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

Thinking About Your College Student’s Finances


College is expensive.  We all know it.  Parents and students alike think a lot about college finances.  Some parents and students need to work harder than others on making a college education possible.  There is a lot of thought given to, and a lot written about, how to finance a college education.  Parents and students work to understand the right choice of college, financial aid packages, scholarships, FAFSA forms, work-study jobs, grants, and loans.  But beyond these big financial concerns come the smaller day-to-day decisions that students make to help make ends meet as they navigate their way through college.

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September 26, 2010   No Comments

How Parents Can Help Their Student in Trouble

In our last post, we discussed some of the signs that parents might see or hear that may suggest that their college student is struggling at school.  As we suggested in that post, parents need to keep perspective and remember that college students are generally resilient and will adjust and bounce back.  However, sometimes problems may persist.  Parents find it difficult to know that their student may be having difficulty and do nothing.

If you’ve sensed that your student is struggling with her college experience – either academically or otherwise – here are a few suggestions of things you might consider.

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September 23, 2010   No Comments

Signs That Your College Student May Be in Trouble

It is a natural thing for college parents to worry about the success of their student in college.  We hope for the best, mostly assume the best, and then we worry.  If your college student is a long distance away, or may have had some difficulties in high school, you worry even more.  Depending on what you and your college student have agreed is appropriate, you may be communicating with your student often (hopefully not too often!), or more infrequently (maybe once a week?).  When you do communicate, you listen carefully to what your student is saying – both directly and between the lines – and you try to determine how she is doing.

Obviously, all students are different – and the same student may seem very different or communicate differently at different times.  But there are some signs that you can watch and listen for that may indicate that your student is struggling with his college experience.  Nothing is foolproof, and you know your student best.  You will need to listen and observe carefully and try to determine whether something is the result of a mood or passing phase, or something more serious.  Be alert, especially, for multiple signs – and for behaviors that persist.  Remember to be patient and not to jump to quick conclusions.  College students, for the most part, are resilient.  What is a crisis today passes and may be fine in a day or two.  As a college parent, you should expect to see/hear some of these behaviors at times, but do recognize symptoms of trouble if you see several of the following indications that last.

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September 19, 2010   No Comments

Book Review: Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting for Adulthood

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.

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.

In this review, we look at Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting For Adulthood by Linda L. Bips, with her daughters Jessica and Kristina Wallitsch.  This volume provides a good, basic overview of many areas of interest to college parents.  Daughters Jessica and Kristina add their perspective as students to the topics discussed by their mother.

Although Parenting College Freshmen: Consulting for Adulthood was published in 2003, the basic information it provides to college parents remains current and important.  We like Bips’ metaphor of the college student as a young colt who remains close to the barn but then gradually explores the expanding corral and “challenges” ever expanding fences while still returning occasionally to the safety of home.  The image captures the “work” of the college student to explore and expand her world.

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September 16, 2010   No Comments

Your College Student’s Worldview – The Beloit Mindset List

As parents of traditional college age children, we know that our children live in a different world.  Intellectually, we know that the world changes – ever faster – and that our children have grown up with many different experiences than we’ve had.  Sometimes, however, we forget – or just plain don’t realize – how different that world truly is.

Each year Beloit College releases The Beloit College Mindset List. Since the list was first published in 1998, in addition to providing college professors a chuckle, it has also proved to be an eye-opening look at “the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college” that year.  The list was originated by Beloit professor Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief as a reminder to faculty members that many references used in class might be outdated, but it has become a much more comprehensive look at the worldview of current college students.

We include here, for your consideration, amusement and possible consternation, a few of the items that are true for current college students. These are taken from the last four Mindset lists. So if your student was born between 1989 and 1992, consider some of the following.  (You may view the entire lists, by year, at  If you sometimes wonder why you feel as though you don’t know your college-age student, read on.

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September 12, 2010   No Comments

Helping Your College Student Increase His Chances of Success

As a college parent, we want nothing more than for our college student to be successful in college.  Although that success may look slightly different to different parents and families, important measures of success for most of us are certainly competence, grades, happiness, and a job after college.

Students are responsible for their own behavior in college.  As parents, we have raised them and prepared them for their college journey.  We continue to be involved and to support our student, but she must make her own decisions and take responsibility for her actions.  Our role, as a college parent, changes.  However, as the coach on the sidelines, we can do much to suggest options to our student which will help guide her toward her success.  Some students may need more reminding and guiding than others, but students will make choices which will determine their path.

We’d like to suggest some choices and actions that you can encourage in your college student to help him increase his chances of a successful college experience.  Of course, there is no magic bullet, and sometimes even those students who make all of the right choices may hit rough patches, but these suggestions may help to guide your student toward success and increased confidence.  Encourage your student to consider some of the following.

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September 9, 2010   2 Comments

Understanding Your College Student’s Class Schedule

College is different from high school in many ways.  Both students and parents expect there to be differences, but they may be unsure of exactly what those differences are.

One of the major academic differences between students’ high school lives and their college lives has to do with the student’s schedule of classes.  Students will spend less time in class.  Typically, high school students spend approximately six or seven hours a day in class – that’s approximately 30 – 35 hours per week.  College students may spend between twelve and fifteen hours per week in class.  Because college students spend so much less time in class, they are expected to do the bulk of their academic work outside of class.  College students who are clear about the difference have a much better chance of academic success in college.

A second major change regarding a college student’s schedule is that the student has much more control over, and therefore responsibility for, his own schedule.  One very important task that each college student faces each semester is choosing his classes for the following semester.  It is exciting for students to consider the wide array of classes from which they may choose, but also intimidating to consider the implications of making the appropriate – or inappropriate choices.

Students usually plan their schedule in consultation with their Academic Advisor, but students then may make last minute changes.  Unfortunately, some students may make changes that are not in their best interest in the long run.

As parents of college students, we may feel that we should have some input.  Discussing your college student’s class choices is always a good thing. Having a conversation with your college student about his schedule may be enlightening for both of you.  It will help you to understand your student’s interests and goals, and it may help your student clarify his thinking as you talk about his decisions.

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September 6, 2010   No Comments

Roundup of Helpful Posts for September

Now that your college student has most likely headed off to school, you may be wondering what, as an official college parent, you should be doing.  In the midst of all of the preparations that took place last spring and summer,  you may have felt active and helpful.  Now that your student is gone, you may wonder how to stay productively involved without “hovering”.

It is true that once your student heads to college your role changes, but you still have an important place in the college transition process – and the transition for both you and your student continues for a while.  Last September we did a roundup of posts that should be especially helpful to you during the month of September as both you, and your college student, settle into your new roles. You may view last year’s September Roundup here.  Listed in this post are those articles written since last September that may be helpful at this time of the year.

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September 2, 2010   No Comments