The College Parent Central Year in Review: Articles of Interest for 2014

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 2015, we’d like to take a moment to look back at some of our articles for 2014.  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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When Disappointment Comes for Your Student

Your student will experience disappointment. It is inevitable. There are the little disappointments that occur all through childhood, of course, but then there are bigger disappointments.  It may be failure to make the team or get the part in the play, a grade that is less than desired, loss of a scholarship, college rejection or deferral, or low GPA.  It might happen in high school or it might happen during college.

However, the important question is not whether your student will experience disappointment (he will) or even when, but what will you and your student do when the inevitable happens?

Your student may look to you, even without realizing that he is doing so, to model how he should handle his disappointment.  Whether it is an admission rejection or academic probation, it is important to see this as an opportunity to model your attitude and behavior for your student.  How you respond may affect how he reacts to the situation.  Remember when he was little and fell down?  Often, the first thing he did was look to you. If you smiled and laughed, he often got up and was fine.  If you were alarmed and fearful, tears came.

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“I Don’t Want to Go Back!” Helping Your Student Decide Whether to Return to School

In our previous post, we discussed what to do when your student comes home mid-year and says she doesn’t want to return to school.  First you listen, then you talk about possible reasons and look at options.  Now you need to help your student decide what to do.

Perhaps you’ve seen it coming over the course of the semester, or perhaps it has taken you by surprise.  But your student came home for what you thought was going to be a few weeks for winter break and has announced that she doesn’t want to return to school when break is over.  No one expected this when you headed to school for Move-in Day.

After you’ve listened to your student talk about her reasons – and possibly had to help her determine those reasons, after you’ve helped her think about her possible options, you may need to help her process those options to make a decision.  Of course, you might insist – either that she return to school or stay home – but the decision really must be your student’s or she will not be committed to making it work.

There is no one answer that is the best for all students.  Your student will need to think carefully about her reasons for not wanting to return and her ability to face whatever is making her unhappy or preventing her success.  As you help your student look at her situation from several angles, here are a few thoughts to share.

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“I Don’t Want to Go Back.” When Your College Freshman Wants to Quit

Perhaps you’ve seen it coming over the course of the semester, or perhaps it has taken you by surprise.  Your student came home for what you thought was going to be a few weeks for winter break and announced that he doesn’t want to return to school when break is over.  No one expected this when you headed to school for Move-in Day.

Dissatisfaction with the college experience at the end of the first semester is not uncommon.  Several national studies suggest that as many as one third of college students do not return for their sophomore year of college, but there is little data regarding how many of those students leave at the midpoint of their first year.  However, both college personnel and first year students know that there are many students who will not be back for second semester.

So you are faced with a dilemma.  Your student says he does not want to return to school.  What do you do?

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Beyond Admissions: Preparing Your High School Senior for College

As the parent of a high school senior (or junior) you may be doing everything that you can to help your student make decisions and get into the college of his choice.  This is an important time and there certainly are a lot of things to do.  As your student works on the college admissions process, you may be drawn into the whirlwind along with your student.

This is a good time to stop and think about how the college admissions process has involved you either directly or indirectly.

Your student is

  • preparing for PSAT, SAT and/or ACT exams,
  • making sure that extracurricular activities and community service are documented,
  • keeping grades strong,
  • cleaning up social media accounts,
  • attending college information workshops,
  • completing financial aid applications,
  • compiling lists of schools,
  • attending college fairs,
  • working with guidance counselors,
  • making college visits,
  • getting all paperwork organized,
  • writing essays,
  • sending out applications,
  • and finally – waiting impatiently for admissions decisions.

It’s no wonder students – and parents – feel overwhelmed.  Just thinking about the process can be exhausting.  And once those applications are in the mail, you may feel as though the real work of senior year is done.  Now you just wait – at least until letters arrive and new, and final, decisions need to be made.

Read moreBeyond Admissions: Preparing Your High School Senior for College


How Can Parents Help College Students as the Semester Ends?

The end of the semester is almost here and your college student may be feeling stressed.  You wish you could help.  Or perhaps it’s nearing the end of the semester and your college student is just a bit too relaxed about the urgency of the work that still needs to be done.  You wish you could light a little fire under him.

In either of these cases, as a college parent, you may wonder what you can do to help your student cope with all that the end of a semester involves.  The truth is that you are limited in what you can do to help – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help in several important ways.

Once again – brush up those listening skills

There are many important points in our students’ lives when our listening skills may be the most important tool that we have in our toolkit.  The end of the semester may be one of them.  You may hear more from your student at this point, especially if she is feeling stressed.  Then again, you may not hear as much from your student – either because she is too busy to talk or write or because she is stressed and doesn’t want or know how to share those feelings.

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Holiday Gifts for Your College Student – 2014

Sometimes, coming up with just the right holiday gift for you college student may be difficult.  You haven’t seen her in a while and you may not be as sure what she needs.  Of course, you can almost never go wrong with a gift card, but if you’re looking for something a little more specific, we have a few suggestions.  Use these ideas to get your own creativity started.

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Returning Home from College: Reverse Culture Shock

In our last post, we discussed the culture shock that often occurs when students head to college.  Some students, and their parents, may not be prepared for the roller coaster ride as students become acclimated to their new environment.  Knowing that the ups and downs that students experience are normal will help everyone.

Once your student has made the transition to school and begun to feel comfortable in his new “culture” of college, both you and he may feel that the transition is complete.  However, an important stage remains – returning home again.  Whether the return is relatively brief – for winter break or summer vacation perhaps – or whether it is a more permanent move back home, you and your student should be prepared for potential re-entry awkwardness and difficulties.  Once again, however, the process is normal.  Understanding it may help.

The reverse culture shock of returning home may take your student by surprise because it is unexpected and because he doesn’t realize how much both he, and you, have changed during the transition time.  This second transition process may be especially difficult because it is unexpected.

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The Culture Shock of Adjusting to College

Adjusting to college life is often harder than most first year students and their parents anticipate.  Students know that life at college is going to be different, and they are excited, and perhaps a bit anxious, about starting their adventure.  But it’s difficult to anticipate how different life may be when you don’t exactly know what to expect.  College is, for many students, a foreign culture.

Most students don’t equate entering college to entering a different culture.  When we talk about culture, we often refer to those things that we do and accept without really thinking about them: our way of life.  We have expectations, values, ways of talking, eating, behaving, relating to each other, and even thinking – but we don’t give these things any conscious thought most of the time.  When your student heads to college, she may need to think consciously about how she manages much of her daily life.  She needs to adjust – and that adjustment will come gradually.

Making the cultural adjustment

Most students make the adjustment to college life eventually.  However, each student may adjust according to a different timetable.  Some students may find that the adjustment comes fairly easily – they hardly realize that it is happening.  Other students find the process difficult, slow, and even painful at times.  However, the stages of cultural adjustment are similar for most everyone.  If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in a foreign country, you may have experienced these phases yourself.

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Shaking Up the Nest: When Your College Student Comes Home for Break

Your student has been away at school for several weeks or months and it’s finally time for him to return home for a holiday break. You’re excited to see him and can’t wait to catch up on his life at college. You’ve planned his favorite meals and anticipate finally spending some quality time with him. You’ve survived the empty nest, but you’re looking forward to filling it up again – at least for a little while.

What you may not realize, however, is how much you’ve adjusted to that empty nest. It seemed so quiet and empty in those first days after you dropped your student off at school. But now you’ve had time to get used to the quiet – and you may not even realize it. You’ve adjusted to fewer dirty dishes, less laundry, and turning out the lights when you go to bed because no one else is coming home later.

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