Help Your College-Bound Student Face the Giant Difficulties of Freshman Year

High school students want to know the “giants” freshman year brought to their friends – and how to face them.

In the last few weeks of May, I get a sense of what King David’s story time with his kids must have been like. “Hey Daddy, just how big was that big bad giant? Were you scared?” The reason this comes to mind is that I see a similar scene reenacted at our high school. College kids, usually after their freshman year, come back to see us – and the graduating high school seniors want to hear what kind of giants await them. Who – or what – looms just behind the graduation horizon? Just how big and how bad? In other words, they want to know the difficulties freshman year brought to their friends.

Your college-bound kid is wondering the same thing.

College Prep Parents & the Difficulties of Freshman Year

College Prep Parents are obvious coaches for this situation. Reminding your child that they have already been taught how to face those “giants” is encouraging. They are equipped for action, and they have been trained. But still… inquiring minds want to know. How big and bad are those giants waiting for me in college? Whether your kid will make the move to college this fall or in a few years, you can begin preparing them for the difficulties they’ll face.

For the purposes of this article, let’s define a “giant” as something bigger than your student has encountered before. Maybe a really tough class, a difficult roommate situation, or simply a hard adjustment to new food, new friends, or a new bed. Different college freshmen encounter different difficulties. In this case, hearing from those who have “survived the giants” sheds a little light on some giant-facing tactics.

Here are four ways you should coach your kid to face their giants. (And if they start now, they’ll be very prepared for the difficulties of freshman year.)

1. Identify your giants.

One thing about giants is that they are hard to hide. A little problem may go away, or be easy to live with, or may not even be noticed. But a big problem is one that changes everything, unless and until it is resolved. The college freshmen who warn our seniors mention such difficulties as sleeping through alarms, binge-watching TV during the week, social media addiction… and the list goes on. Sometimes a giant hides by wearing the camouflage of “everybody does it” – but it’s still an education-defeating giant.

Many times, I have heard returning alums speak of the things they had to change after the initial grade reports came out, or when they went back to college after Christmas. These tales of acknowledging the problem as a “giant” have much happier endings than when a student ignores a problem. Once a student identifies one of those “giants,” it really is important to see it for what it is – a true threat to their success in college. Giants don’t just go away.

2. Find solutions to freshman year difficulties.

A college prep kid has prepared for this, right? Yes. Kinda. Well, maybe.

Remember, we said “giants” are bigger difficulties than someone has encountered before. That means a kid in their freshman year will often have to use resources and consider solutions that they have never thought of using. For some kids, a study group made up of strangers will be needed to conquer an ogre of a midterm exam. Some students speak of needing to have an embarrassing, but necessary, confrontation with their roommate. Maybe they will have to be vulnerable by asking a mentor or parent to hold them accountable to keeping an important habit – or avoiding a bad one. Some college freshmen speak of their first time getting sick away from home; having to “deal with it” was their giant.

Solutions to giant difficulties can sometimes seem like giant difficulties themselves. College Prep Parents can probably offer support from their own personal experiences on that one.

3. Enact your plan.

As I read about David facing his giant, I see some really good advice for our college-bound kids. Yes, he identified his giant (probably hard to miss) and he acknowledged the problem. He had a lot of help in considering solutions. Some tried to weigh him down with armor, weapons, and probably all kinds of advice, but David’s chose to use what the Lord gave him.

But the biggest key for David – and our college prep kids – is that David enacted his solution. He did something. The Bible says David ran to meet Goliath. He put his plan into action. We know how it worked out for David, but for our college kids facing giants, it is important that they too “run” to put their plans into effect.

I have heard college students say they started viewing their alarm clock as a friend that helped them do better in school. Wise freshmen learned to enact their plan of learning to “give and take” with their roommate. Other students met people in each of their classes so they wouldn’t keep facing the giant of “I just don’t know anybody.” These students were all successful because they decided to do something about their freshman year difficulties, and then they actually did it.

4. Remember the lessons you learn.

Valuable life lessons are learned from facing giant difficulties that freshman year of college. Identifying, confronting, and overcoming a problem has a way of building up a reservoir of confidence and resourcefulness in our kids – the resilience factor I’ve mentioned over and over. Students who overcome one difficulty their freshman year grow better equipped to face their next “giant.” When my former students talk about the lessons they learned their first year of college, I’m excited to know that their battles with giants have not gone to waste.

Remembering those giants, and reflecting on the lessons learned, is something that I hope every College Prep Parent gets to celebrate with their child!

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