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A mix of excitement and anxiety is very normal as students prepare to leave for college.  This next step is filled with new people, challenges, and a new way of living — all without the comfort of family there every day.  While college is an opportunity for a fresh start, this doesn’t mean that students come without any semblance of their past.

For many students, pre-existing conditions or circumstances may require assistance from various Gonzaga resources, and possibly even resources in the local community.  For example, if your student has a regular physician for a chronic health condition, you may need to establish a doctor in Spokane who can help. The same is true for pharmacies, counselors, dieticians, tutors, mental health professionals and more. This publication was created to help you and your student create a network of support and resources while in Spokane.  Students are often more successful, and find their transitions easier, if they can identify which resources they may need and make contacts early, rather than waiting until they are in crisis.

Moving from Dependent to Autonomous

At Gonzaga, we believe in cura personalis, the notion of caring for the whole person — mind, body and soul — inside and outside the classroom. This concept relies on students to develop a keen sense of self-awareness, which allows them  to become autonomous. The most successful students are those who independently identify and establish the resource network they need before they find themselves struggling.

One thing to ponder as your child is about to spread his or her wings is what skill set does your student need to be his or her own self-advocate? One way to think about this is to consider what prompting your student would need to go to the pharmacy to pick up medication. For example, look at the chart below:


Parent Action Mom picks up medication. Mom tells child to pick up medication. Mom’s “voice in child’s head” reminds child to get medication. Mom doesn’t do anything or have any role.
Child Action Not responsible to do this. Child picks up medication because he/she was told to do so. Child picks up medication because he/she remembers that Mom would tell him/her to. Child noticed medication is getting low and picks it up without prompting.

We encourage parents to guide their children from the side.  This means encouraging your student to take an active role in difficult situations, and make practical, well-reasoned attempts to solve problems using the resources available.  Using the same continuum above, let’s look at another situation that is very common in college and how a parent could guide from the side when a student calls home complaining about a bad roommate:


Child Action Student calls home upset about bad roommate situation. Student is upset about room situation and knows that there are procedures to change rooms, but has not looked for or asked anyone about the procedures. Student has located the procedures to change rooms and is ready to start the process, but isn’t confident in what to do. Using the procedures for getting a room change, the student works with Housing staff to get a change and calls Dad to tell him how successful she was.
Parent Action Dad tells child that he will take care of it and calls Housing the next day. Dad calls or goes online to find out what the procedures are and then calls Housing the next day. Dad helps student talk through the procedures and actions the student could take while encouraging student to take action. Dad is supportive and listens while student talks about how she handled the situation on her own.

Consider where your child may be on this scale and what you may need to do to encourage him or her to move toward the right-hand, autonomous side of the table.  Having difficult conversations prior to your student’s departure may begin to develop autonomous skills.  Keep in mind that helping develop these skills is the first step toward your child becoming an independent, confident adult. Parent involvement is central, but the most important thing parents can do for their children is encourage them to test their own wings and fly — all with your support, of course!

Questions to Ponder

As a tool to spark growth-inspiring conversations with your student, we have compiled a list of questions that may help your student identify some of the resources needed while at Gonzaga.  Open communication with your student will be vital to success.

  • How does your child typically respond to change or adversity?
  • Has your child ever shared a room?  What adjustments might (s)he need to make to share a room?
  • Has your student had a recent life crisis (medical, death of a close friend or family member, mental health, etc)?  What support services might your student need at college?
  • What challenges has your child had with alcohol or drugs? If your child hasn’t had any experience with alcohol, what will he or she do if alcohol is present and available?
  • Is your student currently on any medications for ongoing health concerns or conditions? Has your student been on medications in the past that may be needed at college?
  • How does your child handle and manage money?
  • What skills has your student used to successfully manage time?

By having conversations about some of these topics, you may be able to help your student avoid significant stress during this transitional time. Empower your student to make contact with a support network in order to thrive at Gonzaga.  By doing so, students will build their confidence and feel more comfortable using these resources, all the while minimizing stress that could deter from being a successful student.

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