Campus News

'Behind the Blue': Preparing for Your Student's College Transition

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Mother helping daughter move-in.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 2, 2021) — Sending your child off to college can be one of the most daunting experiences of a parent’s life. 

Will my student make friends? Are they safe? Are they happy? Does my student know how to do their laundry? These are just a few of the questions that run through a parent’s mind as they drop their child off at what, for many students, is their first time away from home. 

In contrast to what may be running through a student’s mind (“how do I get football tickets?"), the worries for both parties are valid. Sarah Ballard, executive director of the First-Year Experience and Early Outreach Programs, and Nicki Jenkins, senior program specialist for the Parent and Family Association, believe that how a parent handles these worries is a key component to their student’s success during their transition from high school to college. 

On this episode of "Behind the Blue,” Kody Kiser sat down with Ballard and Jenkins to discuss how parents can prepare for this transition, mitigating parent and student worries, how to best support your student during their school year and the new book Jenkins helped co-author, “College Ready 2021 Expert Advice for Parents to Simplify the College Transition.”

After studying retention data, Ballard has seen that the first-year experience is crucial in terms of overall student success.

“If a student who starts with us in their first fall is retained through their second fall, they have a greater likely hood of completing their degree and graduating from the university, which is our ultimate goal for all of our students,” Ballard said. “With that data point of recognizing the importance of getting our students through that first year, we then started to think through what the first-year experience looks like collectively across campus.”

As a university, creating a community of belonging that supports growth, challenges viewpoints and builds lasting relationships are guiding principles in everything UK does. Those same principles are applied to the university’s first-year programming.

First-year programs allow students and families to build a strong foundation of academic success by fostering a relationship of belongingness and engages students in curricular and co-curricular life at UK. Programs like the Parent and Family AssociationK Week and UK 101 and 201, to name a few, do just that.

Jenkins credits these programs with providing students and their families with a smooth transition from high school to college. 

In her work with incoming students and through her affiliation with the professional organization AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education, Jenkins has seen commonalities over the years between the questions asked by students and their families when beginning their journey into college. These commonalities inspired her and experts across the country to pull their resources and write a book. 

“College Ready 2021 Expert Advice for Parents to Simplify the College Transition,” gives practical, real-world advice and tips to parents and families of college students during their transition to college — from the point of being admitted through their first visit home. Each chapter addresses a different topic or time during the transition process. 

The chapter authored by Jenkins, titled “What if I cry while saying goodbye: How to move your student in and say goodbye,” gives advice on how to prepare for the move-in process, how to let your student take the lead during move-in, how to be patient with your student and family during move-in, how to celebrate your student and how to navigate the emotional toll this part of the transition can have on the family.

“We know in the summer right before their first year, students are receiving so much information,” Jenkins said. “It is very overwhelming to have to make decisions on where you will be living, what sort of meal plan you should have, what you will bring and how you are going to pack it. Being able to simplify that in one publication is really helpful for students.”

While transitions can be daunting, the university and its people work tirelessly to help alleviate the stress of sending your child to college. In a time where change is at an all-time high, Ballard and Jenkins are hopeful that this is a time that families will look back on as a fond memory.

The "College Ready 2021 Expert Advice for Parents to Simplify the College Transition" e-book can be purchased on Amazon and is free to all UK families. 

Learn more about how students can become college ready by listening to "Behind the Blue" above.

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email BehindTheBlue@uky.edu or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of "Behind the Blue" can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

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The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.