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Graphic: A Residential Education Page

Helping with the Transition

College is a time for significant transition for young adults. Our goal in Student Housing is to support this process as our residents mature from high school to university students.

We believe students can make good decisions. Our residents bring a wide range of values and beliefs from family and friends that make our residential community the diverse and vibrant culture it is. We depend on parents, family members, and guardians to offer clear guidance and hold expectations that their students will act as appropriate independent adults.

Students go through a variety of developmental stages during their first year of college. The most crucial one is moving from “Dependence to Independence.” Students who have depended on parents to define boundaries are now on their own. They vacillate between happily making decisions and being fearful. One day they ask for assistance and the next day they resent their parents for interfering. Defining boundaries entails risk plus trial and error.

Emotional Support

  • College can be challenging. For many, it is a time of confusing relationships, redefined friendships, academic pressures and transition. Many have a hard time at first.
  • Students have a tendency to call home when they are having an emotionally difficult day. Many choose to share positive experiences with their friends and a higher proportion of the negative experiences with their families.
  • You can provide support and encouragement by asking your student to share some of their successes as well as their challenges. Students need to be reminded about the positive aspects of their college experience too.

Room for Mistakes

  • Students will make mistakes as they explore what it means to be an adult. Some mistakes are more detrimental than others, and many will be important life lessons.
  • The natural inclination is to correct a student when they head toward a choice parents do not agree with. While this is understandable, the end result may be that the student does not learn how to make decisions independently.
  • We suggest parents discuss options and allow room for students to make their own decisions. By making the wrong choice and dealing with the consequences, students learn to make better choices in the future.


  • Issues of trust often come up. Parents who have been involved in their student’s lives are no longer involved on a daily basis. Parents wonder what the student is doing when they haven’t heard from them. In addition to safety concerns, they worry about choices being made in other areas.
  • Our experience indicates that students occasionally make unwise choices, but most maintain their value system and the skills necessary to make smart decisions.

Creating Identity

  • One of the most complicated processes students experience is establishing their identity. During the first year of college, students are in the process of defining who they are and expanding their independence. Many go through a process of “trying out” several new identities.
  • Students may seem different when they come home for the first time after being away at college. They may change their appearance (hair color, body piercing, tattoos) or the way they talk.
  • Sometimes more striking differences will be evident. Students may explore different spiritual traditions or parts of their personality they have kept hidden from parents, family and close friends.
  • Rest assured that your student is still the same fundamental person. This identity process is important in their development. This is how they figure out what works for them. Eventually, students settle into an identity that is uniquely their own.

Healthy Distance

  • Due to advances in technology, such as cell phones and social networking websites, students and parents often stay in touch on a daily basis. This is different than in previous years, when a phone call once a week and the occasional letter or package from home was all the contact students had with their families.
  • New technologies make it easy to remain close. But this may have an adverse effect on student development; students who maintain close contact with family and friends from home often do not fully engage in the college experience.
  • Cell phones, e-mail and instant messaging can be a “crutch” for students who are not comfortable in their own environment. By filling their time with people from home, they avoid the difficult task of making new friends and establishing relationships.
  • Parents can help by maintaining a healthy distance and encouraging students to utilize the resources and people at UC Davis for interaction and solutions.
  • Effectively guiding your student to independence will be very rewarding!

Residence Halls

Residence hall-specific information and tips are available on the Transitioning Into The Residence Halls webpage.