Should My College Student Have a Job at School?

Many students head off to college knowing that, in addition to their academic work – and possibly their sports or other activities – they will need to have a job. The costs of attending college are high – and growing.  In addition to tuition and room and board, there are extra fees, expensive textbooks, and living expenses.  We can help our students think through factors to consider as they decide what kind of job they may want – and a major question of whether to work on campus or off campus.

Thinking about a job at college

The first, and most important, caution is for your student to remember that, if he is a full-time student, he has made a major commitment to his schoolwork.  Although he may be spending relatively few hours in class, a full-time student has taken on the equivalent of a full-time job.

A general rule of thumb is that students should expect to spend two hours on coursework for each hour that they spend in class.  So, for example, if your college student is registered for 15 credits (approximately 15 hours/week in class) then he should be doing approximately 30 hours of work outside of class – for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork.  Of course, this is an average and the demands will vary each week, but when considering how many hours per week he can commit to a job, he needs to be realistic about his schedule.  If he is playing a sport, or involved in some other major activity, he will need to consider that time commitment as well.  Several studies have suggested that students who work more than 20 hours a week may have a lower GPA.

Here are some factors your student should think about as he considers work opportunities.

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15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”  Over 2500 years later, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the truth of his statement.

As you send your student off to college, the word change takes on a new and very real meaning for your student – and for you.  As parents, we may be so focused on the big changes our students will face that we forget (or deny?) that we are experiencing change as well.

Why is change so difficult?

Change is a word we use all of the time, but we may not have thought much about what it actually means.  Definitions sometimes give us clarity.  To change something is to make it different from what it would be if left alone, to transform or become different.

Change can be hard.  It means a lack of certainty and predictability. Change is necessary for growth, but it is normal to fear that we won’t be able to cope with it.  So if both you and your student are feeling a little apprehensive right now about what changes might be coming, know that you’re in good company.  The first step is acknowledging that change is inevitable, and then you decide how you will respond to it.

Fight or flight – or go with the flow?

Often our first reaction to something that scares us is the fight or flight response.  We fight it and try to stop it, or we take flight and try to run away.  We may try to prevent change or we may try to avoid or deny that it is happening.  Facing change as we send our student off to college is the first step toward making it a positive experience for everyone.  Don’t fight it or ignore it.  Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and prepare to go with the flow.

Read more15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change


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 moreCollege Parent News and Views


How Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success

As you and your student navigate your way through the summer before college, you will have many ups and downs.  There is much to be done, and tensions may run high at times.  It is a summer of excitement and emotion.  There are several things that you can do throughout the summer to help to ease the transition to college.  However, as the actual move-in day approaches, there are some specific things that you, as a college parent to be, can do to help the move go smoothly.

Preparing for the move to college

  • Be informed.  Read all of the material that you have received from the college.  Don’t be caught off guard at the last minute because you’ve forgotten something urgent.  Know college policies.  Can your student bring a microwave or refrigerator?  Are pets allowed?  Can he bring his own bed or mattress?  How much extra furniture is allowed? What paperwork will he be expected to bring with him?
  • Check specific information about arrival time. Some schools designate a specific time for you to arrive.  If they tell you to come at noon, don’t expect to be allowed to move in at 7 a.m.
  • If you are a long distance from the college, consider traveling the day before move-in and staying overnight.  Early arrival for move-in day is helpful and it can be an exhausting day.  It may be easier on everyone if you do your traveling the day before.  If you plan to do this, make arrangements early.  Local hotels may fill early.
  • Help your student make a checklist of everything he needs to pack.  Use this checklist as you pack the car.  Do the thinking ahead of time when everyone is more relaxed rather than at the last minute.
  • Gather all important paperwork in one place and leave it accessible.  If your student knows what residence hall he will be in, have that information.  If he will need to turn in health forms or financial forms, etc., make sure that they are packed on top.
  • Try to help your student not to become overwhelmed.  (This means you shouldn’t become overwhelmed!)  Take things one step at a time.
  • Remember that your student will be able to buy some things once he is at school.  It may make sense to wait to see what may be needed or to check with a roommate once he arrives.  You may take your student to a local store – or he will go on his own.  You can also bring some things next time you come to campus. Chances are, he may not need snow boots or skis until after Family Weekend.
  • Be prepared to be “dismissed” by your student.  It may be important to him that he prepare and pack on his own.  Step back from the process when necessary, but be prepared to help out if asked.
  • Be patient with procrastination.  Packing may seem overwhelming.  And packing makes the whole prospect of college and leaving home finally very real.  Many students wait until the last moments to actually pack.  Be patient.  You are not alone.

Read moreHow Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success


10 Conversations Parents and Students Should Have Before the First Year of College

The summer before your student heads off to college is exciting, busy, and stressful.  There’s lots to do  – forms to complete, finances to consider, orientations to attend, shopping to do.  Your student may have a job and is also busy trying to spend time with his friends.  Communication with your student may have its wonderful moments, and may also be strained. Be prepared. You feel it is your last chance to impart your wisdom, and he is increasingly anxious to be independent.

The process of heading off to college – for both your student and for you – is filled with expectations.  However, your expectations and your student’s expectations may not be the same.  Use the summer months to talk about those expectations. Clear the air – and avoid difficult situations later when you realize that you, or he, made some assumptions. Good communication now will lay the foundation for quality communication later.

Here are ten conversations to consider before your student leaves for school.  Don’t try to cover them all at once, but touch on some of these topics.

What are your student’s reasons for going to college? 

This may sound like a strange question.  You and your student have spent the last several years working at getting into college.  You made the college visits, your student took SAT’s or ACT’s, he planned his high school schedule carefully, you filled out stacks of financial forms, he filled out applications and wrote essays, he waited for those acceptances and wrestled with decisions.  But in spite of all of the work you’ve both done to get him here, have you had a conversation with him about why he wants to go to college?  Does he have a goal?  Is he focused on a major or a job?  Is he looking for a social outlet?  Is he going primarily for athletics?  Is he going to college because it’s the logical next step?  There is no right answer, but it helps to know why you’re going and what you want. As you talk about this question, you may learn a lot about him – and he may learn some things about himself.

Read more10 Conversations Parents and Students Should Have Before the First Year of College


Help Your Student Stay “School Sharp” This Summer

Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer!  We all love them – especially students.  Although many soon-to-be or returning college students may be spending much of the summer working hard to earn money, the break from schoolwork and routine is welcome.  The problem is that all of that summer “laziness” may create some academic “haziness” when school begins in the fall.

Chances are good that your student worked hard during the school year and deserves a bit of a break.  But sometimes a little time spent thinking about school and the upcoming fall semester can give your student an edge in the fall.  Skills slide over the summer and a little work can mean that they may slide a little less.

Here are a few suggestions to share with your student to help her stay sharp and get a little head start for the fall. Encourage her to take the initiative and address potential weak areas.  Just a few hours can make a big difference.

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Book Review – Off to College

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 recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. See the Recommended Reading section of our Resources page for more suggestions.

There are many good books out there for college parents and we recommend several of them.  But Off to College: A Guide for Parents by Roger H. Martin is a bit different.  Dr. Martin has served as a professor and college president, but more important than his titles is the inside view he has taken of the freshman year.  For an earlier book, Dr. Martin spent some time as a college freshman (a good reading experience on its own), but for this book he spent time visiting several colleges – talking to professors, staff members, administrators and many college students. Off to College shares an insider’s look at how college works.

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Three Tools and Three Questions to Help Your College Student Graduate on Time

On-time graduation is important, but it is relative.  For many college students, “on time” means four years to complete their degree.  However, other students (a growing majority in this country) need five or even six years to graduate.  There are many factors that can affect your student’s possible need for extra time.  You and your student should decide together, what makes sense for him.

Three important tools for keeping track

One of the keys to graduating in whatever time-frame your student has planned is keeping track of his progress.  Unfortunately, many students randomly take courses, or blindly accept the advice of others, without any understanding of why they are taking certain courses or what they need to do to complete their degree. Your student should listen to the advice he receives, but should be able to weigh it based on his own understanding of requirements.

So how does your student find out what he needs to do? There are three tools available at most colleges that can help him.  Your student should learn early in his college career what is available and consult these tools often.

Read moreThree Tools and Three Questions to Help Your College Student Graduate on Time


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 moreCollege Parent News and Views


College Ahead! New Roles for Everyone!

The transition to becoming a college parent isn’t sudden.  You’ve been working on it through all of those months of SAT prep, college visits, essay writing, financial aid discussions, applications, acceptances and rejections, and finally, the DECISION.  But as you begin to think about the reality of your new situation, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Let’s begin by thinking about who this new college student is, and what your role in this college experience might be.

Who is this College Student?

This college student is the son or daughter you’ve raised.

First and foremost, this student heading off on this grand and scary adventure called college, is the son or daughter you raised.  Although it sometimes feels as though you may not know or understand his behavior, you’ve had many years to instill important values and teach life lessons.  Your student will take to college with him the tool chest of lessons, experiences and values you’ve given him.  Trust him.  Trust the years you’ve spent with him.

This college student has a clean slate.

There is something wonderful about the adventure of beginning college.  Your student is a young man or woman with an opportunity to have a clean slate and build a new life. Many of us might welcome the opportunity to have a fresh start. Your student may have spent many years in the same area, school, or neighborhood.  He is known by everyone.  His family may have connections in town, he may have siblings ahead or behind him, he may be known as an excellent student, an athlete, a loner, or a class leader.   There is something safe in this knowledge, but also something restricting.

At college he will have a fresh start.  He can re-create himself.  This can be a wonderful, and an intimidating prospect. There’s no reputation to fall back on, but there’s also no history clouding your student’s opportunities.  Some students thrive on the experience of this fresh start and some are taken by surprise.  As parents, it is important for us to recognize that this is a stressful time.  Encourage your student to take advantage of the clean slate that he has to invent the self he wants to be.

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