Cheering Your College Student on From a Distance

As parents, we want to support our college student in every way that we can.  We want them to know that we are aware that they are working hard.  We want them to know that we are proud of them.   We want to be present to see the fruits of their efforts, and to see them shine.  The problem is that sometimes we simply can’t get to campus and we need to do our supporting from afar.

What do you do if your student is participating in that important athletic event, playing or singing in that important concert, performing in that play, dancing in that show, being inducted in that honor society, or receiving that prestigious award and you can’t make the trip to the college to be there?  As a parent, you’re disappointed and you feel that you’ve let your student down.  Intellectually, you know that you have no choice, but emotionally, it is difficult.

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Helping Your College Student Avoid ”How Do I Tell My Parents?” Fears

Things happen.  As college students work at their increasing independence and responsibility, as they learn that some of the choices that they are making are good choices and others are not, as they strive to find balance, as they struggle to accept consequences for their actions, things happen.  Some of these things are good things, affirming that your student is growing and maturing and making wise decisions.  Some of these things are not as positive, and some may have serious consequences.  Some students have poor or even failing grades, some face college judicial or even legal consequences, some face health issues, some face social problems, some face serious money issues,  and some simply feel that they’ve made all of the wrong choices at this point in their life.

Whatever may be happening for your college student, it may be magnified at the midpoint in a semester.  The reality of midterm grades may be a wake-up call.  The urgency of the remaining few weeks may hit.  The immediacy of a break or holiday at home with family may dawn.  The tensions are increasing as the semester progresses.

No matter what your college student may be experiencing or feeling right now, the second thing that many students worry about may be ”How will I tell my parents?”  As parents, we like to think that our college students can talk to us about whatever may be bothering them.  However, for many students, concern about family reactions to college difficulties may be adding to an already difficult time.  This may be especially true for families that are, or have been, close.  Our college students don’t want to disappoint us.  They don’t want to let us down.  They don’t want to fail at their new found independence.

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Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing from a Class?

Your college student has received their midterm grades.  They may be pleased and feeling relieved, or may have some cause for concern.  Now is the time that your student needs to do some serious thinking about how they will approach the second half of the semester.  If all of their grades are good then your student knows that they are on the right track.  If some, or all, of their grades are weak, then it is time to think about a new approach.

Your college student may, or may not, share midterm grades with you.  If your student has some low midterm grades, they may view this as a failure.  You may need to help your student put these grades into perspective and make some decisions about the second half of the semester.

Withdrawing from a college class is not the same thing as dropping a class early in the term.  At most institutions, students have an option in the first few days of the term of dropping a class.  This is important for students who find that they are in the wrong level of a class, or that the class is inappropriate or of no interest to them.  Classes that are dropped at the beginning of the term generally do not show up on the student’s permanent record.  Withdrawing from a class later in the term usually results in a ”W” appearing on the student’s transcript.  The ”W” has no effect on the student’s GPA (Grade Point Average).

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Book Review: Parents’ Guide to College 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 created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

In this review, we take a look at the book Parents’ Guide to College Life: 181 Straight Answers on Everything You Can Expect Over the Next Four Years by author Robin Raskin.

In order to write her book, Raskin surveyed deans, resident assistants, and administrators at nearly one hundred colleges.  She interviewed financial, medical and insurance experts.  Organized in question and answer format, her book shares advice and tips from the experts and professionals she interviewed, as well as from parents and both current and past college students.  The book covers a wide range of topics and is chock full of statistics and quotes.  She intersperses these statistics and quotes with personal experiences and anecdotes.  The result is an easy to read, down to earth book covering everything from parental roles, student life, sex, drugs, drinking, safety, health, academics, money, and dorm life.

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Involving Grandparents in the College Experience

Several research studies tell us that college students who have a strong support system at home do better in college.  As college parents, we work hard to provide that support system.  We may even think about how to involve siblings in our college student’s life.  Sometimes, however, we may forget an important source of continued support for our college student — grandparents.  One estimate indicates that more than half of adults over the age of 65 have adult grandchildren over 18.  So many college students have grandparents who may want to be involved in their college experiences.

Not all college students may have grandparents who are able to be involved in their grandchild’s college life, but there are many different ways that grandparents might contribute to the student’s experiences.  One survey of students indicated that relationships with grandparents or significant elders influenced their life choices, values and goals.  These relationships gave students a sense of self, of roots, of tradition.  Another study found that student perceptions of their relationships with grandparents were generally positive.  They felt affection and respect for their grandparents.

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Why Is My Student In ”Developmental Classes”?

The step from high school to college may actually be better termed a large leap.  Students need to make important changes in their expectations, approaches, habits, attitudes and responsibilities.  For students who are moving away and living at school the challenges are even greater.  Although most students understand that there will be significant changes in their social world and in their independence and responsibilities, many students — and their parents — underestimate the significance of the academic differences between high school and college.

Although they may be ready for college in many ways, a portion of students may not be ready for college level academic work.  Most colleges recognize that some students need to improve academic skills or fill in gaps in order to enhance their chances for academic success.  These students needing extra readiness skills may be placed in ”developmental courses”.  Although these courses may have different titles or designations at different institutions, their purpose is the same: to help the student gain proficiency in basic skills in order to help him succeed.

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Parenting College Students: More Recommended Reading

This post includes a list of twelve books of interest to parents of college students.  We’ve previously suggested fourteen additional titles which you might want to check out.  There are certainly other resources available, but these two lists should give parents a good start on material to support them through the college years.  All of the books have different styles and approaches, so it is important to find the books which resonate for you.

We are not necessarily endorsing these books, but we’d like to help you find materials available.  You won’t want to read them all, but you might look for some titles that intrigue you.

Over the next few months, we hope to review some of these books to provide a bit more guidance about their content and approaches.  Check our ”Reviews” category to see what we’ve reviewed so far.  Happy reading!

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What Are College Parental Notification Policies?

As parents, we worry about our children when they head off to college.  No matter how much we trust them, and respect them, and know in our minds that they will be fine, we are concerned about them.  In some cases, we may be especially worried, or we may not completely trust them, because of a history of unwise behavior or questionable habits in high school.  In either case, we worry because our children are not only away from us and on their own, possibly for the first time, but we also worry because we may not know when they are in trouble.

In 1974, Congress passed the Buckley Amendment, commonly referred to as the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which gave parents certain rights to their child’s educational records.  When a student turns eighteen, those rights transfer to the student, which means that information goes directly to the student, rather than the parents.  Congress revised the law in 1998 and further clarified it in 2000, to allow (but not require) institutions to notify parents if students under the age of twenty-one violate campus alcohol or drug policies.

One of the first things that you can do as a parent is to be clear about the notification policy at your student’s institution.  You may ask about the policy on an admissions visit.  The information may be available on the college website.  You may need to call a Dean of Students or Parent Relations Office to find the answer.  Be clear about the policy.  Don’t assume that all is well with your student because you haven’t heard anything if you find that your student’s school has a no notification policy.

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Helping Your College Student Make Sense of Midterm Grades

Once midterm exams are over, many students will receive their midterm grades.  At some institutions students will receive grades, if they receive them at all, individually from instructors.  At other institutions, there may be something more formal.  Students may receive actual letter grades, or they may receive something to indicate satisfactory or unsatisfactory grades.

There are some important things to remember about midterm grades — and to help your student remember in order to make sense — and productive use — of these mid-semester grades.

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Why Your College Student Should Talk To Their Professor If They’re Struggling

Many college students, even the best college students, struggle at one time or another.  It may be a difficult time for the student, it may be a difficult subject for the student, or there may be a teaching/learning style issue with the instructor.  Whatever the reason for the difficulty, it is often hard for a parent to watch a student struggle.  Parents may feel helpless and may want to step in to help.  Parents can be helpful, as always, by being supportive.  However, they can also be helpful by encouraging their student to address any difficulties.  By encouraging your student to take some action, you are sending them the message that you believe that they can take charge of what is happening in their life.

The first and best place for the student to begin dealing with the issue of academic difficulty is to talk to their instructor.  Students and their professors have the same goal: the student’s success.  This involves a shared responsibility.  A conversation with the instructor is a good way to explore the problem and begin to formulate a solution.  Most difficulties only get worse when they are ignored or when there is no communication.

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