A Letter to the Parents

Welcome parents, guardians, and families to the Northern Illinois University community. As students begin studying at NIU, they will engage in a journey marked by academic and personal growth that will shape the rest of their lives. However, this can also mean a big adjustment for everyone, especially if they are the first in the family to attend college. Developing young adults see themselves both as separate from, and a part of, their family. If this is the first student in your family to leave home, your own feelings of separation, loss, and change of role may surprise you. This is a truly exciting, lonely, fun, challenging, sometimes frightening, exhilarating, and self-defining adventure!

Families are often concerned that the values with which their student has been raised will be forgotten in the new university experience. For many, it's the start of independent living, and being away from well-known places, people, and everything that's familiar. It may be challenging for parents to watch their student explore new ways of thinking, believing, acting, or dressing, but these activities are important in the development of the unique person that your student will become.

The fact that your son or daughter is probably leaving home for the first time to go to a university doesn't mean that s/he doesn't need your support any longer – just that s/he may need it in different ways. S/he needs to know that you trust her/him to make her/his own decisions and that those decisions will sometimes involve taking risks. Students will learn much by "doing," and then by "managing" the outcome of their decisions – but only if they are given the opportunity. They will then have more self-confidence and be better able to stand up for themselves if they know that they have your support at home and that they can talk to you if things are not going well. One advantage of your student experimenting with new bedtimes, new eating styles, new political ideas, or new career interests is that s/he is doing so within a caring community, at an age-appropriate period of time, and with support resources available.

There are many resources at NIU to help your student have a positive university experience, but s/he will look to you for much-valued support. We encourage you to be engaged with your student, especially as s/he faces significant challenges. As s/he matures, develops good problem-solving skills, and becomes more independent, you can continue to have a significant role in encouraging, guiding, and being a “sounding board” for your student.

We hope you will find the material on this site helpful in better understanding your student’s university experience.