Skip to main content

Academic Journey

Help support your individual student's journey to gain success during each year of their academic experience.

First Year

For most, the biggest challenge Freshman year is the transition, not only in August after move-in, but throughout the academic year. Recognize that this is happening not only for your student but for parents, siblings and sometimes extended family as well.

Here are some important notes to take to help support your student.

Transition is Normal

The college transition can change the dynamic for everyone, and while it is an exciting time, it is important to remember that the cycle of transition can stimulate many questions and emotions.

Your Student is Resilient

Allow your student room to make mistakes and be resilient while keeping abreast of the services and resources available to your student; when and if they are needed.

Encourage Independence

While college is about academic challenge and rigor, there is also a great deal of social and individual growth and gain. There is a unique balance for parents and students to find out what this may look like as it is different for everyone. Provide your student with the encouragement that fosters the confidence to make decisions while offering a sense of trust and reassurance that it is “okay to make mistakes.”

Stay Engaged and Come Visit (when you’re invited)

NC State supports and encourages parents to stay engaged with the University and with their students. For this reason, NC State’s Office of Parents and Families Services provides various communications and Pack Family events to stay engaged and informed.

Second Year

Questioning Program / Changing Majors

It’s not uncommon for students to call home nervously expressing anxiety or questioning their current program of study. Sophomore year is a combination of general education requirements and the fundamentals of the choice program. Sometimes these courses are more of the “how-to” rather than the “doing.” Often students have a misconception about college classes and assume the program will be just as “fun” to study as it will be to do post-graduation. For some, these courses can be the deciding factor of whether or not they are truly interested and/or have the ability and drive to complete the program. Engage your student in a constructive conversation that positively identifies where your student is at. Is it positive reinforcement during a time of struggle that is needed or a change of major? Either way, keep your student’s ultimate success in mind and offer your student support and love, and remember that these questions are all part of the process.

Plan for Tough Conversations

Regardless of the topic, it is routine that at some point, students will face a challenge and will make an emotional call (or two) home. Whether it’s social or academic, keep in mind that your student expressing themselves takes great courage. Remember your role has transitioned and the way you may have helped your student in high school through a similar situation should look different. Ask yourself how will you react? What can you offer? How can you help in a way that will keep your student on a path of individual growth and success? Still not sure how to proceed? Ask your student. How can I help? What do you need from me?

Sophomore Slump

First-year students get an overwhelming amount of invitations and education about extracurricular activities. The excitement alone can drive them to stay positive and create wonderful experiences. Sophomores, not new to the routine, often overlook many of these opportunities, even though for some there may actually be more engagement opportunities the following year than the first. Remind your student to get engaged in university life outside of the classroom and encourage them to try something new every semester.

Third Year

Junior year is an exciting time for students as they begin to explore the facets of their chosen program. There are many questions in the air at this point but students are growing and maturing with a keen sense of self and individualism. Much like the moment when students realize parents are people, parents have a similar reaction to their students during this time that their children are now young adults on the brink of making their fierce debut into the workforce. While this is an exciting time and parents often find themselves breathing a bit easier during Junior year, students may have their own set of mixed emotions and challenges to break through.

Recognizing the Real-World

Let’s be honest, we all know the real world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but students are eager to get there and the Junior year is the first true sneak peek students get of what it could look like for them. Many are working in the field completing internships and co-ops and navigating their way through the multiplicity of options for any given program. Parents are a support system through this journey. Some students will find after working in the field a bit, that perhaps they would prefer a different direction; this is okay. Students are often seeking a listening ear and an encouraging word to help them continue to work hard. Reassure them that there are plenty of services and resources available and that sometimes finding their niche takes time, and thankfully they still have a year before they have to make any firm decisions.

Be a Proactive Parent

Parents know their students best and are encouraged to do some homework of their own and make a list of resources that will best help their students. NC State offers an extensive list of resources that can help prepare students for both short and long-term career commitments. One such example is the Career Development Center (CDC). Parents are encouraged to visit the Career Development Center to understand what resources will be best for their student. By doing this, parents have the information to offer to students as they need it.

Stay Engaged

At this point, your student may have completed their transition and may seemingly be doing very well but there are others that will need additional support and may still seem to be struggling a bit; regardless, all students need support at all levels. Parents who stay engaged and communicate with both the University and their students, continue to remain connected and positive support leading their individual student on the path to success.

Fourth Year

Congratulations, parents and students, Senior year has arrived! This is an incredibly exciting time for students, parents, and families albeit, somewhat stressful. Here are some ways that parents can help their students manage stress and be successful to ensure students finish strong and have a wonderful time doing so.

Career Planning

Parents should discuss with their students his/her plans and direction post-graduation. Career planning is an overwhelming task for students. Reassure your student that they have an extensive network that has been built since freshman year. Encourage them to reconnect with that standout professor who helped them transition; a mentor or tutor that has strong expertise in the work they are interested in, or a colleague they worked with during their internship. Your student has built a support network without maybe knowing, remind them of this and encourage them to tap into these resources to help make big decisions for their future.

Be Supportive

Job hunting is overwhelming.  Now add in managing to balance classes, work, and exams and your student’s ability to multitask is incredible. Although at some point students can begin to feel worn down, understandably. Parents are encouraged to be a positive reassurance and support system for their student. Rest assured they do not want to disappoint and it is their goal to walk across the stage and receive their diploma.  Additional pressure does not help the process. While the common questions parents ask during Senior year are done so with the best of intentions but they can sometimes lead your student to even higher levels of stress. Try to remain that positive reinforcement and a reminder to your student of how close they are, and how well they have done, thus far. Encourage them to seek help through the Undergraduate Tutorial CenterCounseling Center, and/or Career Development Center as needed.

Celebrate with your Student!

Senior year and graduation is a success for all students but at NC State it is success made possible by the parents and families as well as the student. Enjoy this time with your student and celebrate your own success as well.

Utilize the Resources

With a wide array of support options for all students, and a university calendar offering a variety of educational programs, interest activities and special events, parents are encouraged to stay connected to support their students.

For questions, concerns or assistance anytime, please contact the Parents’ Helpline via phone 919.515.2441 or email at