Connecting With Your College Student By Phone — Part 1

This is the first post in a three part series about phone conversations with your college student. In the next post, we’ll consider how your phone conversations might change as the semester progresses. In the final post of the series, we offer some suggestions for maximizing your phone conversations with your 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, Facebook, 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.

Consider setting up a regular time for your student to phone you. Let your student phone you, rather than you calling him, so that he will choose a time when he is available for a conversation.  Reaching him on his cell phone while he is at dinner with his friends may not yield the most meaningful conversation.

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Twelve Things You Can Do To Help You Listen To Your College Student

Communication between parents and teenagers is often difficult.  As parents of college students we have lived through most of those difficult years.  Now that your student is headed off to college and you may not have the same kind of daily contact with them, you want to make good use of the times that you do communicate with them.  Although you may not see your student for several weeks (if they are living away), you may talk more often.  Daily phone conversations may not be the best way to encourage independence, but you may want to establish some regular phone contact to help you stay connected.  You also want to take advantage of those conversations that happen when your student does come home for a visit.

So now that communication with your college student may happen less often, you want to maximize the opportunities that you have.  What can you do?  The short answer is to talk less and listen more.  You may be surprised at how much you will learn about your student simply by listening.  Here are twelve suggestions that will help you listen more carefully to your college student.

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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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Helping Your College Student With Sibling Relationships

As our college student heads off to college, we may be feeling the “empty nest” syndrome, even though there are still other children at home.  The family is different now, with one or more students off to college.  We know that things are different and we work to adjust to the new family dynamic.  However, parents and college students are not the only ones making an adjustment.  When our college student leaves home, siblings remaining at home will be feeling the change, and the loss, as well.  There are some things that we can think about as parents, and that we can help our college student to think about, to make this adjustment go smoothly for siblings remaining at home.

Obviously, how we deal with siblings at home will depend on their age.  A sibling in high school, approaching college himself, will have different perceptions and needs than a young child.  Family dynamics are also unique and vastly different.  But certain actions and conversations may be helpful to anyone.

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Reach Out To Your College Student Through Good Old-fashioned Snail Mail

There are so many ways to communicate with your college student these days that it can be overwhelming.  Do you call, text, instant message, write on her facebook wall, skype, video conference, or twitter?  Technology today has allowed us to stay in touch with our students on a daily, or sometimes hourly basis.  A topic of a future post will be some of the thinking about the wisdom of staying too closely in touch, but this post isn’t about any of the technical wonders of communication.  It is about the old fashioned technology of the college mailbox.

Even with the array of technological advances for communication, most students are still assigned a college mailbox when they arrive at college.  Your student’s mailbox may be located in his residence hall, or may be located in a student center or college union.  One of the rituals of college life is still going to check that mailbox, if not daily, at least occasionally.  It is a great way to send a message to your college student in addition to whatever other means you usually use.

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