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The University of Alabama

UA Matters: How to Adjust to Your College Student Returning Home for the Summer

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One rite of summer, college students returning home, can sometimes mean rocky times for parents and the students when trying to adjust to living under one roof again.

Dr. Ross Bryan, director of residential communities, and Sara Hartley, assistant director for parent programs, offer these tips for parents:

Allow your students to use your washing machine and clothes dryer. They have been doing their own laundry for at least a semester now; keep it going! It may pile up, but they will eventually get to it.

“My mother always told me that learning how to become an adult is an exercise in character building,” says Bryan.

Budget. Your students should be working over the summer or contributing to the greater good of the family. Encourage them to save a portion of their summer earnings to use for spending money during the school year. When they are in school, make sure you both work out a budget so that they can focus on their schoolwork.

“If your student comes home for the summer and tells you that their school year tired them out and they ‘need a break’, tell them just what my mother told me — ‘get a job,’” says Bryan. “You will be amazed at how adept your student has become at multi-tasking! This will give them some real world experience while at the same time teaching them the true meaning of ‘budget’ when it’s their own money,” Bryan adds.

uamatters_logo1Talk with your student about their past school year. Keep in mind that they have had their world-view challenged over the last year. Most likely, they are not fundamentally different in any way, they are developing their thoughts and ideas in their own way. This is a great thing and should be celebrated.

Ask them questions about their classes and ask them to clarify their thoughts. “Why” can be a great place to start with them, as well as a great way to be supportive of the new ideas they are being exposed to. This will keep the lines of communication open.

Parents and students are still working out their roles in this new dynamic of college life. Students view themselves as adults capable of making decisions about their comings and goings. “Mom told me when I got home from my freshman year that it was her house … therefore I was to abide by her rules,” says Bryan.

Discussing the expectations of each other will be a great first step in having a mutually beneficial summer together. Remember that they have been living away from home for the past 9 months, and your student and the family may have changed in that time.

Continue to have conversations with your student about what success looks like for them while they are in college. Help them frame what their idea of success is, while at the same time, providing realistic goals and expectations for them.

It is important to give students the autonomy to define their idea of success. The trick there is that you may be paying for their collegiate experience and may want more of a voice in defining success for them. Be their coach from the sidelines.

Don’t take it personally if your student is visiting friends throughout the summer, and remember to discuss their presence at family dinners or on the family vacation if that is the expectation. Revisiting these expectations early in the summer will ensure a happy summer for all members of the family.

“As the summer progresses, your student may express some loneliness for friends made in college,” says Hartley. They are used to being surrounded by friends at all times of the day and night and may have grown apart from high school friends.

UA Matters is a bi-weekly column that offers information and tips on consumer issues facing Alabamians. The columns are available to reprint in your publication free of charge. Also, access to subject matter experts is available upon request. For more information, contact Suzanne Dowling at 205/348-8324 or

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.