08/06/2010 03:09 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What You Need to Learn BEFORE You Head Off to College: A Primer for Parents and Students

Meal plans, new roommates, how long it actually takes to go from your dorm to the student union across campus -- for the average high school graduate getting ready to embark on their first foray into college life, these are all pressing issues. But for the average mother or father? In reality, they're just a combination of undue stressors that barely touch upon a much larger issue -- whether or not their child can live independently and successfully outside the realm of today's helicopter parenting movement.

While safety and academic success are often primary concerns, other considerations often go unspoken or fall completely to the wayside, like how to deal with emotional distress, weather failure, and balance the rigors of time management. These issues usually aren't front and center during the back-to-school media blitz we see each fall, but for students, they're sometimes difficult hurdles that predicate the need for an ongoing dialogue between teens and parents alike.

Time Management is Key: If you're totally not a morning person, you've probably already figured out that it's best to avoid 9 AM lectures like the plague. -- Ellie Krupnick, Barnard College

This is the first time many young people are living in an environment where their academic success rests squarely on their own shoulders. Mom and dad aren't there to wake them up in the morning, get them off to class, or ensure that they're studying in between breaks. A realistic discussion about time management can help each of you better assess any potential problems down the road. Morning person? Night person? Procrastinator who always end up cramming last minute? Make sure to review these strengths and weaknesses before school starts and then set down and design a class schedule that best fits each student's individual academic style.

Failure Isn't a Bad Thing: Don't waste a second of your time in college worrying about things that won't matter in the long run. One bad grade or a horrible breakup shouldn't become the end all/be all of your college career. -- Stephanie Vacchio, Union College

For a generation of teens who have been taught that that personal achievement is akin to a lifetime of gold stars, a failing grade or a bad breakup can be crippling. Rethinking the notion of failure (as less of a defeat and moreso a learning experience) can help students develop a realistic framework as to how to deal with life's unpredictable highs and lows. Examine the elements that led to the event, assess how you could change the outcome if it happened again, and resolve to move forward without fear or regret.

A Strong Sense of Self is the Ultimate Safety Net: Freshmen boys really only have one thing on their mind and they really don't want relationships -- plus, they're totally not worth crying over. -- Kara Appel, University of South Carolina

Binge drinking. Depression. Sexual transmitted diseases. What do these three things share in common? The number of students impacted by these issues is on the rise and growing at an exponential rate across the country. Teaching self-worth is a tricky task, mired by the need to belong and feel like you're a part of something. Encouraging students to talk about their problems or concerns with both parents and mental health professionals alike can help bridge the gap between negative internalizations and a positive (not to mention successful) college experience.

While continued education is a given for this year's incoming crop of freshman, parents would be wise to recognize that not every lesson can be taught in the classroom. True learning takes many shapes and forms in college, and achievements can't always be measured by a perfect test score or high G.P.A.

For more information on planning your college career, go to