Message from Dean Lizarríbar: Conversations to help with the transition to college
June 22, 2023
Dear parents and families of incoming students,
In just a few short months, you will be sharing a life-changing moment with your young adult as they leave your home and begin their undergraduate years at Tufts. Congratulations to you both on all the hard work and accomplishments that have made this moment possible. I know you will also share a swirling sea of emotions. Pride. Excitement. Anticipation. Maybe a little sadness. Some degree of nervous anxiety.
It has been my privilege to welcome new classes of entering students to campus for more than a decade.
Sending a young adult off to college is a transition for you and your student. They are leaving home—perhaps for the first time—to begin living their lives independently and to start making many more decisions for themselves.
This may or may not be the first time you have sent a student to college. Even if it isn’t the first time, every person and relationship are unique and there is always a period of transition, even if you can better anticipate how it may unfold.
Family dynamics are distinctive. However, I have seen some common themes that I want to share with you that could be helpful. I am also raising two teenagers, so I also have very current first-hand parental experience in helping them navigate this formative stage in their lives.
I want to share some very broad themes. For most parents and guardians—whether or not we want it to be the case—our role will gradually begin to shift to that of counselor and valued advisor. We will most likely no longer be a principal decision maker regarding many aspects of our children’s lives. And that is as it should be. Once our young adults are living away from home, they need to learn to embrace responsibility for themselves, learn from the choices they make, and become independent.
I encourage you to begin that process now and not wait until they have already left your home and arrived at Tufts. Based on my experience with first-year students, I suggest that you consider having a series of focused conversations around the following topics. Set aside 30 minutes and choose a setting in which you all can focus and not be distracted or interrupted.
What is your young adult’s financial literacy? Who is paying for what? Will your student be on work study? Have a campus job? Work off campus? How will the need for income be balanced with college life? For many students, this will be the first time that they will have to take greater responsibility for finances and managing their time.
Conversation #2: Managing information
If your student is 18 years of age or older, they are now a legal adult. As such, Tufts is legally required to share certain information only with them directly. Much of this information is protected and confidential. This includes medical records, counseling, and disability accommodations. It also includes grades and academic performance. It includes issues of student conduct. We cannot share this information with you, but your student can if they choose to. What will they feel comfortable sharing? What would you like your student to share with you? What agreement will the two of you make? Please know that there is no such thing as providing a blanket permission for sharing information. Your students will need to (and should) decide on a case-by-case basis if and what they want to share with you.
Conversation #3: Making personal choices
This one really will depend on your own family dynamics, but this is an important one to broach to the extent that you are all comfortable doing so. Think back to your own experiences between ages 18 and 24. This is a time of experimentation and exploration. For some (but not all) students, they may be considering their own understanding of—and comfort level with—their identity, sex, and being exposed to the availability of alcohol and drugs. For others, this may be entirely uncharted waters, or on the contrary, they may have settled these issues already. What are their thoughts about these topics? How might or do they approach them? Do they feel well equipped to make value-based decisions? You may or may not agree with the choices they will be making or their approach. As a guardian or parent, this can be one of the most difficult transitions to make, and it’s useful to reflect on how you will respect and support their choices even when you may have made different ones. They may also change course in terms of the activities, interests, or friends and partners they choose (or leave behind). While you may have opinions (and feelings!) about these choices, ultimately each individual is responsible for charting their own course.
Conversation #4: Managing your relationship with one another
They will have left home and are perhaps for the first time exploring how to live independently. On a broader level, what will the transition look like? How will your relationship change? For example, think about how will you communicate? Will you be texting multiple times per day? Or will you establish a set time for a weekly video or phone call (highly recommended)? What are your mutual expectations around sharing difficult news, holiday visits, family trips, and other matters that occurred naturally when you shared a living space?
Conversation #5: Managing Your relationship with Tufts
Your student is attending Tufts. You are not. We encourage you to advise your student but keep in mind that students must manage requests or issues directly. Should you contact Residential Life or Dining Services? How about Career Service and issues of employment or internships? And what about contacting faculty? You should not contact Tufts staff on their behalf. If you do, you can expect that we will include them in any conversations you may initiate (see conversation #2). More importantly, we want our students to learn how to advocate for themselves. To strengthen their presentation and interpersonal skills. To negotiate and to reason. In short, to begin practicing all of the skills now that will help them thrive as adults. This is a critically important part of the college experience. For that to happen, however, you have to encourage these behaviors and intentionally nudge them toward self-reliance.
Your student will have the opportunity to form relationships with many different people at Tufts who are here to work with them: advisors, mentors, staff, faculty, peers, and alumni. There is not one person or department at Tufts that can resolve every problem or address every concern a student might have. Rather, they will build and rely on a constellation of advisors. It is our hope and expectation that students will develop their own connections to these advisors as an essential part of joining the community.
I hope these suggestions are well received. They come from someone who has participated in this transition numerous times, but also from one parent to another: sharing what I know others have found helpful. I also recognize that every family and student are unique, so take only what may resonate with you. And as always, please be kind and generous with yourselves as you navigate this new phase in your relationship with your students. As Dean of Students, this work gives me great personal and professional satisfaction and joy. Along with all of us at Tufts, we are very much looking forward to meeting and supporting your young adult.
With best wishes for your fall preparations,
Camille Lizarríbar, JD, PhD
Dean of Students and Chief Student Life Officer for AS&E
Manage your preferences | Opt Out using TrueRemove™
Got this as a forward? Sign up to receive our future emails.
View this email online.
419 Boston Ave | Medford, MA 02155 US
This email was sent to .
To continue receiving our emails, add us to your address book.