Exploring a Field of Study: Talking to a Faculty Member and Others

One of the wonderful things that can happen for a student during college is to have the opportunity to explore a field of study.  Your college student may know exactly what she wants to do, or she may still be undecided and want to explore options.  Even if she knows the field in which she would like to major, she may want to explore possibilities within the field.  One natural way to do some of this exploring is to talk to people.  Encourage your student to talk to other students in the field, talk to family members who may work in the field or related fields, talk to people she admires, talk to a Career Office on campus, talk to her advisor and talk to faculty members in the area.

Talking to others is good advice, but many students worry about how to talk to someone – particularly a faculty member – about an area of study.  Most people who enjoy their field are more than happy to talk about it, but they may need a bit of guidance about what is helpful.  Below are some possible questions you might suggest to your college student that will help him to get a conversation started.  He probably won’t ask all of them, but they may open up some possibilities – and hopefully will help him think of more questions on his own.

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What FERPA Means for You and Your College Student

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment) was designed to protect the privacy of educational records and to establish the rights of students to inspect and review their educational records.  It also provided control over the release of educational record information.  The original intent of this legislation was to keep elementary and high school records private and to give parents access to their child’s school records.

Once a student turns eighteen, or attends school beyond secondary school, the rights of access to the student’s records transfer to the student.  This means that all academic information regarding your college student goes directly to the student unless the student has given specific, written permission to release that information to someone else.  The exception to this law occurs if parents document in writing that the student is still claimed as a dependent for income tax purposes.  The college may require you to submit your most recent tax forms in order to support this claim.

What does FERPA mean for you as a college parent?

Generally FERPA rules mean that student academic information such as grades or academic standing (GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation, or discipline records) will be given to the student and not to the parents. College students are considered responsible adults who may determine who will receive information about them.   College representatives are prohibited from discussing information about the student’s academic record with parents.  Most colleges have a waiver form which students can sign allowing records to be released to parents or college representatives, such as faculty members, to discuss records with parents.  Your student may, or may not, wish to sign this release.

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What Should My College Student Consider When Choosing a Schedule of Classes?

One very important task that each college student faces each semester is choosing his classes for the next semester.  It is exciting for students to consider the wide array of classes from which they may choose, but also intimidating to consider the implications of making the appropriate – or inappropriate choices.

As parents of college students, we may feel that we should have some input.  Discussing your college student’s class choices is always a good thing.  It will help you to understand your student’s interests and goals, and it may help your student to clarify his thinking as you talk about his decisions.  However, it is important to remember that it is your college student who will be taking the classes, and that he has, hopefully, made informed decisions in consultation with an Academic Advisor who understands college expectations and requirements.

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It’s Final Exam Time: What’s a College Parent To Do?

stressed man at computer

Sometimes, it may seem as though one of the most difficult positions for a college parent to be in, is the situation when you know that your student is struggling and you feel as though you cannot do a lot to help.  Sometimes final exam period may feel like one of those times.  You can’t take the exams for your child.  You may be too far away to help him study (and you probably shouldn’t be doing that at this point anyway).  You know that your student is stressed, and exhausted, and you must simply stand back.

Actually, you may not be completely helpless.   There are several ways in which you might help at this final exam time.

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Who Is Advising My College Student About Academic Issues?

When your student heads off to college, you may worry that they will get lost in the crowd.  It is true that, even in a small college, your student will most likely be on their own more than they were in high school.  Your student will be making their own decisions (some good and possibly some not as good) and they will be responsible for their own academic path.  But, no matter how large the institution, your student won’t be without help.  One major difference may be that your student will need to seek that help, it won’t necessarily come knocking on their door. But the help will be there, and the wise student will take advantage of it.

One of the sources of help with academic decisions may be your student’s Academic Advisor.  The structure of the Academic Advising program may vary dramatically from institution to institution (there are many different models), but the basic principle is the same.  Each student is usually assigned a faculty or staff member who is there to give the student guidance in making academic decisions. The advisor may also help your student as they consider their personal, professional and educational goals.

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Parenting Your College Transfer Student: Navigating the Transfer Process

In our last post, we considered some ways in which you might help your college student think about a transfer to another college.  Here, we consider how to help your student through the actual transfer process itself.  Our next post will examine ways in which you can support your new transfer student.

 Once your college student has made a decision to transfer to another college, there are some important tasks to be done.

Gather lots of information about potential colleges and/or programs.

 Your student may know exactly where he wants to transfer, or he may be looking for the appropriate school.  The more information he can gather, the more smoothly the process will go.  One advantage that your student now has is the knowledge he has gained through the time he has spent at his current school.  As he thinks about the reasons for transferring, he will think of questions he wants to be sure that he asks at the new school.  What are his priorities?  What wasn’t working (if anything) at the current school?  Encourage him to take time to look carefully at the new institution.  Study the website.  Visit the school.  Stay overnight on campus if possible.  Talk to current students.  Meet with admissions or advising personnel at the new school. Ask lots of questions.

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College Textbooks: Keep, Sell, Donate?

In our previous two posts, we considered the high cost but importance of textbooks and possible ways to save money when buying them.  In this final post on the topic, we’ll consider what students can do with their books at the end of the semester.

Your college student has just completed their course.  They bought the textbook and used it diligently throughout the semester.  Now that the course is over, they’re wondering what to do with this pile of books.  There are several options.

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Where and How to Buy College Textbooks

In our last post, we considered the importance of college textbooks and some of the reasons why they are so expensive.  In this post, we’ll consider some possible ways of obtaining books. Our next post will consider ways students can sell books at the end of the semester.

Students may buy new books from the campus bookstore.

When your student considers possible ways of getting his textbooks, he’ll need to weigh convenience and cost.  The most convenient way to purchase his books is through the campus bookstore.  Bookstores work to make the task as convenient as possible.  If the student knows the name of the course and the instructor, the bookstore can usually tell him exactly what he needs for the course.  At many schools students can pre-order their books and have them waiting for them when they arrive or even delivered to their dorm.  However, this convenience comes with a price.  Campus bookstores are the most expensive way to buy a textbook.

Alternatives to the college bookstore may take a bit more work, and definitely some pre-planning, but there are alternatives out there.  Here are a few possibilities.

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College Textbooks: Tools of the Trade

This is the first of three posts about one of a student’s most valuable tools – her textbooks.  In this post, we’ll consider some essential facts and tips about the importance of textbooks.  In our next posts, we’ll consider some alternative ways to purchase books and some thoughts about reselling them later.

Aside from tuition, one of the major expenses your college student will encounter during the college years will be the cost of textbooks.  Students often head off to college knowing that they will need to buy their books and supplies, but having no idea how much to expect to pay.  As college parents, there are some important points about textbooks which you can help your student anticipate and understand.

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The Course Syllabus: Roadmap to Success

This is one of those articles designed to help you, as a college parent, understand your child’s world in college.  It may be helpful as you have conversations with your college student throughout the semester.

Almost every college course will begin with a syllabus.  It is generally handed out to students on the first day of class.  Some instructors may post their syllabi on line.  The syllabus is the roadmap of the course.  It lets the student know, at the very beginning of the course, what the expectations are, how to contact the instructor, what assignments will be due, and often a class by class or week by week plan of what will be happening.

Here are ten important pieces of information that may be gleaned from the syllabus.

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