Do you feel a lump in your throat?

Your student is probably experiencing the same symptoms.

Feeling out of control in this season of new schooling methods, new health measures, new protocols, and an entirely too uncertain future is normal.

College is always stressful, but feeling a lack of control is adding more stress for college students. It doesn't matter whether they're doing classes online from home, at a community college, or online from their college campus, the potential stress this year is unlike any other.

How can you help your student handle the added stress from feeling a lack of control and not knowing what the future holds? You can have conversations with them about what they do have control over and how they can make the best of this semester.

Here are four skills students can exercise to help them take control over their college experience:

Resilience: Bouncing back when things go wrong

Remind your student that mistakes and failures are normal, and to try again rather than give up when things don’t go their way. Make sure they know that mistakes don’t define their worth. From scheduling issues, to friend drama, to a poor grade on a paper, college life creates issues that students won’t always handle perfectly. But they can control how a situation affects them by looking for the positives, learning from the experience, and not quitting: that's called resilience.

Routines: Choosing healthy habits

Creating and keeping a routine of self-care is another great way students can take control over their college experience. When students take good care of their bodies, it helps them handle stress, stay focused, have energy, and feel more positive. A self-care routine should include:

• Eating healthy food;
• Getting enough sleep;
• Exercising regularly; and
• Drinking sufficient amounts of water.

In addition, maintaining connections with friends, whether in person, or virtual, is another important aspect of overall health.

Your student should make it a priority to stay connected with campus friends, professors, tutors or anyone else who can be a support for them.

Responsibility: Owning up to their choices

Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a measure of maturity; it's also an acknowledgment that you have control over your actions. Remind your student that they control their own actions, thoughts, and behaviors. No matter what's happening in the world around them, on their campus, or in their own home, they get to choose how they react and how they proceed with this school year.

Students need to hold themselves accountable for their actions because they make their own decisions and choose their own behaviors. Will they get a bad grade because they didn't study enough? If so, it's up to them to study harder for the next test.

And when they make a better decision about studying the next time, they can give themselves credit and celebrate!

Reflection: Contemplating their life and using gratitude

Students often feel too busy to take the time to reflect on what they want in their life, but doing so will add to their feeling of control and give them the opportunity to adjust their choices to accomplish the things that are important to them. Reflecting on their goals, passions, interests, feelings, and gratitude gives students a chance to take control over their inner monologue.

The simplest way to add the habit of reflection is to write in a journal every day. Students can choose a time of day they will write (usually in the morning or before bed) and incorporate both general thoughts about their life as well as what they are grateful for. A common practice is to list three things they are grateful for, which will help them have a positive mindset. Keep in mind that journaling can improve mental health, but is not a cure for mental illness. Most colleges offer mental health services and counseling that your student can also seek.


I encourage you to have a discussion with your college student to help them take control with these four skills. Allowing your student to choose how to implement these skills into their life will give them more confidence in their decision-making and help them feel more in control. If you model these attributes yourself and are honest about your own struggles, your student will be more likely to listen to your advice.

1. Always Tired

Determine why your child is tired.

  • Is it because they aren’t getting enough sleep?
  • Are they mismanaging their time and getting to bed very late? 
  • Are they too stressed to fall asleep? 
  • Have they been partying late into the night?

2. Weight Gain or Loss

Find out where, when, and what your child has been eating. 

  • Are they making unhealthy choices or eating late at night?
  • Have they been doing any kind of exercise? 
  • Are they becoming too concerned with their body image?

3. Missing classes

Identify the reason your child is missing classes.

  • Have they been too tired to wake up on time?
  • Are they not prepared for the class?
  • Did they decide the class is boring and not worth their time? 

4. Not Communicating

Determine why you are not hearing from your child.

Are they so busy and engaged in their college life that they aren’t thinking about home?
​Could they be avoiding talking to you because things aren’t going well? 

​Have you established a plan for regular communication with them?

5. Poor Grades

Find out what is causing your child to have poor grades.

  • Are they studying and trying their best?
    ​Could the courses be too difficult? 
  • ​Does your child prioritize studying and academics, or social life? 
  • ​Is your child overwhelmed by college life and unable to focus on academics?

6. Change in Mood

Identify why your child ‘s moods have been noticeably different from what had been true in the past.

  • Is there something in the college environment that is causing their mood change?
  • ​Does your child seem happy or unhappy?
  • ​Is your child stressed, anxious, or in control?  


7. Social Isolation

Determine why your child has become isolated from other students.

  • Does your child feel overwhelmed and need some alone time?
  • Has your child decided he or she doesn’t fit in?
  • Was there some incident that caused your child to choose isolation?


8. Frequently Sick

Figure out why your child has been sick so often.

  • Are they not getting enough sleep?
  • ​Have they been spending time with students who are sick?
  • ​Did they see a doctor on campus for an exam?
  • ​Should they be eating healthier or taking vitamins?


What should a parent do?

If your child is exhibiting a number of the signs listed above, you will want to discover what these signs really mean by speaking with your child to determine if he or she would benefit from additional support.
Many parents find it difficult to get their children to be totally open about what is actually happening at college. If this is your situation, it is important to enlist a trusted adult to have those conversations.
I often serve in that role for parents. As a health coach, I specialize in helping college students manage stress so they can have a successful and enjoyable college experience.

My role is one of support and accountability. I become your student’s cheerleader and mentor –giving you peace of mind knowing your child has someone focusing solely on their health and well being
To speak with me privately about your son or daughter and explore how I can support you.

You can also reach me by email at:
By text or phone at: 203-912-8078

I look forward to speaking with you soon!