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New students at Portland State University - as well as other colleges - typically face similar developmental issues. As a parent or family member, you are in a position to help support your student through his or her personal and academic development.

While much of this information pertains to parents or family members of new first-year students, there are often common issues we see for all students who are new to PSU. We have developed sets of monthly topics that will assist you in navigating this exciting and challenging time.


MarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustAdditional Questions & Tips


September, the start of the fall term, brings adjustments in all aspects of a student’s life. Starting college may involve homesickness, adjusting to a new living situation, navigating an unfamiliar campus, assuming responsibility for day-to-day actions, forming new relationships, and adapting to a more challenging academic environment. Even if your student is beginning at PSU as an adult learner or transferring from another university or community college, there are transitional issues you can expect. Communication between families and students is especially important at this time of the year; provide reassurance, but resist the temptation to step in and fix your student’s problems.

Suggested questions to ask:
What is it like living in the residence halls?
Have you met many students in your classes or on campus?
Do you like your class schedule?
What are your professors’ names?
How has PSU differed from high school or your previous college so far?


As the fall term gets underway, some adjustment problems go away, but some persist. Your student may experience time management issues and other academic anxieties. Students may struggle to balance academic and social anxieties. Encourage your student to hone his or her study strategies with the use of campus resources. Academic stress often increases as midterms approach.

Suggested questions to ask:
Where are your favorite places to eat on and around campus?
What do you and your friends do during your down time?
Have you visited any of your professors outside of class?
How much time do you spend studying each week?
How have you learned to balance your many responsibilities?


Academic pressure continues to build due to procrastination, difficulty of work assigned, or perceived lack of availability. Deadlines for major class projects or papers loom with the end of the term coming in December. Stress and fatigue may lower a student’s ability to fight off illness. Remind your student to make wellness a priority by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.

Suggested questions to ask:
What campus activities are you participating in?
How do you feel you have changed since beginning at PSU?
What are your favorite stress-relieving activities?
What does a typical day look life for you?


With the end of the term nearing, students may experience difficulty balancing extracurricular activities, work, and class assignments. The stress of final exams is likely to be overwhelming for first-year students who do not know what to expect. Encourage your student to participate in stress-reducing activities, such as getting involved in Campus Recreation. Students may also be anxious about returning home for winter break if they've moved to Portland for school. They may have to readjust to life at home and reconnect with high school friends. Express your expectations for the winter break prior to your student’s return home and include him or her in plans for holiday events and activities. If your student seems anxious, depressed, or hopeless, recommend that he or she speak with someone at the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).

Suggested questions to ask:
Do you feel prepared for finals?
How much sleep are you getting?
What will you do differently next term based on your experience this fall?
What are your plans for winter break?


January’s success may be influenced by how well the winter break went for your student. Your student may be disappointed in his or her fall term grades. Encourage him or her to take a renewed look at new classes and classmates as opportunities for new connections and improved academic performance. Encourage involvement in campus activities and use of academic resources.

Suggested questions to ask:
How is your relationship with your roommate or how has living on your own been?
What are your goals for this term?
What academic resources have you used since coming to PSU?


In addition to persistent academic and social issues, relationship issues prevail in February. Remind your student to visit professors and to take advantage of campus resources. Begin to discuss Spring Break and summer plans with your students.

Suggested questions to ask:
What are your plans for Spring Break?
What campus activities are you participating in?
Are there any faculty and staff members who you have gotten to know well?


Students may be thinking about living arrangements for the next school year. March may also be a time of stress or anxiety for your student with winter term final exams. They will certainly be focused on Spring Break and warmer weather. Your student may be facing difficult decisions about behaviors in which he or she may not normally engage. Communicate or reiterate your values and expectations regarding drug or alcohol use. Remind your student to balance social and academic commitments.

Suggested questions to ask:
What are your plans for this summer?
Where do you want to live next fall?
What classes do you plan to take next term?
Are you ready for final exams?


The month of April is once again the beginning of a new term. With warmer weather, your student’s commitments socially and personally may begin to escalate. Your student may also be experiencing considerable stress and fatigue by this point in the school year. Encourage the use of academic resources and wellness resources. Also, encourage your student to visit the Career Center about summer employment.

Suggested questions to ask:
How is the beginning of the term?
How do you think living at home this summer will be different than last summer?
Who have your closest friends been this year?
How have your relationships with high school friends changed?


May is the middle of the spring term at PSU. With the increase in temperature, students may find it to be difficult to focus on their studies. Students may be feeling stressed about finding a summer job or about future plans. Encourage your student to seek advice from faculty or staff.


After final exams, your student may be facing another transition – returning home, attending summer classes, working, and/or reconnecting with old friends. There is potential for conflict over independence and family responsibilities if your student is returning home after a year living on campus. Students may want the freedom of college back at home. Talk to your student about your summer expectations. Acknowledge the possible differences in your lifestyles if you have lived apart for the past year.

Suggested questions to ask:
Are you ready for final exams?
Based on the past year, what will you do differently in the fall?
Do you know how proud I am/we are of you?


Encourage your student to reflect on the past school year and its successes and challenges. Discuss how initial academic interests and career plans have been affected by this year of college. This can be an occasion for increased motivation towards original goals or an opportunity to explore alternative plans. Help identify problem areas such as time management and encourage your student to use campus resources. Discuss academic strategies and priorities for the fall term.


Challenges for students continue as they form new relationships and work toward a specific major or career path. New concerns may include a new living situation, new extracurricular activities, and new classes. Continued themes include balancing academic and social responsibilities, making responsible decisions with alcohol, and managing stress and other wellness issues. Encourage use of the Career Center – a valuable resource for students as they struggle with their career decision-making process. Above all, celebrate your student’s successes and anticipate great things in the years to come at PSU!

Additional Questions & Tips

Questions to always keep in mind as you communicate with your students:

1. Are you going to class?
2. Are you studying at least 25 hours per week?
3. Are you reviewing the material in each class weekly?
4. Are you scheduling some down time?
5. Do you know when the last day to withdraw from a class is?
6. Are you starting your assignments early?
7. Have you sought academic help, if needed?
8. Have you gone to your professors' office hours?
9. Have you gone to tutoring?
10. Have you formed a study group?

The opportunities for your student at Portland State University are abundant.

  • Let them adjust to the university during their first quarter but encourage them to get involved.
  • Don't pressure your students to declare a major right away if they are a freshman. Most don't until their second year.
  • Your students are safe. There are people looking out for them here. They need to take charge of their personal safety and be smart. Encourage your student to not leave their belongings unattended.
  • Teach your students how to do laundry before they get here, and give them quarters for the laundry machines.
  • Set up a system of communication so you are not waiting anxiously for your student to call, and so that your student has a clear understanding of what you expect.
  • Familiarize yourself with the resources on campus so you can point your child in the right direction. See the helpful list we've put together for you on this website.
  • If you're going to give your child allowances, work out a budget with them and hold to it.

Support Your Student

  • Your student is growing up, so always support them throughout all their decisions. Be their support even when they think they don't need it.
  • Leaving home is a big change, and it's important that families act as safe spaces where students can share thoughts and ideas.
  • Send care packages. Send fun mail!
  • Call your student. Though they may fuss about your call, deep down they are happy you are there for them.
  • Send your student e-mails or pictures from home.
  • Packages of cookies are always a welcome gift during midterms or finals.
  • This is not the last you are going to hear from your kid! Your child is still yours, even if they have flown the nest, and they'll want to check in with you every once in a while; they love you.

But Let Your Student Be Independent

  • They've come this far, so obviously there is a good head on those shoulders. Trust them to use it.
  • Trust that everything you taught them will guide them.
  • When your child comes home after their first year of school, they will be different, more independent. Embrace the person they are becoming!