Book Review: You’re On Your Own (but I’m here if you need me)

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. Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

In this review, we’ll take a look at a book by one of the leaders in the field of college parenting programs.  You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here If You Need Me) by Marjorie Savage is subtitled Mentoring Your Child During the College Years. This book is written by someone who has spent years working with both college students and their parents.  As both a college parent and a college services professional herself, Savage is able to understand both the world of parent concerns and the world of college.  She helps parents understand the new world their student is entering and also helps them take a new look at their child as he/she enters this stage of life.

You’re On Your Own is a combination of common sense, reassuring and helpful advice, strategies and tips for parents and students, and straight talk about sometimes uncomfortable subjects.  It is clear throughout the book that Savage brings to her writing a tremendous amount of information and personal experience from working with both students and their parents.  She not only provides useful information and food for thought, but she intersperses her information with anecdotes and illustrations.  Many parents will read this book and see or hear their own experiences or their own child’s experiences echoed in the stories included.

Perhaps one of the most helpful concepts presented in the book is Savage’s discussion of the ”College Parent’s Pyramid of Protection” in which she compares parents’ concerns about their college student with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Savage suggests that parents’ concerns are not only different at various stages in their child’s college career, but that those needs have a hierarchy.  Parents cannot truly be concerned about their child’s friendship and involvement opportunities if they are still worrying about his or her dining plan and residence hall conditions.  Parents who read this section carefully will understand both that their concerns will change throughout college and that they will always worry about something!

Parents reading this book will appreciate the straightforward way in which Savage provides helpful advice.  One clear illustration of her style comes at the end of her chapter on the tough issues of ”sex, drugs, and drinking games”.  She says here,

”What your student tells you may conflict with everything you believe and everything you have hoped for your child.  You may not approve of your student’s behaviors or the situation your child is in.  You may be hearing something that forces you to revise how you have always looked at your child. . . Practice these steps in advance:

  1. Listen
  2. Say ”Thank you for telling me.”
  3. Ask how your child is feeling and if there’s anything you can do to be helpful.
  4. Say ”I love you.”  Then be quiet again in case there’s more listening you need to do.”

Several features in You’re On Your Own are especially helpful.  Savage ends each chapter with a list of ”Quick Tips for Students” in which she takes the concepts from the chapter and considers them from a student’s perspective.  This gives parents a new way of considering the information and also gives parents some tips to pass on to their student.  The book also has a four year calendar to help parents understand some of the issues that students (and their parents) face at various stages throughout college.  Clearly issues in the freshman and sophomore year differ from those during the senior year.  It is common sense, but common sense of which we need to be reminded.  A final especially helpful feature of You’re On Your Own is the comprehensive list of resources and the thorough index at the end.  Parents not only understand that Savage’s information is well documented, but they have sources for continued reading about issues of particular concern.  The index is helpful for parents who have a specific issue that they need to address quickly.

You’re On Your Own (but I’m here if you need me) by Marjorie Savage should be in every college parent’s library.  Parents will return to the book over and over throughout the college years.

About the Author

Marjorie Savage is the Parent Program Director at the University of Minnesota, serving as the liaison between the University and the parents of its 29,000 undergraduates. Savage has done research on the growth and development of parent services in higher education, and she routinely conducts assessments of her own program in order to measure the success of services and to better understand the concerns of college students and their parents.  She has done consulting for colleges and universities both nationally and internationally, and she is a frequent speaker on the topic of college-parent relations.

Marjorie Savage is a former college parent herself, having parented two sons through the college years.  She brings to her book a merging of her two perspectives.

What the author has to say about the book

”Providing guidance from a distance is a new experience for both the student and the family . . . and it requires new parenting and communication skills as well as shared responsibility . . . In this book, parents will learn strategies that will help them work with their child’s college or university in support of their students. ”

”As mothers and fathers move away from the pre-college patterns of closely monitoring and helping direct their child’s daily activities, they begin to take on the role of mentor.  Mentoring is a concept that students, parents, and educators can all embrace.  With roots in mythology, the word has come to mean serving as a trusted adviser and counselor.  It allows respect for a student’s individuality and personal responsibility, and it defines a valid and vital role for parents as partners with colleges on behalf of their students.”

What others have to say about the book

” . . . provides urgently needed information and cogent advice from a wealth of research, experience, and observation.”

Marvalene Hughes, Ph.D., President, California State University, Stanislaus

“Marjorie has produced the quintessential resource for every prospective and current college parent. This is a must-have reference.”

Sarah Schupp, CEO,

Note: Some links in our post are for affiliate products. If you use our links, College Parent Central receives a small percentage of your purchase price. This does not change the cost to you.  We think it’s only fair to let you know that.

Related Posts:

Parenting College Students: Recommended Reading

Parenting College Students: More Recommended Reading

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