Parents’ Weekend at your student’s college may be just around the corner. This may be your first opportunity to visit your freshman at his college. He may or may not have been home for a visit already, but whether he’s been home or not, your first visit to his new home away from home can feel like a momentous occasion.
Parents’ Weekend is a wonderful opportunity for you and your student to spend some time together. Each school organizes the event a bit differently, but the overall purpose and format are often similar. Read an overview of Parents’ Weekend to understand better what to expect.
Visiting with your student during Parents’ Weekend can be wonderful, but can also be stressful because both you and your student may be expecting a lot from the event. Here are a few suggestions to help the weekend go smoothly and to get the most out of the occasion.
- Plan ahead. Make your hotel reservations well in advance (some hotels are booked a year ahead). Make dinner reservations if you plan to go off campus (everyone may be headed to the same restaurants). Be sure to make reservations or purchase tickets early for campus events (some have limited capacity).
- Take advantage of the events, speakers and/or lectures the college may offer. This will be your chance to see the college in action — and perhaps to learn some new things.
- Be ready to abandon plans. Although you’ve planned ahead, once you get to campus, be willing to be flexible. Be ready to change plans if the weather doesn’t cooperate or if it feels as though just spending down time with your student would make everyone happier.
- Bring gifts. Students love a surprise — and surprise food from home is even more of a bonus. If your travel plans will allow, bring a few of her favorite home-cooked or local treats to leave behind. (Don’t forget to bring enough for roommates and friends.)
- Be guarded in your expectations. It will be wonderful to see your student. There will be things to do. But don’t expect too much from the weekend. Take it as it comes. Your student may still want to spend time with his friends. He may need some study time. He may not want to talk about every aspect of his new life. It may take some time to get reacquainted.
- Let your student take the lead for the weekend. She may be anxious to show you all around campus now that she knows her way around. She may want to introduce you to her new friends. She may want to participate in all of the activities — or she may just want to spend time catching up with you. Let her decide how much, or how little, you try to do.
- Bite your tongue. You may be tempted to make suggestions about rearranging or decorating his room, his choice of friends, his new hair style or clothes. If you can, keep your comments to yourself. This is your time to enjoy being together and get to know your new college student and his school. Don’t spoil it by making judgments.
- Be positive. If your student has had some trouble making the transition to college, having you visit will be good, but may stir up some venting and/or homesickness. Keep it positive. Let her know how proud you are of how she’s adjusted so far. Focus on the great things you’re experiencing over the weekend rather than looking for possible issues.
- Offer to get your student off campus for a while. She might like to take a break from the dorm and stay in your hotel with you. She might like to eat in a restaurant off campus. She might like to go for a hike in a local park or shop at the local mall. This may all be even more important if your student does not have a car on campus.
- Know when it’s time to leave. When the weekend’s activities begin to wind down, be ready to leave. It’s tempting to linger and spend a bit more time with your student. That may be fine, but remember that your student probably has class again on Monday. She may have work to do. She may have plans with her new friends. Be ready to leave and let her resume her college life — it won’t be long before she’s home for Thanksgiving Break!
Parents’ Weekend is a wonderful time to enjoy a visit with your student. By planning ahead, being flexible, and tempering your expectations, you and your student will both get the most out of the experience.