As a college parent, or pre-college parent, you probably used the calendar diligently to watch the deadlines for college fairs and open houses, college applications, financial aid forms, deposit deadlines, and housing deadlines. Now that your student is actually in college, you may be thinking largely in terms of first and last days and breaks when your student will be home.
Hopefully, your college student is paying attention to important dates on the college calendar, and on his class syllabi, to keep track of his own important deadlines. For parents, however, keeping an eye on the college calendar will help gather a sense of the rhythm of the college semester and year. Taking note of important dates will help spark important conversations with your college student and give you a snapshot of some of his activities.
Your student’s college may send a copy of the year’s calendar home, but it is also almost always posted on the college’s website. Many colleges update the online calendar frequently and include all of the activities happening on campus. Try to make it a habit to check the calendar, and to use the information there to help you understand your student’s world. Here are a few suggestions of things to watch for and think about.
- Orientation — For almost-college-parents, the date of Orientation — for both students and parents — is important. This is a time when the school shares crucial information and when students make important connections. Be sure to mark the date and to attend.
- Move-in Day — Obviously a red-letter day as the journey begins.
- First day of class — When your student arrives on campus in the fall, she may have a few days of orientation before classes begin or she may jump right in. Noting the first day that classes begin may mean that you can send a note or text – or just check in at the end of the day to see how things are going.
- Family Weekend — If your student’s school hosts a Parents’ Weekend or Family Weekend, mark the date and try to attend if possible. This is an important time for your college student to share his new world with you and for you to see him in his environment. Another important reason to check this date early is to make hotel reservations if necessary. Accommodations often fill very early.
- Fall break — Does your student’s school have a few day fall break scheduled? If so, will your student be coming home? Make travel arrangements early. Have a conversation with your student about how things may be different when he returns home for that first visit.
- Midterm exams — Will your student have many midterm exams and projects scheduled? (He’ll know if he checks his syllabi.) This will be a stressful time for your student and a bit of extra TLC (or a care package) will be welcome.
- Midterm grades — Once midterm exams are over, your student may receive midterm grades. This may be a good time for a conversation with your student about how things are going.
- Course selection or registration time — At some point after mid-semester time, your student may be thinking about and registering for her courses for the following semester. You might check in about her process. Has she made an appointment with her advisor? What classes is she considering? Has she made a decision about — or changed her mind about — a major? Did she get into the classes that she wanted?
- Last Day of classes — Usually a cause for celebration for everyone — students and faculty alike!
- Last Day of Final Exams — At many schools, the last day of classes is followed by a few days or a week of final exams. Your student may have exams scheduled throughout this week. Be sure to ask your student about his final exam schedule before making any travel arrangements. This is also another stressful time for many college students.
- Holiday Breaks — Check the calendar for the beginning dates of holiday breaks. Encourage your student not to leave campus early for break, but to attend those last few classes. Many professors are unhappy about students who leave for break early, and your student may miss important material.
- Spring Break — Many students travel or make plans with friends over spring break. Many schools now offer alternative activities for spring break. Check the dates — and check your student’s plans.
- Lectures/Performances — Most colleges offer many opportunities for students to hear outstanding speakers and attend performances by many types of artists. Check the calendar for upcoming events and encourage your student to attend. This is one of the unique advantages of being part of a college community.
- Special events — Check the calendar for upcoming sporting events, plays, concerts, or other college activities such as sponsored trips or special days in which your student or his friends may be participating. Some schools sponsor bus trips to shows or concerts, apple picking, holiday events, local tourist attractions, etc. This will help you to have some interesting conversations with your student about the things going on in his life.
Hopefully, your college student will use the college calendar to manage his time and priorities and to build an important social life at college. As a college parent, your familiarity with the rhythm of the academic year and the daily events and highlights will help you to understand your student’s world.