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What Can I Expect When My College Student Gets Home?

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November 30, 2023

As your student returns for winter break, there are a few tips and tricks we’ve compiled to support your college student. There have been ups and downs, hard work, and they have barely a chance to pause. They likely want to sleep, eat a home-cooked meal, see their old friends, and just decompress – let them! It’ll be okay.

With this “user’s guide” we want to provide you with information that might be helpful in understanding their experience as well as prepare them for a successful next term.

What just happened?

Well, a lot, frankly. Maybe you’ve heard a weekly account of classes and professors, or a biweekly saga on new friendships and old. Or maybe there are a lot of gaps in the daily “how was school?” conversations you once had. That’s okay; take your time catching up. What we do know – your student just about completed an entire term at Oregon State. Here are a few things that you can expect:


Midterms and finals stack up quickly; they’ve just concluded a great deal of work. Now they have time to relax away from campus. Try to give them space to do just that – sleep and relax.


They may be very excited to get back to the things they did before getting to OSU. Let them. This is the time to enjoy a break and disconnect from school while reconnecting with family, friends and other hobbies.

New ideas and opinions

College is a time to learn about a new environment, and people and ideas that your student may not have been exposed to in the past. If you hear new ideas or opinions, be willing to discuss these points of view with them.


It’s not uncommon that students may express the feeling – do I need to go back to school? The excitement of going to college may have worn off; the stress of exams is a fresher memory. Students tend to feel the comfort of home more now than ever, and it’s okay to feel uncertain. You play a key role in supporting your student and helping them make informed, balanced decisions about their next few years.

What happens next?

Even in the midst of unwinding from fall term, there are things you can do to be supportive of your student while they are home for winter break. Planning and setting goals are good ways to prepare.

Help them create goals for the next term

They’ve just finished their first academic term at OSU. They most likely have learned some things about what works for them and what does not as it pertains to their academic success. But there can still be room for reflection. Ask questions such as:

  • How did your courses go this past term? 
  • Were there classes in which you struggled? 
  • Why do you think you struggled? 
  • Was it the content of the course?
  • Was it the time/day of the course? 

Encourage them to spend time with loved ones

Whether a pet, an old friend, a family member or a neighbor, your student is most likely missing their strong connections from home. Help them plan outings with friends and family, go see a movie, do an activity they used to do growing up or give them the opportunity to socialize at home. Encourage them by asking questions such as:

  • When are you going to see <insert name>? 
  • Would you want to host a game night or a movie night here with some of your friends who are home from college? 
  • I’m going for a walk tomorrow morning, would you like to join me in the morning?
  • Want to go grocery shopping or run errands with me?

Ask them to relax

Without the stress of coursework and studying, it is important for your student to catch up on some much needed self-care (sleep, healthy eating or exercise). It might be a time for your student to finally binge-watch the Netflix show they’ve been wanting to see, or read a book that has been on the back burner. Or they could be debating a big decision back on campus. Help them by asking:

  • What are some things you plan to do to relax and unwind? 
  • Are there any books or shows you’re hoping to finish over the next few weeks? 
  • Big picture – anything you want to think about or that we can work out together?

Encourage them to apply for scholarships and plan financially

Winter break is a great time to renew financial aid forms and scholarship eligibility. If it works in your family schedule, make time to apply for FAFSA or ORSAA or any local scholarships. Begin helping them compile all of the necessary information to complete these applications; many of them are first come, first served, and have to be renewed each year. All students should apply for FAFSA because this information helps the university navigate its many scholarship opportunities. Treat it like a business appointment and find a good block of time. Ask your students:

  • Have you started the FAFSA or ORSAA application? 
  • Have you started your OSU ScholarDollars application? 
  • What do each of the applications require? 
  • What information might you need from our family to complete these applications? 
  • How can I be helpful?

Let the Okay Rule

Enjoy your time together, and keep the mindset that it’s okay to face challenges. Earning a college degree is hard work, but rewarding. Your student is so happy to be home, sometimes the hardest part is asking for help. Please keep in mind the many resources we have specifically to help your student succeed. We want to help in any way we can!

Business Matters