The College Catalog: Source of Information for Parents of College Students

The College Catalog or Course Catalog is an inclusive source of much of the important information that college students need for a successful college career.  Each school’s catalog is different, but most contain the essential information for students.  Some schools still publish a “hard copy” of the catalog and some schools publish their catalog in digital format only.  Most schools have their catalog available on their websites.

Why should college parents be interested in the college catalog?

Read moreThe College Catalog: Source of Information for Parents of College Students


Admissions Waitlist: Helping Your Student Cope with Limbo

Editor’s note: This post was updated in March 2017

The college application process is a stressful time for both students and their parents: making the list, college visits, narrowing down the choices, SAT or ACT exams, applications, essays, recommendations, and then – finally – your child may find that she has been put on the wait list for her first choice college. She has officially entered the limbo in which more and more students (perhaps as high as 10% of applicants) find themselves.  She is not in – but she hasn’t exactly been rejected either.  It is rather like trying to fly standby – you don’t have a seat on the plane yet, but there is a chance that you might get one.

It is discouraging, but all may not be lost.  There are some things that your “almost” college student should – and should not – do.

What is a wait list and how does it work?

First of all, understand the nature of a wait list.  Being placed on a wait list is not a rejection.  The college has said that your student is qualified for admission, but that they do not currently have a space for him.

The wait list is a pool of qualified students from which the college will draw if accepted applicants choose to go somewhere else. Some students may actually be overqualified, and the school is waiting to see whether they are accepted and choose to attend a more selective school.  The college doesn’t want to waste a spot in their accepted student pool on someone they assume will probably attend another college.  Other students may be slightly underqualified and are given a “courtesy” place on the waitlist as a softer form of rejection.  This may be especially true of students who are related to alumni or wealthy donors.

But most students on the waitlist are fully qualified to attend the school.  The waitlist becomes a safety net for the college if their “yield” (number of accepted students who make a deposit) is low.  As students today apply to more and more colleges, the yield may become more unpredictable.

Read moreAdmissions Waitlist: Helping Your Student Cope with Limbo


Should My Student Consider Taking a Gap Year Before Starting College?

If your student is considering taking a gap year, you should also read our post on deferring enrollment.

The majority of students move smoothly from high school to college.  College is the normal “next step” in the educational process.  For some students, however, that “next step” just doesn’t seem quite right, at least not just now.  It’s not that they don’t want to go to college, it is just that they may feel the need to do something before entering college.  For these students, a gap year may be the answer.

A gap year, sometimes called a year out, or year off, or bridging year, is a transition year, usually between high school and college, when the student takes time to do something else.  Although it is still the exception in the United States for students to take a gap year, it is a growing trend.  Some programs which target gap year students are seeing as much as 15-20% growth.  The National Association for College Admission Counseling has suggested that the practice of taking a gap year is on the rise.

Read moreShould My Student Consider Taking a Gap Year Before Starting College?


Should My Student Consider Deferring Enrollment for College?

Your “almost” college student has been accepted to college.  Congratulations!  That is cause for celebration – and probably some relief.  But your student isn’t sure that beginning college just now is the right thing for him.  Some students may decide to defer their enrollment for a year (or even two) after they have been accepted.  You may wonder what this means and how to go about it.

A student may decide to defer enrollment for any number of reasons.  He may wish to travel or study abroad, to work to earn money to pay for tuition, to take a year to pursue a sport or hobby.  The student may have health or family issues that need to be addressed, she may decide to take an extra, post-graduate year of study to increase skills or gain maturity, or the student may simply need a break from school in order to recharge and find focus.

Read moreShould My Student Consider Deferring Enrollment for College?


Sending Your College Student a Care Package

We’ve written a previous post about using the old fashioned technology of snail mail to reach out and let your student know that you are thinking of him.  We hope that you’re staying in touch often.  Sometimes, however, we like to make a bigger gesture.  Students always love receiving care packages from home.  The thought counts, but receiving presents – even small tokens – really brightens a student’s day!

Care packages are appropriate at any time of the semester.  In fact, a package that is unexpected is often a double bonus.  However, care packages may be especially appreciated at particular times.  Sometime during those first couple of weeks for new students is a time when a package may be especially meaningful.  This might also be a good time to include a small item or two that the student might have forgotten to pack in the first place. If there is a special event, such as a concert or award ceremony, in which your college student is participating, and you can’t be there, a care package may be appreciated.   Other times when students especially appreciate a package can be those particularly stressful times of midterm and final exams.  Something that might make your student smile, and think about home, will be meaningful.  And if it contains food, it will be appreciated all the more!

Read moreSending Your College Student a Care Package


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.

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


Who Is Advising My College Student About Academic Issues?

When your student heads off to college, you may worry that she will get lost in the crowd.  It is true that, even in a small college, your student will most likely be on her own more than she was in high school.  She will be making her own decisions (some good and possibly some not as good) and she will be responsible for her own academic path.  But, no matter how large the institution, she won’t be without help.  One major difference may be that she will need to seek that help, it won’t necessarily come looking for her. 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 the student as he considers his personal, professional and educational goals.

Read moreWho Is Advising My College Student About Academic Issues?


Why Summer Orientation Is Important for Your College Freshman

If your student’s college provides a summer orientation session for incoming students, your student should definitely plan to attend.  At many colleges summer orientation is mandatory, and for good reason.  Although your student has probably visited the campus during the selection process, perhaps multiple times, this may be your student’s first introduction to the college as an official student.  He will look at the school differently, he will be treated differently, and both he and the school may have different expectations than when he visited as an applicant.

Read moreWhy Summer Orientation Is Important for Your College Freshman


Undecided Students: How Can You Help? – Part 2

This is the second of two posts that consider students who enter college without declaring a major. In the first post, we considered reasons why your college student might feel undecided at the beginning of college. In this post we look at some ways in which you might help your student explore some options.

Once you’ve begun to think about why your student might be undecided about a major, you will recognize that the work of coming to a decision about a potential major will need to be done by your student.  But you may wonder whether there is anything that you can do to help and support him in the process.  The answer is yes!

Read moreUndecided Students: How Can You Help? – Part 2


Undecided Students: Who Are They? – Part 1

This is the first of two posts which consider students who enter college without declaring a major.

Many students enter college undecided about their major.  Many students who enter college as undecided students worry that they are undecided.  Many students who enter college declaring a major are really undecided.

Some students may be unwilling, unable, or unready to make a choice of an area of study at the point when they enter college.  If she can see this as an opportunity, rather than a problem, your student will keep many doors open as she explores and gathers information during her first year.

As the parent of a college student you can help your student as he moves toward making what he may feel is one of the most important decisions in his life.  It may help if you try to understand why your student may be undecided and reassure him that beginning his college career as an undecided (or undeclared) major may be just fine.  (If it is the policy of your student’s school that he must declare a major when he enters, then you might remind him, even as he begins, that he will find that he may change his mind as he learns more about both his intended major and himself.)

Read moreUndecided Students: Who Are They? – Part 1


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