The College Parent Central Year in Review: Thirteen Favorite Articles of 2013

It’s that time of year when we can’t quite decide whether to look backwards at the year that is just ending or to look ahead at the year about to begin.  We probably need to do a little bit of both.  Looking back gives us some perspective to look ahead, and think about our goals and plans for the new year based on where we’ve come.

So before we look ahead, make plans, make resolutions we probably won’t keep, or set goals for 2014, we’d like to take a moment to look back at some of our favorite articles for 2013.  Some are College Parent Central posts, and others are a few of the articles we’ve shared in our monthly News and Views.  These are the articles that, to us, speak most about the essence of the college parent role and/or speak to those ideas and issues that most affect the way we relate to our college sons and daughters.

We invite you to take a few minutes to review these articles, and to think about how you view your role.  How have you grown into the role over the past year?  Where might you and your college student go next year?

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College Parents: Hold That Advice!

Your student is home from college for a break.  It is your chance to catch up and touch bases about the semester.  Perhaps it hasn’t gone as well as everyone had hoped.  Perhaps your student is concerned about choosing or changing a major.  Perhaps their social life isn’t what they had hoped — or perhaps there is too much social life.  Whatever the issue might be, as college parents, we feel that we this is our chance — and probably our responsibility — to share important advice with our student.

But wait!  That might not be what your student needs most from you right now.

What your student might need most — at least for a while — is for you to be a sounding board.

Serving as a Sounding Board

One definition of a sounding board is a thin partition behind a podium to reflect the speaker’s sound out to the audience.  It is actually sometimes called a ”tester.”  Of course, another definition is a person who listens to someone to allow the speaker to try out or rehearse an idea in order to explore it more fully, evaluate it or to measure its acceptability.

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College Lingo for College Parents: Talk the Talk — Part 7

It’s been a while since we posted some of the lingo for you to learn.  Please be sure to check out our earlier lists in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.  Here are a few more terms that may help you navigate the college experience.

Every profession, activity, or area of interest has its own jargon or set of specialized vocabulary.  College is no different.  As a college parent, you may be surprised at how quickly your college student will pick up the appropriate lingo.

If your college student slips into ”college-speak” and you don’t understand what she is talking about — ask!  Please remember that there may be some variation in the use of these terms at various institutions.

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Is Your Student a Full-Time Student ?

It is possible that your college student may be a part-time student — taking only one or two classes per term while working or doing something else.  There are many students who might benefit from entering college slowly — for either academic or financial reasons.  This is a decision that you and your student may need to make together.

However, most ”traditional” college students are categorized as full-time students. This generally means that your student is registered for a minimum of 12 credit hours per traditional semester and often means that you are charged a standard tuition fee rather than a per-credit fee.  Often, this standard semester fee allows students to register for a range of credits:  full-time students must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits, but may take up to 18 or 19 credits at no additional charge.  There may be variations at institutions, depending on whether the school calculates units, credit hours, or clock hours.

Full-time status is important for several reasons.  Full time status is required for many forms of federal financial aid, for residency on campus at many institutions, for varsity athletic eligibility, and sometimes for health insurance, car insurance benefits, or tax deductions.

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The College Student — Grandparent Connection

Grandparents are everywhere!  According to U.S. Census information, more than one in every four adults in the United States is a grandparent.  Most of those grandparents are Baby Boomers in the 45 to 64 year age range.  That means that most college students in the United States are likely to have at least one grandparent in their life.  The trends indicate that this number will continue to grow over at least the next decade and that American grandparents will be playing a central role in the lives of their grandchildren and their adult children.

The MetLife Report on American Grandparents is based on a nationwide survey of adults aged 45 or more who have grandchildren under the age of 25.  This survey highlights some information about today’s grandparents and at least some of the connections that they have with their college aged grandchildren.

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Book Review: College Success: Advice for Parents of High School and College Students

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.  See our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

College Success: Advice for Parents of High School and College Students by Bob Roth covers a lot of ground.  We especially like the breadth of topics covered in this book as well as the explanation that college success begins early and is a developing process through both middle school and high school years.  The author recognizes that academic success has its foundation in the readiness skills that begin early — and in the family setting.

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The Importance of the First Six Weeks of College

You’ve survived the college admissions process, orientation, move-in day and now your college freshman is securely settling in at college.  As a college parent, you are relieved, excited,  perhaps a bit sad, and apprehensive all at the same time.  Your college student is about to begin what may be the most important six weeks of their college career.

The evidence is mounting, and the information is impressive.  What happens during the first six weeks of college may be important in determining a student’s ability to persist and graduate.  Many students’ college success can be solidified or thwarted during the first six weeks of freshman year.  Several sources suggest that nearly 40% of students who begin college will not complete their education.  ”A freshman’s most critical transition period occurs during the first two to six weeks.”  (Levitz & Noel, 1989)

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College Residence Assistant: Your Student’s Live-in Mentor

If your student is heading off to live in a college residence hall, there is a very good chance that there will be someone there just to help make dorm life go as smoothly as possible and be as meaningful as possible.  That person may be called by different names at different institutions, but may be known as a Residence Assistant, Resident Advisor, Senior Resident or other similar title.  This person is often referred to as an ”RA.”

Residence Assistants are generally trained peer leaders who live in the residence halls and serve as mentors and guides for the students- answering all types of questions and conducting programming to engage their residents.  They work to build a sense of community on their floor and in their building.  RA positions are often competitive and students are sometimes paid and sometimes receive discounts on housing or meals.

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Why Your Student Should Think “Outside of the Box” When Creating a College Schedule

One of the things that many college students, and their parents, worry about as they head off to college is creating an appropriate schedule of classes.  Although your college student will mature and experience many things while in college, academics are the main reason for attending.  Taking the right classes matters.

There are many factors that go into creating a good schedule, and your student should use the college resources when considering what to take.  At some schools, incoming first-year students are given their schedule, with no options.  Although your student may be disappointed about not making choices, this should mean that your student is assured of taking courses that they need.

If your student has options in creating their first schedule, they will usually get some guidance from an advisor or an advising office.  Your student will need to consider courses for their major, general education courses required by the college, and possibly a minor as well.  They may need to make sure that they have a balance of types of courses so that they aren’t taking all lab sciences or all writing intensive courses at the same time.  Of course, they’ll also need to think about times of day that are best as well.

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Service and Therapy Animals on College Campuses

If your college student relies on a service animal for assistance with a disability, the prospect of going to college, especially if it involves living on campus, comes with extra complexities.  Your student may be concerned about whether their service animal will be able to live in the residence hall with them.

Fortunately, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, your student should have no problem bringing a service animal to college. Many colleges and universities are experiencing a rise in requests to bring service animals to campus. The law defines a service animal as any dog (or other animal) that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  The tasks that the animal performs must be related to the student’s disability, and can include a wide variety of services, such as assisting the blind, alerting individuals who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, or retrieving items. Service animals may also perform tasks such as recognizing and assisting during seizures.

Service animals do not necessarily need certification, although your student may need a letter from a doctor stating the need for the animal.  According to the American with Disabilities Act, the school may ask whether the animal is required because of a disability and what service the animal performs. Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, tethered or under strict control or the school may request that they be removed.

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