Three Essential Elements of College Parental Support

As college parents, we want to support our college students.  However, defining that support is sometimes more difficult than it seems.  Each school is different.  Each parent is different. Each student is different and may take a different path.  Some students need more support than others at different times during their college career.  As a parent, how do you know how best to help your student?

You will, of course, need to find your own way, but there are three essential elements that might provide the foundation of any plan to help your student.  Start with these.  Think about what they look like for you — and for your family.  Then let your plan build from there.

Insist on honesty

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you expect your college student to share every detail of their daily life with you.  There are probably some things you’d rather not know.  It does mean, however, that you expect your student to be honest — about the reality of their progress in all of its potentially ugly details. If they’re failing a class, they need to let you know.  If they are on probation, they need to tell you.  If they’ve gotten into some kind of trouble, they need to share that with you.  If their credit card is maxed out, they might ask for advice about how to deal with it.

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What to Expect From Your Student’s Second Semester of College

You and your college student have survived the transitional first semester of college.  For some students, the transition goes smoothly.  Other students may struggle, either academically, socially, or emotionally.  Whatever happened, you’ve made it to the second semester.  This may be more of a milestone than you and your student realize.  The second semester is a wonderful opportunity for your student to make a fresh start — or take the college experience to the next level.

The beginning of the second semester of college is a more thoughtful return to college.  Your student has a better idea of what to expect, and that may make the semester ahead seem especially long and hard.  Your student may return with some mixed feelings. The novelty has worn off and there is less build up this semester.  Everyone assumes that your student is now settled in. Several friends from first semester may not be returning for the second semester.  A feeling of let-down or ”second semester blues” is normal.

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How to Make Sure Your Financial Support Helps Your College Student

There is a new study being released in the American Sociological Review in February 2013 that has already received a lot of press, and may be causing college parents concern.  The report, by University of California — Merced sociology professor Laura T. Hamilton is titled, More is More or More is Less?  Parental Financial Investments During College.

The headlines in most of the articles about this report claim that the more that parents contribute financially to their student’s college education, the worse their student will do in school as measured by cumulative GPA (grade point average).  Our concern is that some college parents may not have the opportunity to read beyond the headlines to Dr. Hamilton’s secondary finding and conclusion.  This study also determined that students whose parents contribute to their education had a greater chance of completing college within five years.  And the researcher’s conclusion is that student success may have less to do with the amount of the financial contribution and more to do with the communication between students and parents about responsibilities and expectations.

According to Hamilton, the negative effect of parental financial support on college GPA is modest, but students ”may be staying out of trouble but dialing down academic efforts.”  In other words, students whose parents are paying for the majority of their expenses may not feel as vested in their education and may be willing to ”get by.”  She adds, ”Children may direct more effort to school when they personally feel the economic costs of poor performance.”  These findings seem surprising to many parents because they seem to counter the assumption that the more that parents do for their students, the better those students will do.  Other sources of funding — grants, scholarships, or work-study — did not appear to affect GPA.

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How to Support Your Student Who May Be Taking a Break from College

Fewer students than ever are taking the direct path from high school into college with graduation in four years from the same institution.  Students defer enrollment, take a gap year before starting, take a gap year during college, transfer, stop out, or simply do not finish.  Some college officials refer to this process of student movement as ”swirling.”

Although the majority of students still enter college and remain until they graduate in four or five years, some students decide to take a break from school at some point.  For some students, this is a thoughtful decision.  Other students may not have a choice as they do not succeed and are dismissed, or have health, financial, or family issues that force them to stop out for a while.

If your student is one of those who may be taking some time away from school, you may have questions and concerns.  You and your student will need to discuss these concerns, as well as your student’s reasons and plans for using this time away.

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Academically Dismissed from College? Ten Steps to Move On

This is the third of three posts on College Parent Central considering the realities of academic dismissal from college. Our first post, What To Do If Your Student is Academically Dismissed from College, has been visited most often and received more comments than any other post on this site over the past several years.  We followed with our last post,  Academically Dismissed from College? Time for a Reset, in which we discussed some of the causes and emotions surrounding dismissal.

In this post, we look at potential next steps for parents and students to work together to come to terms with the situation.  Of course, just as the causes for a student’s dismissal are unique and personal, so are next steps.  However, we’d like to suggest a path that might help you and your student move ahead.

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Academically Dismissed from College? Time for a Reset

Your student headed off to college with a bit of trepidation, but with high hopes.  You were excited and had visions of Commencement down the road.  Neither of you anticipated your student struggling and ultimately being dismissed.  But it happens.  It happens more often than most parents imagine.  Our most popular post is our earlier What to Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed from College.  This post has also received more comments than any other post on College Parent Central.  That means academic dismissal is on the minds and hearts of a lot of parents and students.

This is the first of two additional posts about academic dismissal.  We recommend our earlier post as well.  In this post we’ll address some of the causes and concerns that students and parents have around dismissal.  In our next post, we suggest some things to consider as you and your student move forward.

Feeling Lost

There is a common theme to comments on our earlier dismissal post.  Students and their parents feel lost, helpless, and overwhelmed.  One student said, ”This whole thing has been giving me nightmares.”  Still another desperately said, ”Would someone please help me?” Students and parents may or may not have seen this coming, but the final word feels like a virtual punch in the stomach.

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