Parents of UC Berkeley Students

Welcome parents and caregivers of UC Berkeley students!

Find out more about the health, wellness, and insurance services offered at University Health Services, as well as some topics of interest to parents.

Transitioning to UC Berkeley

Adjusting to College

College is the time for exploration, experimentation, and discovery. As young adults, their challenge will be to define who they are, develop meaningful relations, and find a purpose in life. Throughout their childhood and adolescence, you were a constant companion whether it was holding their hands as they took their first steps, helping them with school, or comforting them when they had fights with friends.

Now it is time to send your students forth to find their own paths into young adulthood. Unlike their childhood, you may not always be there to pick your students up when they fall or stumble. All you can do is be ready with an open mind and heart and guide them when they reach out for help.

College can present unique challenges for students and their parents and/or families. Listed below are resources you might find helpful and informative. 

Common issues for undergraduate students

Parental support is important but it can also be helpful for students to talk to a professional counselor who is trained in college development. UHS can help support students as they navigate these changes. 

At times, students can become overwhelmed by the demands. Counseling can be helpful to support students and teach them new strategies for managing stress now and in the future.

Transitioning to college

College is a time of social, emotional, and intellectual growth. New undergraduates face several challenges as they adjust to being at Berkeley. Some of the stressors might include:  

  • Academics: The academics at UC Berkeley are rigorous and this, in itself, can be a source of stress. Most UC Berkeley students are used to being top performers and getting A's. However, it is not unusual for 1st-semester students to struggle academically. There is an adjustment phase in which students learn what is expected in classes. In addition, many students need to learn new skills for test-taking and studying.  
  • Time management: Students may be used to parents’ oversight of commitments, socializing, and sleep. It is now incumbent on the student to make his/her own decisions and to balance work, activities, and school.  
  • Choosing a major or career directionSome students come to UC Berkeley knowing exactly what they want to study. However, this is unusual. Most students are undecided during their first years of college. Determining a college major and career goals can be daunting and can be a major source of stress.
  • FinancesMany students struggle with funding for school and housing. It is not unusual for students to have work-study or outside jobs to support themselves through school and funding can be impacted when students need to drop classes. In addition, many students are not used to managing their budget to ensure that their money lasts through the semester. 
  • Identity issuesUndergraduates are often trying to figure out who they are and where they are going. This might include career direction, sexual orientation, faith/spirituality, and sense of self-independent of family  
  • Relationships: New undergraduates are leaving long-standing relationships and establishing new relationships at college. It is not unusual for freshmen to struggle with long-distance relationships, break-ups, and loneliness while building new relationships at Berkeley.
  • Roommate ConflictSharing space with 1, 2 and sometimes even 3 roommates is challenging, especially for those students who have never shared a room before. Issues related to noise, sleep schedules, and communication are common.  
  • Communicating with ProfessorsHere at UC Berkeley, students are responsible for getting help when needed, learning how to use office hours, and being proactive about their learning. For students who come from small high schools, this can be a big change. 
  • Family ExpectationsMany students are focused on meeting the expectations of their parents, whether that is to get certain grades, to pick certain majors, or to choose particular careers. This can be challenging when students' strengths or interests are in different areas. In addition, for those students who are the first generation to attend college, talking to family can be difficult if he/she doesn't feel that others understand the experience.

Mental health concerns

Many students enter UC Berkeley with previous treatment for mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. It is also common for mental health concerns to emerge during the early 20s when students are in their college years.

UHS aims to help these students assess their needs and connect them with appropriate treatment and other support programs. Parents and loved ones can play an important role in setting up their students to successfully study, live, and socialize while managing mental health needs and symptoms.  

  • After celebrating the thrill of admission, help your student re-assess if Berkeley is, in fact, a good fit at this time. Talk about how the opportunity of admission also carries some special responsibilities given their concerns. Are they ready to:
    • connect with campus support systems to disclose and manage their condition?
    • continue their treatment and take their prescribed medications? 
    • consider and make an informed decision about whether or not signing a FERPA waiver is appropriate for them.
  • Seek consultation regarding housing, academics, social groups, support programs, and other key choices related to their personal and community environments. For example, many students with mental health concerns benefit from support and accommodations through the Disabled Students Program (DSP), but the process of applying may take a few months. UHS mental health services is a great place for students to start.
  • Review and talk openly about the risks of self-medication and the potential negative impact of alcohol or other drug use for people with mental health concerns.
  • Support your student to establish open relationships and regular communications with people in their life (e.g. parents/loved ones, roommates).
  • UHS aims to provide access for these students so that we can assess their needs and connect them with appropriate support.

How can I tell if child is distressed?

At one time or another, everyone feels upset. However, when some of the following are present, your son or daughter is probably in distress: 

  • Bizarre behavior or speech. 
  • Comments in a student's letters or emails home that arouse concern.
  • Extreme dependency on family, including exceptionally long/distressing phone calls or visits home.
  • Nervousness, agitation, irritability, aggressiveness, non-stop talking.
  • Noticeable decline in quality of school performance.
  • Marked change in personal hygiene.
  • Prolonged appearance of depression (e.g., sad expression, apathy, tearfulness, distractibility).

Any one of the above signs present in someone does not indicate serious distress. Many disturbances during college are relatively transient. However, you may become alarmed by changes that are extreme or by significant changes that last longer than is typical. If there is doubt about the seriousness of the problem, consult with UHS student mental health about evaluating the situation and taking the most appropriate steps. 

Encouraging your student to seek help

Students often want to be independent and see help-seeking as a weakness. What they don’t understand is that using campus resources is normal at UC Berkeley and that using these resources is a sign of strength and resiliency.

While entering counseling is a personal choice; it may be helpful for you to encourage your student to speak with a counselor about his or her concerns. The following guidance may help a student who is unsure whether they wish to seek counseling or apprehensive about seeking help:  

  • Inform your child that information shared during counseling is confidential to the extent permitted by state law and will not be disclosed without written permission.
  • Reduce the stigma associated with counseling. Tell your child that our counseling services are regularly used by many students for a variety of concerns and that utilizing counseling services reflects good use of one’s resources. Just as it is common to visit a doctor when one has a medical problem, there should be no shame in meeting with a counselor to discuss a personal issue or concern.
  • Remind your child that they can meet with a counselor for one session without committing to ongoing counseling.
  • If your child is daunted by coming to the health services, suggest that they consider visiting one of the satellite offices. Counselors are available in the residence halls, the Cesar Chavez Student Center, International House, and at a variety of other locations.   
  • Refer your child to this website so that they can learn more about the services offered and use the mental health self-assessment tools online. The screenings are free, anonymous, and confidential and will help your daughter or son determine if professional counseling is right for them. 

Understanding UHS counseling

  • UHS mental health services are staffed by professional counselors who provide assessment, crisis intervention, and brief counseling  (individual and group). UHS mental health counselors help students with personal, social, academic, and career concerns.
  • All registered students are eligible for services, regardless of their insurance plan.
  • Students can access services by calling  510-642-9494 or walking in (3rd floor of the Tang Center) to set up an appointment. 
  • Community Referrals: Many students require ongoing support that is more specialized, intensive, or extensive than is available on campus. In general, ongoing mental health care is a private health care responsibility, not a service provided by the university. For students who need off-campus care, a UHS clinician can work with them to locate private care that is maximally accessible, appropriate, and affordable with their health care plan.

Consult with a UHS counselor

Launching a child into the college years is a complicated process for parents. As with every life transition, parents want to do what is best for their children. Parents often become concerned about their college student’s emotional functioning. UHS counselors are available to consult with parents who have questions or concerns about their child. Questions might include:

  • Is this a normal, developmental process for a college student? 
  • How might the parent best support the student?                  
  • How might the parent convince the student to seek professional help?
  • If there is a basis for treating the student’s condition as an “emergency,” what steps should be taken?

How to consult with a UHS counselor:

If you are concerned about your child and are unsure what to do, please call UHS mental health services to consult with a counselor (510) 642-9494 Monday–Friday, 8 am–5 pm.

If you believe there is imminent danger, immediately call the police.

Confidentiality of counseling

The student’s assurance of privacy is one of the conditions that makes counseling effective. UHS mental health services is prohibited by law from disclosing anything about counseling without explicit written permission from the student. We are not even free to share with you whether your student has sought counseling, as even that information is protected by state law. 

  • If you call for consultation, the counselor’s assistance will be based on the description you provide, and on our extensive experience working with college students’ emotional development. Our thoughts will NOT be based on information we have about your specific student.

  • This may feel frustrating to you when you are reaching out in concern for your daughter or son. If you know that your son or daughter has seen one of our counselors and if you think it is important to talk to that counselor, PLEASE ASK YOUR STUDENT TO SIGN A RELEASE OF INFORMATION AT UHS, which then allows us to discuss your student’s care.

  • If you have worrisome information that we may not have, such as someone revealing to you that your son or daughter has made a suicide attempt, please call us and give us that information. In that unusual circumstance, the priority is to protect the student, and the family’s involvement is essential.


"Real Parents, Real Answers"

This series of videos addresses common issues for parents in the transition to students beginning college: managing money, setting expectations, communicating with your student  

Articles & Books



Below is a list of books geared to parenting college students. These books focus on your student’s transition as well as the impact on parents’ lives.

  • Almost Grown: Launching Your Child from High School to College by Patricia Pasick
  • College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It  by Richard Kadison
  • Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money by Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller
  • Empty Nest ... Full Heart: The Journey from Home to College by Andrea Van Steenhouse
  • The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior to College Life  by Laura Kastner, Jennifer Fugett Wyatt
  • Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years, Third Edition by Karen Levin Coburn (Author), Madge Lawrence Treeger
  • When Kids Go to College: A Parent's Guide to Changing Relationships by Barbara M. Newman, Philip R. Newman
  • When Your Kid Goes to College; A Parent's Survival Guide by Carol Barkin
  • You're On Your Own (But I'm Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years by Marjorie Savage
  • Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students by Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., New York University Child Study Center
  • Transition to College Stresses Parents and Kids by Emily Hagedorn / The Detroit News
  • How to Survive and Thrive in an Empty Nest: Reclaiming your Life when Your Children have Grown by Jeanette Lauer et al
  • She's Leaving Home: Letting Go as a Daughter Goes to College by Connie Jones
  • The Empty Nest: When Children Leave Home by Shelley Bovey
  • When You're Facing the Empty Nest: Avoiding Midlife Meltdown When Your Child Leaves Home by Mary Ann Froehlich 

Communicating With Your Students

Don't call me, I'll call you

For many students, going to college may be the first time they are leaving home and their family. Unlike home, your student may have to live in a large, residence community with many other students. And unlike summer camp, this is a living situation in which they can't leave after only a week or two! Learning to share a bedroom with someone new, finding a friendly face to share a meal, and adjusting to the rigors of a competitive academic program can be a difficult cultural shift for many students. Although most students can make this transition smoothly within the first few months of being at college, some might need a little more time to acclimate to this brand-new world. Here are some tips to help your student adjust to life at UC Berkeley. 

  • Try to normalize their fears and anxieties and let them know that it takes time to adjust to a new environment.
  • Encourage them to get out of their room, get involved, and start building their social networks.
  • Check-in with your students to see how they would like to stay in contact (e.g. phone, texting, email, etc.).
  • Have an understanding of who should initiate the call, when, and how often.