Black father having conversation with Black son outside on park bench

Top 8 College Topics to Discuss With Your Student Today

Your student will be off to college soon, but there are some things they should know now. Here are eight topics of conversation to cover before they leave home.

Graduation is almost upon you and your high school senior—and you’re both probably looking forward to college and a very busy summer. Amid all the parties and preparation, it’s crucial to spend some time dispensing parental advice in a way your teen will listen to and take to heart. Don’t sit them down for “the talk,” because they’ll simply tune you out. Take advantage of snippets of time to cover these important topics either for the first time or as a refresher before college.

1. Choose your friends carefully

Friends have a great impact on a student’s academic success and social life while in college and can also create a home-away-from-home feeling. Impress upon your teen that their friends will influence them in positive and negative ways, just as they did in high school. But this time, there will be one big difference—you won’t be there to supervise or give advice.

2. Study first, play later

College is much more difficult than high school. The reading is extensive, the homework can be overwhelming, and the study requirements can be brutal. If your student doesn’t make studying a priority, their first semester of college could be their last. Impress upon them the need to do their work first before enjoying all the fun parts of college life.

Related: Our Best Advice for Homework, Studying, and Tests

3. Take advantage of that expensive education

It’s true when they say colleges are institutions of higher learning. But students must attend class, pay attention, be motivated to study, and do the work. The knowledge won’t just soak in—your teen will have to do their part. Encourage them to take advantage of free lectures and career training opportunities as well.

4. Don’t look in the rearview mirror

So often a student’s friends (or boyfriend or girlfriend) back home will bring them down or away from new experiences in college. During periods of homesickness, that pull to return home and be with the friends who stayed can be strong. Remind your student that college will be a new chapter in their life, and looking ahead will keep them focused on what’s important.

Related: College Reality Check: Learn This Long Before You Leave

5. Graduation will come sooner than they think

Four years will pass quickly. Your student needs to take advantage of every opportunity to plan for life after graduation. They should participate in internships, make connections with alumni, develop relationships with professors, and visit the career center often. Most students don’t even start thinking about jobs after graduation until senior year, which can be a big mistake. When graduation day arrives, you student doesn’t want to be caught unprepared.

6. Resolve roommate conflicts immediately

When your student recognizes a problem with their roommate (and they will eventually), encourage them to address it. Much of the angst they might experience with roommates can be avoided if your student simply has a conversation with them before things get ugly. For the worst problems, they should go to the RA for mediation.

Related: COVID-19 Dorm Life: 8 Roommate Communication Tips

7. Avoid risky behavior and consider the consequences

A lot of colleges are considered “party schools.” Unfortunately, even though your student will be underage, they will be offered alcohol, and there will always be drinking on college campuses. It’s unwise for you to assume that your student won’t drink, because even the strongest student will be tempted and most likely succumb. Excessive drinking can cause all sorts of regrettable behavior that results in negative consequences. For women, this conversation is critical since drinking can lead to unwanted sexual experiences, either from lack of control after consuming alcohol or from being taken advantage of.

8. Professors are your friends

Your student’s professors will be key players in their college success. Encourage them to establish relationships and cultivate them. They might need them for tutoring help, letters of recommendation, or other support during their four years at college—and they’ll definitely need them for job connections after graduation.

Related: How to Build Better Relationships With Your Teachers

The days will fly by–carpe diem!

The memories my daughter made in college are some of her most treasured memories. Her sorority sisters, study abroad experiences, trips with friends, and some of her most admired professors and mentors live in those memories. College is what you make of it—and your student should enjoy and experience every moment.

Read the original blog “Conversations Before College" at, and check out more advice about college life in our Student Life section

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About Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels students and families about college preparation through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been featured online in the Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report Education, Smart College Visit, and more. She is also a freelance writer featured on CollegiateParent, UniversityParent, TeenLife Media, and Road2College. In the past, she has written for Zinch/Chegg, Classes & Careers, Winterline Study Abroad, and GalTime online magazine.

Suzanne's advice has also been featured on podcasts like Prepped and Polished, How to Pay for College HQ, The College Bound Chronicles, and The College Checklist. Her articles have been featured in print publications created by UniversityParent, CollegiateParent, and TeenLife Media as well as in the book College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind by Nancy Berk.


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