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

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college academics college life college students life lessons parents parents and students student life

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.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Laura Wallace

Laura Wallace

High School Class of 2019

My favorite part of CollegeXpress is that it features student writers so I get an inside perspective from students slightly older and farther along than me. I realize that other college websites also utilize student writers; however, I relate the most to the college writers that I read articles from on CollegeXpress.



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.

Caio Matos

Caio Matos

High School Class of 2022

Starting the college admissions process as an international student was daunting. Thankfully, CollegeXpress was the first website I used for that cause and it helped me so much, from knowing where to start to deciding what my next move would be. I'll take a gap year, but I’m certainly using the website again when applying for fall 2023.

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

College Matches