Information for the parents of college students
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Posts from — January 2010

Parents May Be Surprised at College Student Housing Options

As a college parent, one of your concerns may be where your college student will be living while away at college.  Yes, you are certainly anxious that his classroom experiences are strong, but you want to be sure that your student is comfortable, safe, and happy in his living arrangements.  Some of this concern may have to do with a compatible roommate, but you are also concerned about the physical facilities in which your student will live.

College residences are not what many of us remember from our college days.  If you’ve spent much time visiting campuses, you’ve seen the changes.  Students today, and their parents, expect a different living environment.  Services which were yesterday’s luxuries are today’s required amenities.  Today’s students may expect private rooms and bathrooms, suites or apartment style housing, internet, cable, kitchen facilities, parking and easy access to laundry facilities.  They are sophisticated consumers, and colleges and universities are using housing options as tools to recruit and retain students.  Housing that offers fitness facilities, spas, pools, movie theaters, convenience stores, and cafes are more and more common.  As college tuition rises, colleges feel that they need to offer students more for their money.  Campus housing is one area in which they are offering more.

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January 28, 2010   No Comments

The Freshman 15: Will Your College Student Gain More From College Than You Expected?

The Freshman 15.  It’s a classic myth about college. Students who head off to college will gain approximately 15 pounds during their freshman year.  The stories have been around for a long time.  They are persistent.  Are they still true?  Maybe.  Sometimes. While some studies do support the 15 pound theory, another suggests that the number may be closer to 4 pounds, and yet another suggests 5-7 pounds during the freshman year followed by 2-3 during the sophomore year.

You have many things to worry about as your student heads off to college, and whether or not she gains a few pounds may not be on the top of the list.  However, it is worth giving some thought to this myth – and its sometimes truth – because it may reflect some additional truths about college students’ health in general.

Why might your student gain weight just because he’s going to college?

If college students gain weight during freshman year, the reasons are as different as the students themselves.  It’s impossible to pinpoint any single reason, but the cumulative effect of several possible reasons may add up.

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January 26, 2010   No Comments

Book Review: College: Been There Should’ve Done That

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.

This is a review of a fun little book put together by Suzette Tyler titled Been There, Should’ve Done That: 995 Tips for Making the Most of College This is a book for you to give to your college student – but to read first, before you give it away.   It contains tip after tip – from college students for college students about topics from orientation to dorm suggestions to clubs and activities to choosing courses to taking notes in the classroom.  Most of the topics of interest to students are covered somewhere in this book.

The format of this book makes it fun and easy to read.  The personality of the student comments make it personal.  Some of the contradictions in advice by different students highlight the fact that there is seldom an exactly right answer for many issues, although some of the mixed messages might be confusing to new students.  Much of the advice makes sense.  Student favorite web tools listed give helpful follow-up.

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January 24, 2010   1 Comment

What Does My Student Mean By Alternative Spring Break?

College spring break activities are legendary.  Many students travel – often to warmer climates – and party, drink, and generally carry on.  Many parents take these activities in stride, and many parents worry about their students during this time.  However, in recent years, many students are talking about, and engaging in, an “alternative spring break”.  This is the phenomenon of spending the week of spring break participating in some type of organized volunteer effort.

The idea of spending spring break in a volunteer effort has been around for a while, but it gained popularity and publicity following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Many college students spent their spring break traveling to hurricane torn areas of the country to help clean up and rebuild.  One estimate is that by 2006, more than 30,000 students participated in some sort of alternative spring break experience.

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January 21, 2010   No Comments

How Your College Student Can Benefit from Studying the Arts

Many students have grown up studying the arts.  Children take dance lessons, music lessons, and participate in drama or choral performances.  Hopefully, these children and young adults participate in these activities because they love them. Unfortunately, the arts are often seen as add-ons to a student’s education.   However, students reap many benefits from these activities which will serve them well when they get to college, and as they continue throughout their lives.

I am pleased to have a guest post this week on about some of the benefits of a dance education for college students.  Although the post was specifically written about dance, the principles apply to any study of performing arts.  If your student participates in the arts in any way, or has participated in the past, please visit DanceAdvantage and read Ten Credits Dancers Take With Them to College. In the article we discuss some of the qualities which dancers (or any student of the arts) have which will give them an advantage when they get to college.

If you have a student who dances, you’ll want to spend some time looking around  Writer and dancer Nichelle Strzepek has put together a wonderful site that is chock full of information for dancers, parents and teachers.

Ten Credits Dancers Take With Them to College on

January 20, 2010   No Comments

College Spring Break: Another “Letting Go” Experience for Parents

If it is spring semester, spring break is on the minds of most students – and many of their parents.  Students have been hard at work since the fall, many have had a winter break at home with their families, and many students look forward to that mid-point of spring semester when they can let off steam.  Sending your student off to college as a first-year student was a sometimes frightening “letting go” experience for many parents.  One of the next major steps of independence for many students may be heading off on a trip for spring break.

Not all students travel for spring break.  The reality is that many of those students who do head for the typical spring break destinations receive a lot of publicity, but these students represent only a portion of the number of college students in the country.  Many students cannot afford expensive spring break trips.  Many students head home for some quality down time with family, or extra study time. Some students spend break working to increase income.   Increasingly, many students opt to spend an alternative spring break traveling and doing community service work.  More and more colleges are offering organized alternatives to their students.  College athletes may travel with a team.  Some students spend the break doing internships.  And some students choose to travel – but not to prime student destinations.

If your student is coming home for break, remember that, just like winter break, your student probably needs some down time.  That may mean that she may spend much of the week sleeping, doing laundry, eating, catching up on TV, and possibly sleeping some more.  This is a vacation for your student.  She has likely just finished midterm exams, and she knows that she has a lot of work ahead of her when she returns to school.  Be patient with her student hours, her apparent lack of motivation, and her need for sleep.

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January 17, 2010   No Comments

How – and Why – to Help Your College Student Create a Budget

College is expensive.  Both parents and students know that they are investing a lot of money in a college education.  Some families have pieced together significant scholarships, grants and loans in order to pay for a college education.  This post is not about those bigger financial issues that make a college education possible.  It is about helping your student create and live by a daily budget for his living expenses.  Whether your student must pay for his own expenses, or whether you partially or fully fund his expenses, college is the ideal time for your student to learn to manage his money carefully.

Working together with your student to help her establish a budget may provide an opportunity for you to talk with her about her priorities, her needs and wants, her interests, and her goals.  You will get to know your student even better.  You will be helping her to establish an important skill for after graduation, as well as helping her to understand where her money goes now.  She may already understand, or she may be surprised to discover, how quickly little expenses add up.  Your student’s budget will be more and more realistic each semester that she spends at college as she learns what true costs are and what opportunities she may have to save.  If she is just starting college, her budget may be only an estimate and she will need to be flexible.

Thinking About Budgeting

Hopefully, your college student will be interested and willing to work at setting up a budget.  If he resists, try to insist.  Help him understand the importance of understanding where his money goes.  Convince him that if he wants or needs more money, or more independence, later, then he will have a more solid argument if he can demonstrate his spending responsibility.  Creating a daily budget is another step toward the responsible independence that both you and your student seek.

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January 15, 2010   2 Comments

Communicating With Your College Student: Is the Climate Right?

When your child leaves home for college, you worry about losing contact.  She will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, so you worry.  However, with some effort on your part, your communication with your student may become even more meaningful than when she was home.

This is the fifth and final post in a series that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student.  Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you.  Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so please consider all of these suggestions together.  Our first post concerned how you listen to your student, our second looked at nonverbal communication, our third discussed perception checking, and our fourth applied some interviewing principles.  In this post we consider how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen.  We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.

Communication with your college student is important.  You work hard at it.  You provide opportunities, listen to your student, try to be aware of what is being said between the lines, you ask the right questions, and yet you sometimes may feel as though your student becomes defensive or reluctant to tell you about his thoughts and feelings.  Yes, it is possible that your student just may not want, or be able, to talk to you right now.  But it is also possible that you might be able to do more to create a supportive and open climate that will encourage your student to share her feelings.  Communication researcher Jack Gibb has suggested six areas in which we sometimes create a defensive communication climate rather than the supportive one that we desire.  We’d like to share some of these potential pitfalls and offer some suggestions for you to increase your positive communication.

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January 12, 2010   No Comments

9 Ways to Help Your College Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester

Returning to college for your second semester is a very different experience from heading off to college for the first time.  Students heading back to school for their second semester bring their wisdom and their mistakes, their college knowledge and their new life experiences with them.  Although neither the anticipation nor the worry may be as high as first semester, students recognize that the start of the second semester of college is another new beginning for them.  Parents can help their college students prepare for the reality of the second semester by helping them think about it and plan a few goals before they return to school.  Here are a few suggestions for your student:

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January 10, 2010   1 Comment

College Parents! The FAFSA May Just Have Gotten Easier!

For many college parents, January means the time has come to sit down and face financial aid forms.  The FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is the place where most parents begin.  For years, filling out the FAFSA application has been a long and arduous process. This year, the process may be simpler.  Whether you fill out the FAFSA or your student does, many families will find the process easier this year.  For the nearly 20 million families that file the FAFSA each year, this is good news.

The FAFSA is required for any student applying for financial aid.  It determines the family’s expected contribution according to a congressionally determined formula, and most colleges use this information to determine the amount of aid they will offer.

This month the federal government is releasing a new form, and urging families to file their FAFSA on line.  The paper form contains approximately 107 questions, but the on-line form will skip certain questions based on answers given to previous questions.  In other words, the form will skip questions that don’t apply to you.

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January 7, 2010   No Comments