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Thriving In College THE PARENT GUIDE

Supporting a Successful Transition to College Life in the First Year and Beyond

The University of Southern California believes that parents and family members are important partners in the development and well-being of students during their college years. Your student will learn and grow exponentially during these years, face and overcome challenges, and move towards becoming a more empowered, independent adult in many ways. Failures and setbacks can also help students learn valuable lessons and develop resiliency. The college experience involves much more than students’ academic and professional pursuits. In addition to developing into a successful and productive adult, the university has resources to help them THRIVE during their time here. Family members are often the first to recognize when a student is struggling and could use support. If you are concerned about your student in any way and unsure of where to go, USC Support and Advocacy can be your first call (213) 821-4710. This office helps to support and advocate for students and their families, assist in complex problem solving, and connect students to the right resources and services at USC.

Message from USC Student Health

Message from USC Campus Wellness and Education

Chief Student Health Officer

Associate Vice Provost for Campus Wellness

DR. SARAH VAN ORMAN During the next four years, your student will begin the process of developing their personal and professional identity. Whatever their major, through their academic courses, they will delve deeply into the lifelong journey of mastering the skills and knowledge of their chosen field. When they leave USC, we hope that they carry this wisdom into their adult lives. We also know that our students will learn these types of critical skills in all domains of their lives. They will learn to independently manage their finances, relationships, and laundry! At USC Student Health, we know that health and wellness are critical areas of growth: from simple tasks like making a doctor appointment and managing medication, to more challenging tasks like understanding their health insurance, developing good exercise and eating habits, and knowing when to ask for help. You are an important partner in this developmental path. By serving as a “health and wellness coach,” you can encourage independence and responsibility while directing them to on-campus resources and services. Studies show that family members are the most trusted source of health information for college students so your input matters.


What I have learned as an expert in student well-being is that college offers a special opportunity for exploration, growth, and transformation. College is about figuring out what matters to your student and why. By recognizing one’s strengths, values, life goals, and identity, the student develops confidence over time, providing a solid base of self-reliance, happiness, maturity and knowledge. This is a process that takes time and has many challenges that could include conversations of disappointments and frustration, but it does happen. The progression of self-awareness, caring and compassionate connection with others, and engagement with the USC community and beyond is what makes our students reflect so positively on their experience at USC. As a parent, you play an essential role in helping your student become actively engaged and developing into the person they are meant to be. Stay involved in their life, listen to what is going well and help them understand what may be challenging and why. By having faith in your student’s resilience, you set the stage for them to learn from all experiences. If they are struggling and need support, USC has good resources to partner with—encourage your student to utilize them. Finally, be excited for your student. As a parent of two graduates, I can assure you there will be bumps on the road, but your student’s transformation during this time can be inspiring. Our relationship with our student changes; seeing your student thrive in love and work is a tremendous reward for any parent.

USC Student Health offers primary medical care and mental health counseling including 24-hour access to our on-call nurse and crisis counselor. Same day and next day appointments are available when your student is sick, injured, or would like to speak to a counselor. Access our on-line portal mySHR (via the website at or by phone, 24 hours, at 213-740-WELL (9355). The specialized, studentcentered team of USC Support and Advocacy is here to assist and empower your student through their journey at USC. If your student is facing a challenge, either individually or as part of your family, and is seeking help navigating the university’s resources, encourage your student to contact us at 213-821-4710.

AUGUST Common experiences and challenges Excitement, academic or social anxiety, emotions may be erratic How you can support your student Help them set realistic expectations and keep open lines of communication

08 A Month-byMonth Guide to the First Year

As first-year students transition to life at USC, they will experience many milestones as well as struggles. This calendar guide may help you prepare for common student experiences during the first year, and show you how to support your student through these.

Source: First Year Expectations, University of Michigan. Retrieved from

JANUARY Common experiences and challenges Anticipation of new semester, Greek recruitment, applying for study abroad or summer internships How you can support your student Encourage them to keep up with coursework, seek help if grades are poor, become familiar with resources, such as career/internship fair


SEPTEMBER Common experiences and challenges Sense of freedom, testing boundaries, exploration, may procrastinate schoolwork or feel overwhelmed with academic expectations How you can support your student Encourage them to get involved with campus groups, and also manage time and take responsibility for actions


FEBRUARY Common experiences and challenges Begin planning for spring break, relationship anxiety around Valentine’s Day, may experience rejection from summer jobs or Greek org, receive housing assignment for next year How you can support your student Provide a listening ear, discuss plans and expectations for spring break, encourage them to seek support or counseling when needed


OCTOBER Common experiences and challenges Midterm stress, homesickness, roommate challenges, common illnesses, may struggle to balance coursework with campus involvement

NOVEMBER Common experiences and challenges Very busy with exams, papers and projects, registering classes for next semester, may run out of money and turn to credit cards

How you can support your student Listen, be supportive, and encourage them to use campus support resources and services on their own

How you can support your student Be supportive and encourage them to use academic support services when needed, encourage financial responsibility and maintaining budget

MARCH Common experiences and challenges Midterm stress, financial aid paperwork due for next year, may behave irresponsibly during spring break parties and suffer consequences

APRIL Common experiences and challenges Many distractions and activities, high stress with final papers and projects, making plans for summer, and moving out

MAY Common experiences and challenges Anxiety about returning home and leaving new friends and sense of freedom, may begin summer internship or job

How you can support your student Be supportive and encourage self-care, healthy habits, and time management, discuss summer plans

How you can support your student Discuss responsibilities and expectations at home and be willing to compromise, address any concerns about money management in the first year, communicate with them as an adult and appreciate their growth


How you can support your student Keep lines of communication open and trust them to make the right decisions, encourage them to seek academic help when needed




DECEMBER Common experiences and challenges Sleep deprivation, anxious about winter break and balancing new independence with returning home How you can support your student Encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits, communicate home rules, be patient with adjustments and prepare yourself for changes



WHAT TO EXPECT College is an exciting time for students, with many opportunities to learn and grow — personally, emotionally, and academically. We want your student to thrive, not just survive their time here at USC. To truly “thrive” is to experience meaningful growth in all areas of life and to emerge as not just a smarter, but a better, more compassionate citizen of the world. This means that beyond strengthening their academic intelligence, they cultivate strong relationships, connect with their campus community, and are in tune with their emotions in a healthy way. As much as success is expected, there will also naturally be times of disappointment, challenge, and difficulties. What matters is how a student anticipates and responds to those times of struggle. Students and families can thrive amidst adversity. Students and families who can anticipate experiencing a range of successes and challenges are better able to remain resilient together.

Advice for Parents of New Students

Students come to USC with many strengths and talents, and this is the time for us to work together to help them leverage those strengths, define who they are, and cultivate their best self. Your student has worked incredibly hard to get to USC, and you have worked hard to support them in their journey. There are many resources on campus to help your student thrive on campus (see the “Reaching Out for Support” section for resources). The following information can give you a glimpse of what to expect in the coming months, and how you can support your student’s development.

HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR STUDENT The role of a supportive family is invaluable to a student’s ability to thrive. It is important to have conversations with your student about anticipating successes and challenges before they come to campus. Such discussions can focus on how they will adjust to life in college including managing finances, navigating challenges of expectation and pressure, how to make friends, and how they will seek a work-life balance that allows them to achieve their goals while cultivating a strong character. Having these discussions now helps your student be better prepared once they arrive.

ADVICE ON SELF-CARE, STRESS AND WELL-BEING • Encourage your student to work toward a mindset in which persistence, curiosity, self-compassion, and hard work are valued. Help them see that academic success and taking care of themselves go hand in hand; they cannot thrive academically if they are not taking care of mind, body, and spirit. • Help your student understand that not everything has to been done “perfectly.” Some things will be important and should be done to the best of their abilities; other things just need to get done. • Remind them to adopt specific wellness practices such as a healthy sleep schedule, a balanced diet, adequate physical activity, and an appropriate amount of time to socialize. Help them create healthy routines and habits; these all help students feel good, stay healthy, and be their most productive selves. • G  roup living situations, academic deadlines, electronic devices and alcohol consumption can all contribute to unhealthy sleep patterns. Poor sleep is often a major contributor to stress. Check in about your student’s sleep; encourage them to practice good sleep hygiene and get 6-8 hours nightly. • E ncourage students to be physically active for 30 minutes most days of the week. Break this up into three 10-minute sessions when pressed for time. Healthy movement may include walking, sports, dancing, yoga, running or other activities they enjoy. • E at a well-balanced, low-fat diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains including eating breakfast. Discuss the challenges with limiting food calories to make up for alcohol calories. Limit caffeine consumption especially in the evening.

• Ask your student what they are doing for fun; “authentic happiness” creates physical and mental resilience. • Emphasize that stress is part of life and is motivating; model and reinforce healthy coping strategies such as talking to others about one’s problems, understanding the effects of alcohol and drugs, and taking a break to rejuvenate oneself. Encourage students to recognize and manage stress in their life. Signs of stress include trouble sleeping, frequent headaches and stomach problems; being angry a lot; and turning to food, drugs and alcohol to relieve stress. • Staying in touch with family and friends and getting involved in their community are great ways to increase connection and relieve stress. • Encourage participation in self-care campus activities like joining up with a Mindful USC practice group, yoga and other movement classes through Recreational Sports, or stress management and other workshops offered through Counseling and Mental Health Services of USC Student Health. Some people find that interacting with their faith community is helpful in times of stress. The Office of Religious Life is a useful resource for connecting students to communities of faith on campus and within the local neighborhood. • Talk to your student about when and how to reach out for help. Almost all of us feel down or sad at times. Signs of depression include feeling hopeless, worthless and/or sad, crying a lot, loss of interest in life, and thoughts of death or suicide. If your student has ongoing symptoms of depression or severe symptoms that interfere with their functioning, suggest talking to a health care provider. If a student is threatening to hurt themselves, another person, or is not functioning at all, contact Counseling and Mental Health Services at 213-740-WELL/9355 for immediate attention.

WELLNESS TOPIC: DEVELOPING RESILIENCY • Teach your student that “failure” and disappointments are part of life; it is how we self-reflect, learn, regroup and improve that allows us to remain resilient in the face of adversity. • When faced with adversity, encourage your student to: • Learn from what didn’t go as expected • Set a tone of forgiving oneself • Adapt, and carry on • Emphasize the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. Research suggests that we are much more productive and creative when we don’t multitask. • Help them identify their priorities and actively allocate their time to match those priorities. It may be better to do a few things well rather than spread themselves thin. • If your student is feeling overwhelmed with all they have to do, suggest learning time management strategies such as better organization, weekly schedules, and time management logs. • Celebrate academic and personal accomplishments. Students thrive when they are recognized for all they do and how they are growing. Compliment them when they have done something well to build confidence. Point out the accomplishments they overlook or ignore. WELLNESS TOPIC: CREATING HEALTHY SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS • Help them see that healthy relationships are those that bring out their best selves. • Let them know that making close friends and developing a sense of belonging doesn’t always happen right away; it takes time to develop friendships and

find settings they feel comfortable in. They may forget to see that their close relationships with friends in high school may have taken years to form. • Encourage your student to take appropriate social risks such as asking an acquaintance to meet up or joining a student organization. • Suggest your student take “breaks” from social media, and engage in face-to-face contact on a regular basis. • Have them identify when relationships and friendships may be more harmful than helpful, and encourage them to find support around managing those relationships. JOINING A DIVERSE COMMUNITY, INCLUSIVE OF MANY VOICES College is often the first time students will encounter many peers from different backgrounds, from different parts of the country and the world, who may have vastly different experiences, social contexts, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, political viewpoints, opinions, etc. Meeting and engaging with others who have new perspectives is part of the intellectual growth integral to the college experience, and students are encouraged to participate in conversation, and express themselves. When engaging with others of differing viewpoints, it is helpful to encourage your student to engage through respectful dialogue. The following advice can help— • Listen for understanding • Speak from your heart • Suspend judgment • Hold space for differences • Slow down These reminders can help your student make the most of learning from a diverse, intellectually engaged environment of civil discussion and discourse.

Healthy Sexuality and Intimate Relationships College students are often transitioning from the family unit toward independent decision-making. This time between age 18 and 25, described as “emerging adulthood,” is when young people no longer feel like adolescents yet do not feel completely sure in their adult identities. Many aspects of their self-perception may be changing during this time as they mature toward individual acceptance of personal responsibility, including responsibility for one’s sexual health and relationships. Look for opportunities to weave topics of sex, gender, dating, and communication into everyday interactions. Open the door for conversations early, often, and casually. Rather than attempt lengthy conversations, ask simple, open-ended questions and listen without judgment. Find opportunities to ask them what they think about a TV show, news story, or blog post. Encourage them to explore what they want out of their social life or dating experiences in college. People make lots of decisions about their sexuality during college, including whether to abstain from sexual activities or to become, or to continue to be, sexually active. Other sexuality issues that arise include decisions about the gender of partners, the type of contraception to use, and the intensity of the relationships. Let your student know that no one should ever be pressured into having sex — “It should always be your decision to have sex. This goes for the first time, and every time.” Source: College Health: Sexual Health, Relationships, and Resources. (2015, September 15) retrieved from https://youngwomenshealth org/2013/02/01/sexual-health-at-college

Sexual orientation and gender identity: College can be a time when some people try to explore their sexual orientation. It’s also a time when some people decide to “come out.” The LGBT Resource Center has many support programs and resources for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, as well as a Pride Parents group. There are also counselors available in Counseling and Mental Health Services in USC Student Health if students wish to talk with someone confidentially. Let your student know that — “Healthy partner relationships come in many forms; all intimate relationships should always be based on love and respect.”

ABOUT CONSENT Consent is a clear “yes” to sexual activity. Not saying “no” does not mean a person has given consent. Sexual contact without consent (including unconsciousness, impaired by drinking or drugs, or asleep) is sexual assault or rape.  onsent is an ongoing process, not a one-time C question. If someone consents to sexual activity, that person can change her/his mind and choose to stop at any time, even after sexual activity has started. Past consent does not mean future consent. Giving consent in the past to sexual activity does not mean past consent applies now or in the future. Saying “yes” to a sexual activity is not consent for all types of sexual activity. If a person consents to sexual activity, it is only for types of sexual activities that the person is comfortable with at that time with that partner. For example, giving consent for kissing does not mean consent for other intimate acts. If there is no consent, it’s against the law.

RELATIONSHIP ABUSE, SEXUAL ASSAULT Intimate partner violence, or domestic violence, can be difficult to see if it starts gradually, if your partner declares love for you, or supports you financially. Intimate partner violence can include forced sex, physical abuse, and emotional abuse, such as cruel words or threats. It can happen to people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and religions. It occurs in both heterosexual and LGBT relationships and to couples who live together or apart. Abuse is never OK. Abuse in a relationship can be both physical and mental. Remind your student that in a relationship: • Your partner should never threaten you or hurt you, and should never threaten to harm or harm any of your possessions or people that are important to you. • Y ou should never feel afraid of your partner or controlled by him or her. • Y our partner should never make you feel worthless or bad about yourself. Students who are in an abusive relationship or have experienced sexual assault should contact Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services in USC Student Health for confidential assistance, (all student-reported information is kept private and confidential); or the Title IX Office to discuss reporting options. If a student or other member of the campus community is in fear of danger from a partner, immediately contact the Department of Public Safety. Source: Relationships and Safety (2018,March 14). Retrieved from https:// sexual-assault#3

Alcohol and Other Drugs Drinking on college campuses is an important concern that needs special attention in the first semester. We take the issue of alcohol use by students seriously, and we want to support you in your role in guiding your student, as she or he becomes a member of our campus community. As a USC parent, you play an important role in influencing your student’s choices when it comes to alcohol. In fact, national studies have shown that parents have a key influence on how often their students engage in risky behavior, including alcohol use. We need you to start talking with your student about alcohol use and keep the conversation going once they come to campus, especially during their first semester. Alcohol is the most misused drug in our society, although most people do not even consider alcohol to be a drug. It takes only a single episode of intoxication to experience life-changing consequences. PARENTAL INFLUENCE ON DRINKING DECISIONS Some parents allow their sons or daughters to drink a controlled amount on certain occasions, such as holidays and family functions. Still other parents believe it is all right for students to drink small amounts of alcohol, as long as he or she does so in a responsible fashion. Your own orientation as a parent is a matter of your own values. However, if you are going to permit your son or daughter to drink alcohol in certain contexts, then you must be clear about exactly what these contexts are and what constitutes responsible behavior. Studies consistently show that when parents permit their sons or daughters to drink they tend to drink more often and heavier outside the home.

It isn’t easy or comfortable to engage in a conversation about alcohol — easily the most pervasive drug in use in our culture, but there are ways to make the conversation more effective when you are able to raise the topic with your student. The following are some tips on approaching the subject. ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS: HOW TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION Ask direct questions. Many times parents circle around the issue by asking indirect questions such as “Did you have too much fun last night?” Ask them point-blank: Are you drinking at parties? What are you drinking? How much are you using and how are you getting it? Are you smoking pot or trying other things, such as Molly or LSD? Approach nonjudgmentally—keep your reactions in check. Nothing will shut down a conversation faster than judging or immediately disapproving of their choices. While it’s easier said than done, if your student opens up to you, just listen. Don’t yell or disapprove, even if you’re upset by what they are telling you. Your reaction will set the tone, and establish a precedent, for any future conversations. Treat the subject with seriousness. If your student tells you they have a hangover, don’t minimize the experience by saying things like, “It won’t be your last one, for sure.” or telling them they need a better tolerance. This can send the message that you are encouraging, and approving their use. Sometimes this can be a student’s way of sending a signal letting parents know that drinking or smoking is getting out of hand. Put safety measures in place. Let your student know that you are there for support, even from miles away. Do they know the safety resources (USC Transportation’s Campus Cruiser program and “after hours” rideshare

program provided through Lyft, USC Department of Public Safety) to get themselves out of a dicey situation? Talk to them about various scenarios and ask how they might handle themselves in those situations. Chances are, they haven’t thought it through. Acknowledging the kinds of things that can happen, and brainstorming possible responses, can help them steer clear of trouble. Remind them of your standards. Your expectations and standards of behavior and conduct don’t end just because your student is out of your sight. Substance use and abuse can affect a student’s health and academic performance, and have deadly outcomes. Ensure your student that consequences can and will happen if they do not keep their end of the bargain as far as your expectations about alcohol and other drug use. Keep the dialogue open. Let your student know you are a safe place to land. Maybe she or he needs to vent about a roommate’s use of substances. Or maybe your student did something she or he is not proud of with regard to using drugs or alcohol and needs to talk about it. What can you do if, after these discussions, you deem there is a problem? Know your campus resources, listed in this booklet. Above all, keep the conversation going. It’s too important to ignore. Source: Lee, J. (2017, October 17). “Have ‘The Talk’ about Drugs and Alcohol with Your Student.” Retrieved from have-the-talk-about-drugs-and-alcohol-with-your-student.

UNIVERSITY EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS It is the University of Southern California’s expectation that students wait until the legal drinking age of 21 before they make decisions about whether or not they choose to drink alcohol.

Reaching Out for Support USC STUDENT HEALTH (213-740-WELL/9355) offers comprehensive medical and mental health services to USC students, and extends access to additional services through the student health insurance plan. A nurse (for medical concerns) or counselor (for mental health concerns) is available 24 hours a day even when the student health centers are closed. USC Student Health consults with families and friends with a student’s consent.

USC SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY (213-821-4710) assists students and families in resolving complex personal, academic, and financial issues by providing useful information and referring them to the appropriate campus resources. Family members can call for a consult if they have concerns about their student, or if the family experiences a crisis or challenge.

Asian Pacific American Student Services (STU 410) 213-740-4999

Disability Services and Programs (GFS 120) 213-740-0776

LGBT Pride Parent Circle:

Campus Cruiser in USC Transportation UPC: 213-740-4911 HSC: 323-442-2100

Office of Equity and Diversity | Title IX UPC: 213-740-5086 HSC: 323-442-2020

Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs (STU 415) 213-740-8257 Dept of Public Safety Emergency Numbers For 24-hour emergency assistance or to report a crime UPC: 213-740-4321 HSC: 323-442-1000 For non-emergencies UPC: 213-740-6000 HSC: 323-442-1200

El Centro Chicano (STU 402) 213-740-1480 Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity (STU 311) 213-740-7884 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center (STU 202B) 213-740-7619

Mindful USC Office of Religious Life (UGC 106 / MCKIBBEN 160) 213-740-6110 Recreational Sports UPC Lyon Center USC VIllage Fitness Center HSC Fitness Center 213-740-5127 Residential Education (STU 200) 213-740-2080 Student Veterans Resource Center (TCC 330) 213-821-6028

USC Student Health (UPC): Engemann Student Health Center (HSC): Eric Cohen Student Health Center 213-740-WELL/9355 Services Include: • Student Counseling and Mental Health Services • Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services* *Note on 24/7 support — for immediate medical support after an assault, visit Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center, 24/7 (at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, located at 1250 16th Street in Santa Monica). Please note that a RSVP counselor can accompany you, and it is recommended you speak with a confidential counselor at RSVP to guide you through this process.

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Thriving in College: The Parent Guide  

Supporting a successful transition to college life in the first year and beyond.

Thriving in College: The Parent Guide  

Supporting a successful transition to college life in the first year and beyond.

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