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Finishing high school and preparing to go to college can be a daunting transition—and not just for students. Parents often experience plenty of pressure and stress themselves.

For parents of historically underserved communities, like Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), preparing a rising college student can be even more complicated. A recent surge in hate incidents against the AAPI community and stubborn myths about a “model minority” can be stumbling blocks for your student’s success. But with the right support, AAPI college students can overcome those obstacles and get every ounce of value out of college that they deserve.

Below are three tips to help your AAPI student thrive in college.

1) Talk about racism

Historically, the fight against racism in America hasn’t given the AAPI community the focus that it deserves. One of the best ways to change that is to talk about it.

Discussing racism with your child is difficult for many parents, and that’s OK. The two most effective ways to prepare an AAPI student to face and overcome racism in college are to share your own experiences and to listen to theirs. By sharing your experiences, you’ll establish credibility with your student and make them feel more comfortable confiding in you. By listening to their experiences, you’ll have a chance to denounce the injustice of what they’ve been through and make them feel seen and supported.

Parents should teach rising college students to be proud of their ethnicity and empower them to stand up for themselves and others.

2) Teach them to ask for help

Recent research has found that the AAPI population is less likely to seek out help compared to other ethnicities—a survey found just 2 out of 10 who were experiencing mental illness were also receiving treatment. For many students, this trend could be the result of a prevalent myth in America that the AAPI community is a “model minority.” This stereotype suggests that Asian Americans get better grades, achieve more financial success, and obey the laws more consistently than other ethnic minorities.

While there are, of course, many very successful members of the AAPI community in academics and business, there is also significant diversity in lifestyle, socioeconomic standing, and cultural values. The pressure exerted by this stereotype can create significant stress and mental health concerns for many AAPI college students. Teaching your student that asking for help is both acceptable and valuable can reduce this pressure. And as with all advice, they are more likely to listen if you lead by example.

3) Support is better than micromanagement

While this tip isn’t specific to AAPI students, it’s nonetheless crucial to maintaining a strong relationship with your son or daughter and setting them up for success. Whether they continue to live at home or move away, many college students crave independence. They increasingly view themselves as adults and attempting to micromanage their lives is more likely to frustrate them than help them succeed in college.

Lead with questions rather than commands. Make it a priority to listen as much as you speak. Help them come to their own wise conclusions. In most cases, while college students do crave independence, they also crave good advice. College is often a turning point in their lives. It’s best to position yourself as an ally rather than a manager.

One final thought

In the end, your child’s success in college is their responsibility. There’s a lot that you can do to help—creating a safe space to discuss racism, teaching them to seek help when they need it, and becoming their trusted ally. But all the help you can give doesn’t change the fact that college students can only thrive if they make their own responsible decisions. Remembering that will not only reduce your stress, but it will also set them up for success well past college and into the rest of their lives.


ScholarShare 529, California’s college savings plan, publishes the College Countdown website and articles to provide resources and to ease the minds of parents preparing to send their kids to college. Visit ScholarShare 529.