Information for the parents of college students
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Category — Campus Life

How Accurate Is Your Picture of College Life?

You’re sending your student off to college for four (or maybe more) years. You worry because he is going to be on his own, and maybe you struggle (just a little) with your feelings about the empty nest.  And you wonder what life will be like for your student at school.

Parents who have experienced college life themselves, may think they know a little about what to expect. (But they often forget their experiences may be twenty years or more old. Things have changed.)  Other parents, who may not have attended college themselves, do not have their own experiences to guide their expectations.

So how do we know anything about college life? For many of us, our source is what we see and hear in the media – news stories, films, TV, and advertising.  College students – and college faculty and officials – will quickly tell you that that image is often, very often, less than accurate.  One study of first year college students found that 77% of students surveyed felt that the media over-exaggerates the excitement of college.

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January 16, 2017   No Comments

Is Your Student “Present” at College?

Distractions.  We’re surrounded by them in today’s world.  Children, students, adults: no one is immune to the constant bombardment and the temptation to try to go in many different directions at once.  We check our phones and social media, we send and receive texts, and we multitask. (How else would we ever get anything done?)  Some of us thrive on the energy – or at least we think we do.  Others lament the intrusion and wish we could shut the world out on occasion.  But whether we like it or not, we live in a distracted society.

What’s the problem?

The distractions we live with day to day can separate us from the present moment.  As we experience these distractions more and more, we lose, or at least weaken, our ability to be present now, where we find ourselves.  And although we all experience this separation, it can be even more of a problem for our college students.

For instance, several studies have indicated some alarming statistics about students and their phones. One study suggests that students check their phones on average every 11 minutes.  Another found that students check their phones 11.43 times each day while they are in class.  Still another study found that 40% of students said they would be incapable of going more than 10 minutes without checking their phones.  So clearly students are attached to their phones, to their social media, to their texts.  And in reality, so are many of their parents.

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November 14, 2016   No Comments

The Delicate Balance of Support and Self-Reliance

So much of the college experience is about balance.  Students work at learning to balance social life and studying, independence and responsibility, seriousness and frivolity.  As parents, it is sometimes difficult to watch as our students practice the skill of balance – and sometimes fail.  But just as we had to finally take the training wheels off and let go of the bicycle, we need to step back and watch as our students take off.

One of the balancing acts that many students struggle with, especially at the midpoint in a semester, is the balance between self-sufficiency and relying on others.  New college students, especially, may need to learn that being independent doesn’t necessarily mean they need to do everything alone.  Knowing when to rely on themselves and when to turn to others is part of responsible decision making.

Why wouldn’t my student ask for help if he needs it?

There are many reasons why students may not seek the help they need when they need it.

  • “I didn’t realize that I needed help.”
  • “I’ve never needed help before, why would I need it now?”
  • “Things will get better if I just wait long enough.”
  • “I’ll look as though I’m dumb if I ask for help.”
  • “Isn’t it cheating if I get help?”

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October 24, 2016   1 Comment

Friends Along the Way: Your College Student’s Search for Friends

Parents everywhere have just dropped their students off at college for the first time.  It’s an emotional time.  Excitement is high, anxiety is high, and for many, there are mixed emotions about their student leaving home. As parents return home and try to settle into the new normal of not having their child at home, their child is busy making the transition to their new world away from home.  An essential part of that transition is making new friends.

For many students, much of their anxiety heading off to college has to do with whether or not they will find friends and “fit in.”  Friends can make all of the difference. Most colleges recognize this need and work hard to plan programming during the first few weeks of the semester to bring students together and encourage community building.  They know that students with a strong friend network are generally happier, do better, and are more likely to remain in school.

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August 29, 2016   No Comments

14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick

As parents sending our students off to college we’ve been told to expect that our student will be homesick. (We’ve written a post saying essentially the same thing – and it has some good advice). We’ve been told it’s inevitable. That it might happen right away or that it might take a while, but it will happen.  According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, close to 65% of college students will experience homesickness.  So it’s good to be prepared.

Is it really homesickness?

What is almost certain is that most students will experience some unhappiness, stress, and anxiety at some point.  It is a natural reaction to being out of your element and in unfamiliar territory. It’s what happens before you become, as Harlan Cohen terms it in his book The Naked Roommate, “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”  But are our students really homesick?

It depends on how you define homesick.  Are these students really missing home?  Are they really missing us? They hardly talked to us all summer. They’ve worked hard for years to get to this place. Just a few short weeks ago – or maybe days – they couldn’t wait to leave.  They couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Is it really home and parents that they are missing?

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August 23, 2016   No Comments

Why Your Student Should Have a Personal Departure Plan from College

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have it right.  Be Prepared.  In so many situations, it’s important to have a plan that you hope you’ll never need.  Arming your student with a plan for how to proceed in an emergency means less anxiety for both your student and you.  Hopefully, it’s a plan your student will never need, but he knows he’s prepared – just in case.  Take time to talk with your student about his plan, work on it together, and make sure that you both know the details – just in case.

Evacuation plans

There are two general types of situations in which your student might need to leave campus quickly.  The first situation entails an instance when the campus might need to be evacuated by all students.  This might be a situation such as a weather emergency, an environmental threat, or other factor which affects all personnel at the college.

In the event of a general evacuation, the most important thing is for your student to carefully follow the instructions given by the institution.  Almost all schools now have carefully considered plans for evacuating their campus in an emergency.  Your student should look at the website or other material given to him by the college to make sure he knows what he is expected to do and how he will receive information.

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June 6, 2016   No Comments

The Decision to Volunteer – What to Do?

This is the second of two posts about the benefits of volunteering for college students.  In our first post, we suggested some advantages of volunteer work for your student.  In this post, we offer some suggestions about helping your student decide where and how to volunteer.

Your college student has decided to find some time in her college schedule to volunteer somewhere.  Good for her.  There are many benefits of volunteer work.

College students who choose to spend time in volunteer activities may do so for many reasons.  Some students find or believe in a particular cause and want to do all that they can to further that effort.  Other students may want to give of their time, but they are not sure what they want to do, or they are not sure what options exist.

Some colleges have an office or a designated person whose responsibility is to help students find and manage meaningful volunteer or community service opportunities.  If your student’s school has such a resource, this may be the best place for her to begin.  She may also talk to faculty members or other students (particularly upper class students) about opportunities.

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March 28, 2016   No Comments

Why Your College Student Should Spend Time Volunteering

Many high school students spend time volunteering or participating in community service activities as part of their high school graduation requirements.  Those who are not required to participate by their school often participate in community service activities in order to bolster their college applications.

Volunteering, or participating in activities to help others, is always a good thing, whatever the motivation.  However, one possible outcome of this requirement is that many students, once they get to college, feel they no longer “need” to volunteer since the school no longer requires participation and their college applications are done.  Like participation in extracurricular activities, some students see these activities as a means to an end (college admission) and may not realize many of the other benefits.

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March 21, 2016   2 Comments

Get to Know Your Student’s College Town

Your student has headed to college.  Before she made her choice of college you and she spent lots of time getting to know all about the college.  She made her choice and has headed off to her new adventure.  It may be a few miles away, or may be a long way from home.

But whether your student’s college is close to home or half way across the country, the school is located in a town or city.  And that town or city has become your student’s new home.  Hopefully, as your student spends time at her new home-away-from-home, she’ll get to know her surroundings.  The college experience is all about expanding horizons, and getting beyond the bounds of the college campus is part of that experience.  Your student’s college experiences will be richer the more she broadens them.

Why does the college town matter to parents?

You’re not going to live in your student’s college town, your student is.  So why should you have any interest in getting to know it?  Largely for two reasons: you can help your student discover some new things – or let her show you what she’s discovered, and – it can be fun!

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September 7, 2015   No Comments

Who’s Minding Your College Student’s Health?

We all want our children to be as healthy as possible.  When they were young, we took them for their regular check-ups, and we often continue to monitor and care for them when they are sick.  When our child becomes a college student, one of the many things that she will need to learn is to manage is her own healthcare

Fortunately, we do not send our college students off to a healthcare vacuum. Virtually every college or university offers some form of healthcare for its students.

College healthcare services have expanded from the earlier days of basic care for sick or injured students to a broader definition of health and wellness.  Most current college health services cover the treatment, management and prevention of health conditions and emergencies by providing onsite medical and counseling services and general wellness programming. The college healthcare field has shown significant growth in mission, services and facilities, with the greatest growth in recent years being in the area of mental health services.

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June 15, 2015   2 Comments