Information for the parents of college students

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Making Your Parents’ Weekend Visit a Success

Parents’ Weekend may be your first opportunity to visit your freshman at his college.  Your first visit to your student’s new home away from home can feel like a momentous occasion.  You have an opportunity to be hosted at college by your student now that he has settled in.  It is an important step for your college student and for you.

Most, but not all, colleges offer a Parents’ Weekend or Family Weekend – most often scheduled in the fall.  Family members (often including grandparents and siblings) are invited to come to campus to visit for the weekend, or for a long weekend.  The college plans activities for family members, students actually clean their rooms, at some schools families may visit classes, and families and their students spend important time getting reacquainted.

Why Family Weekend matters

If Family Weekend is scheduled for late September or early October, it may feel as though your student just left for college.  For some families, it seems as though it has been forever since they’ve seen their student, and for other families it may seem very soon to be visiting. Colleges often schedule Family Weekend at this point while the weather is still nice, and well before students become involved in midterm exams and the very busy holiday and end of semester seasons.

Family Weekend is a great opportunity to check in on how your student is adjusting to school.  He may be excited to “host” you and show you his room and his favorite places on campus, have you meet his roommate and friends, introduce you to some of his professors, and generally show you how he fits into his new life.  Parents will often leave Family Weekend with a better sense of the experience of being at the school from their student’s perspective, and reassured that their student is settling in.

Planning for Family Weekend

Information about Family Weekend, including a schedule of activities, is usually available on the college website.  Parents may receive information about the event through the mail – even as early as the student’s acceptance or deposit.  Many local accommodations may be booked months – or even a year – in advance.  The longer you wait to make reservations, the further from campus you will need to travel to find a hotel.

Family Weekend events often require advance reservations or registration – especially for key popular events. Also think about making dinner reservations if you plan to go off campus.  Everyone may be headed to the same popular restaurants. Don’t wait too long to make arrangements.

Family Weekend events

Visiting with your student during Parents’ Weekend can be wonderful, but can also be stressful because both you and your student may be expecting a lot from the event. Be patient and let your student take the lead in deciding what and how much to do.

Most schools offer a variety of events from which families may choose.  Some families will attend many events – staying busy for the entire weekend, while others may choose to attend only a few events and spend more time simply relaxing with their student.  Typical events might include the opportunity to attend classes with your student, an open house or brunch to meet and chat with faculty and administrators, an address or reception with the college president, performances by student groups, athletic events, possible events for younger siblings and family members,  honor society or award dinners, information panels or discussions, off-campus tours and events.  At some schools, Family Weekend may coincide with Homecoming – adding even more festivities to the event.

Family Weekend events are often more widely attended by parents of freshmen, but many parents continue to attend throughout their student’s college career.  Each year parents become more familiar with the school, their student’s friends, and families that they see each year.  Many families look forward to the visit each year, and actually become quite nostalgic when they attend their final Family Weekend during senior year.

Making the most of Parents’ Weekend

Parents’ Weekend often seems like a very short time, so you want to be able to make the most of it.  Here are a few suggestions to help the weekend go smoothly and to get the most out of the occasion.

  • Take advantage of the events, speakers and/or lectures the college may offer. This will be your chance to see the college in action – and perhaps to learn some new things.
  • Be ready to abandon plans. Although you’ve planned ahead, once you get to campus, be willing to be flexible.  Be ready to change plans if the weather doesn’t cooperate or if it feels as though just spending down time with your student would make everyone happier.
  • Bring gifts. Students love a surprise – and surprise food from home is even more of a bonus.  If your travel plans will allow, bring a few of his favorite home-cooked or local treats to leave behind.  (Don’t forget to bring enough for roommates and friends.)
  • Be guarded in your expectations. It will be wonderful to see your student.  There will be things to do.  But don’t expect too much from the weekend.  Take it as it comes.  Your student may still want to spend time with his friends.  He may need some study time.  He may not want to talk about every aspect of his new life.  It may take some time to get reacquainted.
  • Let your student take the lead for the weekend. He may be anxious to show you all around campus now that he knows his way around.  He may want to introduce you to his new friends.  He may want to participate in all of the activities – or he may just want to spend time catching up with you.  Let him decide how much, or how little, you try to do.
  • Bite your tongue. You may be tempted to make suggestions about rearranging or decorating his room, his choice of friends, his new hair style or clothes.  If you can, keep your comments to yourself.  This is your time to enjoy being together and get to know your new college student and his school.  Don’t spoil it by making judgments.
  • Be positive. If your student has had some trouble making the transition to college, having you visit will be good, but may stir up some venting and/or homesickness.  Try to keep it positive.  Let him know how proud you are of how he’s adjusted so far.  Focus on the great things you’re experiencing over the weekend rather than looking for possible issues.
  • Offer to get your student off campus for a while. He might like to take a break from the dorm and stay in your hotel with you.  He might like to eat in a restaurant off campus.  He might like to go for a hike in a local park or shop at the local mall.  This may all be even more important if your student does not have a car on campus.
  • Know when it’s time to leave. When the weekend’s activities begin to wind down, be ready to leave.  It’s tempting to linger and spend a bit more time with your student.  That may be fine, but remember that your student probably has class again on Monday.  He may have work to do.  He may have plans with his friends.  Be ready to leave and let him resume his college life – it won’t be long before he’s home for Thanksgiving Break!

While not every family will be able to take advantage of Family Weekend or Parents’ Weekend, try to attend if you can.  It marks an important transition for your student, and is a wonderful way to see your child in his environment and to recognize his growing comfort and independence. By planning ahead, being flexible, and tempering your expectations, you and your student will both get the most out of the experience.

Related Articles:

Get to Know Your Student’s College Town

Important Dates for New College Parents

What to Expect from Your Student’s First Semester Grades

Helping Your Student Make Sense of Midterm Grades

 

October 9, 2017   No Comments

Book Review – What To Do When You’re New

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

What to Do When You’re New: How to Be Comfortable, Confident, and Successful in New Situations is a book for parents and students alike.  We initially decided to review this book as something for parents to pass along to their students – as they begin college or move on to career.  However, we quickly discovered this is a useful book for parents as well.

As the author points out, we are all newcomers as various times in various settings.  Dr. Rollag’s information and tips will be helpful to everyone.  We suggest you give a copy to your student, and keep a copy for yourself as well.  Read it together and talk about it.

According to the author, “the secret to newcomer success is no secret at all.  It mostly comes down to our willingness and ability to do five key things: 1) Introduce ourselves to strangers, 2) Learn and remember names, 3) Ask questions, 4) Seek out and start new relationships, 5) Perform new things in front of others.”  After an early overview, the Dr. Rollag proceeds in Part 2 to devote a chapter to each of these skills.

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September 14, 2017   No Comments

Making the Most of Your Phone Calls with Your College Student

Regular phone conversations with your college student are a great way to stay in touch with what is happening in your student’s life – and for her to stay in touch with life at home. Even if you keep up with each other via e-mail, text, or some other electronic medium, there is nothing quite like hearing each other’s voice.  However, just because the technology allows us instant contact, it doesn’t mean that every conversation will be satisfying.  Here are some suggestions that will help to maximize your conversations with your college student.

Make it routine.

Although spontaneous conversations are good, consider setting up a regular time for your student to phone you. Let your student phone you, rather than you making the call, so that she will choose a time when she is available for a conversation.  Reaching her while she is at dinner with her friends may not be very satisfying for anyone.  

One perennial dilemma is finding the balance of how much contact is the right amount. While it may seem reassuring, as a parent, to talk to your child daily, or even multiple times a day, after those first few days of transition are over, moving away from such frequent conversations will help your student settle into life at college. Perhaps talking weekly might allow you to touch bases and check in.

Some students resist phoning home once a week.  If that is the case, suggest that she do it for your benefit.  Some students naturally phone home when they have a problem, or are feeling sad or homesick, or have something wonderful to celebrate.  For others, this may not be as easy.  When you set up a regular schedule, your student has an opportunity to phone home “because my parents insist” and it becomes a regular time to talk.  She doesn’t have to admit that she wants to hear your voice, or see phoning home as a sign of dependence.

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September 11, 2017   No Comments

College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

[Read more →]

August 31, 2017   No Comments

Ten Ways to Reach Out Through Your College Student’s Campus Mailbox

The number of ways in which we can communicate with our college students continues to increase almost daily.  You may use one method almost exclusively, or you may use several methods to keep in touch.  These days, most of our connections seem to be electronic.  We may communicate via cell phone, text, e-mail, Facebook, Skype, Google hangouts, Google chats, Facetime or any number of other methods.  It’s important to stay in touch (although it’s easy to overdo it).

In the rush of the newest electronic forms of communication, one often overlooked and forgotten form of connection is good, old fashioned, snail mail.  Even with the advent of technology as a means of connection, most college students are still assigned a physical mailbox on campus.  The ritual of checking the mailbox is still a common one for most students.  No matter what means of communication you use most often, consider using this mailbox to reach out to your student.

Yes, other forms of communication are faster and easier than snail mail, but there is nothing like the feeling of opening the mailbox and finding something there.  No e-mail or text compares to a personally handwritten note or card.  And Facetime conversations can’t be posted on dorm room bulletin boards.

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August 28, 2017   No Comments

Book Review: Freshman Year of Life

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  Visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

Freshman Year of Life: Essays that Tell the Truth About Work, Home, and Life After College is an easy-to-read volume of essays that students about to graduate from college or recently graduated from college will find helpful.  The fact that each essay is presented by a different author means that readers hear many voices.  Students will like the brevity and personal nature of the essays.  The stories feel real.

Many books have been written for students as they transition to the college years, but less is available for students who are about to enter the world beyond college.  Equating the first year(s) out of school to freshman year of college is a wonderful analogy.  How to navigate careers, bosses, friendships and real world skills, is information young adults need – and they need to hear from others who have also struggled to figure it all out.

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August 24, 2017   No Comments

Is Your New College Student a Victim of “Impostor Syndrome?”

Poet Maya Angelou once said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, – uh-oh, they’re going to find out now.  I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

It is not unusual for successful people to doubt the legitimacy of their success. Many college students are no different.  Your student worries that she doesn’t belong at the college, she’s a fraud, the college made a mistake by admitting her.  She’s a victim of “Impostor Syndrome.”

One psychologist found that as many as 70% of people admit to feeling, at some point in their lives, that they are inadequate and don’t deserve their success.  So if the feeling rings true for your student, she’s in good company.  If your student secretly worries about her abilities, it may help her to know that she’s not alone.

What does your student feel?

It is important to realize that, even though you know that your student’s admission was deserved and you know that your student will do well, the fear and concern that your student feels is real. Logic may tell her that she deserves to be where she is and that she is just as qualified as her classmates, but the belief that it is all a mistake is not based on logic.

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August 22, 2017   No Comments

Helping Your College Student Living at Home

The college years are a time of growing independence for most college students.  When students leave home to go away to college, they learn not only what they are being taught in their classes, but they learn many life skills as well.  College students living away from home learn to manage their time, balance priorities, budget their money, hone their life skills, maintain relationships, and conduct the logistical necessities of their lives.

But what about students who attend college while continuing to live at home?  Will they develop the independence that their classmates living on campus do?  What about the parents of college students living at home? These parents face a unique set of issues. How will they cope with having an emerging adult in residence at home?  How can parents help their at-home college student to gain independence while still maintaining a household in which everyone is comfortable?

Why is your college student choosing to live at home?

Students may choose to live at home during college for many different reasons.  Perhaps one of the most common and obvious reasons is to save money.  Although tuition costs are high, they are only one portion of the cost of attending college. A student who can live at home, and therefore reduce or eliminate room and board costs, can save thousands of dollars.

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August 15, 2017   No Comments

Should My College Student Have a Car on Campus?

Cars.  Many of us spend a great deal of our time in them.  Most teenagers can’t wait until they can get their license and gain some independence; although a study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicates that fewer teenagers now have licenses than 25 years ago.  However, some surveys tell us that as many as 70% of college-age students own or have access to cars.

Cars have become a part of the fabric of our lives.  But should they be part of the fabric of your college student’s life?  The answer is – it depends.

You and your student should think carefully about whether your student should have a car on campus. Obviously, if your student is commuting to college whether or not to have a car may not be an issue.  More and more colleges are prohibiting first-year students from bringing cars to school so this may not be a decision your student will face immediately.

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August 7, 2017   No Comments

College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

[Read more →]

July 31, 2017   No Comments