Involving Grandparents in the College Experience

Grandparents are everywhere!  According to U.S. Census information, more than one in every four adults in the United States is a grandparent.  Most of those grandparents are Baby Boomers in the 45 to 64 age range.  That means that most college students in the United States are likely to have at least one grandparent in their life.  The trends indicate that this number will continue to grow to 80 million grandmothers and grandfathers, or nearly one in three adults in America, by 2020 and that American grandparents will continue to play a central role in the lives of their grandchildren and their adult children.

Financial assistance – the most obvious connection

The MetLife Report on American Grandparents is based on a nationwide survey of adults aged 45 or more who have grandchildren under the age of 25.  This survey highlights some information about today’s grandparents and at least some of the connections that they have with their college aged grandchildren.

  • 63% of those surveyed said that they are giving some type of financial assistance or monetary gifts (of any kind) to their grandchildren.
  • 70% are giving less than $5000 and the median amount is $3000.
  • 26% of those surveyed are contributing to their grandchild’s education
  • 68% of those surveyed said they are not giving any financial advice or guidance to their grandchildren.
  • Of those grandparents helping with educational costs, 46% said they are contributing to an educational fund and 24% are helping fund a college education (others may be helping with preschool, elementary or high school costs).

These statistics give one important snapshot of a relationship between college students and their grandparents.  Financial assistance is clearly an important piece.  When the connection between college students and grandparents is discussed, the topic is overwhelmingly around the ways in which grandparents can best financially help their college student – how much to contribute, when to contribute, how to contribute.  But there’s more.

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Helping Your College Student Cope with Stress

College students experience a lot of stress.  As parents, some of us are acutely aware of our student’s stress levels, and to others of us it may be less obvious.  Of course, not every student experiences stress, and some students actually thrive on a certain amount of it; but many college students find that increased pressure or anxiety are part of the experience of college.

Consider some of the following information gathered about student stress as you think about your own student’s potential stress levels.  Discuss some of these findings with your student to help him realize that he, and/or his friends, may not be alone if they are experiencing anxiety.

College students experience a lot of stress – but it’s not all bad

The Associated Press and MTV conducted a survey of college students in 2009 to consider college student stress.  They surveyed over 2,200 students at 40 randomly chosen colleges throughout the United States.  Although the survey is several years old, the results have not changed much, or may be even more concerning in recent years.  Some of the findings of this College Stress and Mental Health poll are included below.

  • 85% of students feel stressed on a daily basis
  • 60% of students at some time have felt stress to the point of not being able to get work done
  • 70% of students have never considered talking to a counselor about their stress
  • 84% of students reach out to friends to help them with their stress
  • 67% of students reach out to parents for help with stress

The good news is that in spite of these statistics regarding stress levels, 74% of students reported feeling very or somewhat happy.  Clearly, not all stress is bad.

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When Your Student Can’t Get Home for Thanksgiving

It’s almost Thanksgiving Break. Students all across the country are preparing to head home for some rest, home cooked meals, and a bit of family time. Parents all across the country are anticipating, bracing themselves, and reading the many articles about what to expect when their student comes home for this important first visit.

But there are some students, and their families, for whom this Thanksgiving will be different. Perhaps your student is attending school too far away to get home for this relatively short break. Perhaps your student can’t afford the costs of travel. Perhaps your student has a job or other commitments that will keep him on campus for this holiday or is an athlete who needs to remain to play an important game.

It may be a difficult time for all of you.

What can parents do?

If your student is one of the many students who won’t be heading home this Thanksgiving, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

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Making the Most of Your Phone Calls with Your College Student

Regular phone conversations with your college student are a great way to stay in touch with what is happening in your student’s life – and for her to stay in touch with life at home. Even if you keep up with each other via e-mail, text, or some other electronic medium, there is nothing quite like hearing each other’s voice.  However, just because the technology allows us instant contact, it doesn’t mean that every conversation will be satisfying.  Here are some suggestions that will help to maximize your conversations with your college student.

Make it routine.

Although spontaneous conversations are good, consider setting up a regular time for your student to phone you. Let your student phone you, rather than you making the call, so that she will choose a time when she is available for a conversation.  Reaching her while she is at dinner with her friends may not be very satisfying for anyone.  

One perennial dilemma is finding the balance of how much contact is the right amount. While it may seem reassuring, as a parent, to talk to your child daily, or even multiple times a day, after those first few days of transition are over, moving away from such frequent conversations will help your student settle into life at college. Perhaps talking weekly might allow you to touch bases and check in.

Some students resist phoning home once a week.  If that is the case, suggest that she do it for your benefit.  Some students naturally phone home when they have a problem, or are feeling sad or homesick, or have something wonderful to celebrate.  For others, this may not be as easy.  When you set up a regular schedule, your student has an opportunity to phone home “because my parents insist” and it becomes a regular time to talk.  She doesn’t have to admit that she wants to hear your voice, or see phoning home as a sign of dependence.

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Ten Ways to Reach Out Through Your College Student’s Campus Mailbox

The number of ways in which we can communicate with our college students continues to increase almost daily.  You may use one method almost exclusively, or you may use several methods to keep in touch.  These days, most of our connections seem to be electronic.  We may communicate via cell phone, text, e-mail, Facebook, Skype, Google hangouts, Google chats, Facetime or any number of other methods.  It’s important to stay in touch (although it’s easy to overdo it).

In the rush of the newest electronic forms of communication, one often overlooked and forgotten form of connection is good, old fashioned, snail mail.  Even with the advent of technology as a means of connection, most college students are still assigned a physical mailbox on campus.  The ritual of checking the mailbox is still a common one for most students.  No matter what means of communication you use most often, consider using this mailbox to reach out to your student.

Yes, other forms of communication are faster and easier than snail mail, but there is nothing like the feeling of opening the mailbox and finding something there.  No e-mail or text compares to a personally handwritten note or card.  And Facetime conversations can’t be posted on dorm room bulletin boards.

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Helping Your College Student Living at Home

The college years are a time of growing independence for most college students.  When students leave home to go away to college, they learn not only what they are being taught in their classes, but they learn many life skills as well.  College students living away from home learn to manage their time, balance priorities, budget their money, hone their life skills, maintain relationships, and conduct the logistical necessities of their lives.

But what about students who attend college while continuing to live at home?  Will they develop the independence that their classmates living on campus do?  What about the parents of college students living at home? These parents face a unique set of issues. How will they cope with having an emerging adult in residence at home?  How can parents help their at-home college student to gain independence while still maintaining a household in which everyone is comfortable?

Why is your college student choosing to live at home?

Students may choose to live at home during college for many different reasons.  Perhaps one of the most common and obvious reasons is to save money.  Although tuition costs are high, they are only one portion of the cost of attending college. A student who can live at home, and therefore reduce or eliminate room and board costs, can save thousands of dollars.

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Boomerang Kids: When Graduation Means a Move Back Home

They’ve been called many things – the Millennial Generation, Generation Y, Echo Boomers, Digital Natives, Tightrope Generation, Generation Next, Generation Me.  Now they are earning the title of the Boomerang Generation.  If you have a recent college graduate, or a college student due to graduate in the next few years, chances are that you should be getting that bedroom or basement ready to welcome your student home again.

It may be reassuring to some parents with students moving back home, and to those students as well, to know that they are not alone.  One survey suggests that 85% of college seniors expect to move back home, at least for a time, and a 2016 UBS survey found that 63% of millennials actually do move home after graduation.

Although career prospects have improved, as more young adults graduate with high college debt, face rising rents and stricter mortgage standards, they are apparently postponing marriage and starting families and choosing instead to live at home – at least for a while.    According to a Pew Research Company analysis of recent census data, approximately 32% of 18-34 years olds live in their parents’ homes.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States has the highest percentage of young adults living at home since 1940.

So it is clear that for many graduates moving back home not only makes sense, but may be their only option.  Some may stay for a short while and others may settle in for the long haul.

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Helping Your Student Manage Expenses in College

There’s an overwhelming amount information available to parents and students about the cost of college tuition, financial aid packages, and finding scholarships to help make college more affordable.  There’s no getting around the fact that college is expensive and that parents and students need to talk about the cost of college and how they plan to make that work.

But beyond the big picture, once your student is in college, the responsibility of managing the day-to-day expenses in college should shift to your student.  This might be a gradual process; it doesn’t need to happen all at once, but college is an excellent time to practice financial skills to prepare for the “real world” after graduation.

Talk to your student

One interesting finding in surveys of student finances may be surprising to many parents: students want to learn more about managing their money – and they want to learn it from their parents.

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Are You Ready for the LONG Winter Break?

Right now, most college students are just hanging on through the final days or weeks of the semester.  They’re facing final papers, final projects, review sessions, and of course, final exams.  But at the end of it all will be Winter Break – a time to finally sleep, and eat, and sleep, and catch up with friends, and sleep.  Parents, are you ready for the next two or three or five or even six weeks?

Most parents and families are anxiously looking forward to having their college student home again.  But many parents may also be a bit nervous about what to expect.  If this is the first time that your student will be home for more than a few days since you dropped him off on move-in day, you may be more than a little nervous about what to expect.

Some of the keys to a great break for everyone are to anticipate what to expect, be prepared, and communicate with your student.  College Parent Central has several articles about how to make the most of this Winter Break, and we’ll share them below.  Take a few minutes to read them and to think about what you can do to be sure that you have a good break.  We’d also like to offer a few highlights to get you started.

Read moreAre You Ready for the LONG Winter Break?


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?

Read more14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick