When your student heads off to college, you worry. Some parents worry a lot, often for good reasons. But all parents, even those confident of their student’s abilities and responsibility, worry at least a little. We worry about their safety, we worry about their happiness, and we worry about their success. It is part of the nature of being a parent
We worried when our student was in high school, too, but most of us had our student under our roof. We knew at least some of what was going on in their life. In addition, many high schools now have portals or websites where administrators and teachers post announcements, reminders of deadlines, homework assignments, and grades. As parents, we had access to such sites. We felt included. We were on top of things. We were in the loop.
College is different
Once your student is in college, the rules for parents change; and many parents are not prepared for their changing role. According to the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) when your student goes to college, even if that student is still under the age of eighteen, access and rights to educational information transfers from parents to students. Access to portal information, grades, e-mail, and even financial information is available to students, not parents. Parents need their student’s permission to access information.
How will we know how our student is doing? How will we know if they are attending class? How will we know what deadlines are upcoming? How will we know if they are doing their work?
So many questions. And we’re out of the official loop.
Why not just get your student’s passcodes and log in to see everything?
One solution may be for you to immediately ask your student to sign a FERPA waiver giving the school permission to share grades with you, and to ask your student to give you their passwords for their portal and e-mail. After all, that way you can help them complete any necessary forms, keep track of deadlines, remind them of assignments coming up, remind them to respond to that e-mail from the professor.
To many parents, and students, this seems like an obvious solution. However, this may not be the best solution.
Start by thinking about why you may feel you need this information. Think, too, about the long term goals for your student. Are there specific causes for concern? What can you do to help your student begin to gain the independence that comes in college and take on responsibility?
Asking your student to turn over their passwords and login information so that you can monitor progress may send a message that you don’t trust your student to be responsible. (Although this concern may be valid for some parents, is it the message that you want to send to your student right at the beginning?)
Monitoring all of your student’s information may also absolve them of responsibility rather than help them learn to accept it. Some students are more than happy to give parents access because they know that parents will keep track of details for them. This may not encourage the independence and responsibility that you wish for your student.
So what can you do?
Talk to your student about your concerns. The technicalities of whether or not you have access to information may be less important than the relationship with your student that you will build throughout the college years. Talk about trust. Talk about responsibilities. Talk about how difficult it is for you to not be involved in the same way that you have been and how important it is for them to share important information with you honestly. Establish some expectations.
The conversations that you have with your student may be much more important than the immediate help you will provide by logging in to their accounts. College is a time for students to experiment with their growing independence and to learn how to handle responsibilities — and the consequences of their actions. Your student may stumble and fall at times, but let them know that you will always be there to help them get back on their feet.