Twelve Things You Can Do To Help You Listen To Your College Student

Communication between parents and teenagers is often difficult.  As parents of college students we have lived through most of those difficult years.  Now that your student is headed off to college and you may not have the same kind of daily contact with them, you want to make good use of the times that you do communicate with them.  Although you may not see your student for several weeks (if they are living away), you may talk more often.  Daily phone conversations may not be the best way to encourage independence, but you may want to establish some regular phone contact to help you stay connected.  You also want to take advantage of those conversations that happen when your student does come home for a visit.

So now that communication with your college student may happen less often, you want to maximize the opportunities that you have.  What can you do?  The short answer is to talk less and listen more.  You may be surprised at how much you will learn about your student simply by listening.  Here are twelve suggestions that will help you listen more carefully to your college student.

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College Professors Are People Too!

As a college parent, you may wonder about the people at college with whom your student spends much of her time.  Who will her classmates be? Who will her friends be?  Who will her roommates or suitemates be?  Who will her coworkers be? Who will her professors be?  Students often head off to college with many of the same questions.  They wonder, and then they discover their classmates, roommates, coworkers.  They work at making and maintaining friendships.  However, although students will see their professors in class each day, they may not think about the importance of working at establishing a relationship with these professionals.

As a parent, you can encourage your student to get to know her instructors.  It will be to your student’s advantage to get to know her professors – and to help them get to know her.  However, it is often difficult for many students, especially new students, to reach out to faculty members.  Here are a few suggestions you might pass on that will help your student set herself apart as an individual.  Some may require more effort than others.  However, using even a few of these suggestions will help your student stand out in her professors’ minds.

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Exploring a Field of Study: Talking to a Faculty Member and Others

One of the wonderful things that can happen for a student during college is to have the opportunity to explore a field of study.  Your college student may know exactly what she wants to do, or she may still be undecided and want to explore options.  Even if she knows the field in which she would like to major, she may want to explore possibilities within the field.  One natural way to do some of this exploring is to talk to people.  Encourage your student to talk to other students in the field, talk to family members who may work in the field or related fields, talk to people she admires, talk to a Career Office on campus, talk to her advisor and talk to faculty members in the area.

Talking to others is good advice, but many students worry about how to talk to someone – particularly a faculty member – about an area of study.  Most people who enjoy their field are more than happy to talk about it, but they may need a bit of guidance about what is helpful.  Below are some possible questions you might suggest to your college student that will help him to get a conversation started.  He probably won’t ask all of them, but they may open up some possibilities – and hopefully will help him think of more questions on his own.

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Parent Relations Offices Offer College Parents an Opportunity for Involvement

As college parents of the millennial generation of students, we have spent most of our children’s lives actively involved in most of what they do.  Parents have been told throughout their children’s lives that the more involved that they were, the better their children would fare.  Most colleges and universities are currently working to learn how to best involve this generation of parents in the lives of their students at the college level, not by soliciting more involvement, but by channeling our energies appropriately.

In several of our earlier posts, we have discussed ways in which parents can shift to a coaching model with their student as well as how parents might communicate with the college.  In this post, we take a look at ways in which many colleges are reaching out to help parents find their place in their student’s college experience.

Two decades ago, most colleges and universities paid very little attention to communication or programming for college parents.  Parents dropped their students off at the beginning of freshman year and, with the exception of a possible Parents’ Weekend in the fall, had very little official involvement with the school until Commencement.  Today, as colleges begin to recognize parents as partners in student support, more and more schools are establishing offices on campus whose primary responsibility is Parent Relations.  The scope of services provided by such an office is continually expanding as parents insist on involvement and schools attempt to maximize and channel “helicopter parent” enthusiasm.  Colleges are paying attention.

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What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment) was designed to protect the privacy of educational records and to establish the rights of students to inspect and review their educational records.  It also provided control over the release of educational record information.  The original intent of this legislation was to keep elementary and high school records private and to give parents access to their child’s school records.

Once a student turns eighteen, or attends school beyond secondary school, the rights of access to the student’s records transfer to the student.  This means that all academic information regarding your college student goes directly to the student unless the student has given specific, written permission to release that information to someone else.  The exception to this law occurs if parents document in writing that the student is still claimed as a dependent for income tax purposes.  The college may require you to submit your most recent tax forms in order to support this claim.

What does FERPA mean for you as a college parent?

Generally FERPA rules mean that student academic information such as grades or academic standing (GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation, or discipline records) will be given to the student and not to the parents. College students are considered responsible adults who may determine who will receive information about them.   College representatives are prohibited from discussing information about the student’s academic record with parents.  Most colleges have a waiver form which students can sign allowing records to be released to parents or college representatives, such as faculty members, to discuss records with parents.  Your student may, or may not, wish to sign this release.

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What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed From College

When you send your student off to college you hope and assume that he will be successful.  Most students are successful and do well.  However, some students struggle – either socially or academically. No parent wants to receive the news that his or her student has been academically dismissed from college because of poor performance.  It is distressing and disheartening news.  But it does happen, and parents need to help students deal with the situation.  Although you may be disappointed, and possibly angry, your response may be a large factor in helping your student move forward.

Here are some things to consider if your college student is academically dismissed from college.

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Boomerang Kids: When Your College Student or College Graduate Moves Back Home

You know that the transition to college during the first year is going to be stressful for both your college student and for you.  You work hard to give your student the independence that he needs and wants.  You have both survived the experience and your student is thriving.  Then your student needs to move back home.  This might be due to a change of plans during college – either because of a transfer to a school closer to home, for financial reasons, or some other reason.  Or this might happen once your student graduates.  In these difficult economic times more and more students are returning home after college until they can find a job and get their bearings.

You may be delighted to have your student return home, or you may be concerned about how things will proceed.  Having your student home again may be a mixed blessing as your empty nest becomes repopulated.  Every family will be different.  Every parent’s reaction will be different.  But there are some things that you can do to help the process go more smoothly.

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Discussing Campus Safety With Your College Student

In our previous post, we discussed legislation which has been passed to aid colleges in establishing procedures and sharing information regarding campus safety.  This is an important beginning in keeping college students safe.  However, the actions that college students take each day are also important in increasing their safety.  Parents can, and should, encourage students to increase their awareness of their actions on a daily basis. Parents and students might also consider some of the following factors, or ask questions regarding them, as they visit colleges during the admissions process.

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Legislation for Campus Safety: Reassurance for Parents of College Students

As college parents, one of our major concerns when our student heads off to college may be her safety.  We want our student to do well academically, we want her to be healthy, we want her to be happy, but first and foremost, we want her to be safe. The safety of college students has become an increasingly important topic in recent years

Ideally, a three way partnership will do the most to help keep college students safe.  Parents need to talk to their students about safety, students need to exercise awareness and behave responsibly, and colleges need to take precautions to keep students safe.

Concern for the safety of college students is a growing national concern in light of recent tragedies on college campuses. Two laws in particular have been passed which attempt to begin to address this concern.

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Helping Your College Student With Sibling Relationships

As our college student heads off to college, we may be feeling the “empty nest” syndrome, even though there are still other children at home.  The family is different now, with one or more students off to college.  We know that things are different and we work to adjust to the new family dynamic.  However, parents and college students are not the only ones making an adjustment.  When our college student leaves home, siblings remaining at home will be feeling the change, and the loss, as well.  There are some things that we can think about as parents, and that we can help our college student to think about, to make this adjustment go smoothly for siblings remaining at home.

Obviously, how we deal with siblings at home will depend on their age.  A sibling in high school, approaching college himself, will have different perceptions and needs than a young child.  Family dynamics are also unique and vastly different.  But certain actions and conversations may be helpful to anyone.

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