Tips for Families of New Students


When a child goes to college, it’s a major life event for all involved. This passage can leave a parent/family member wondering what to do and how best to maintain some form of stewardship of the student's development without hindering his/her growth and pursuit of independence.
Here are some tips/suggestions for supporting a student as he/she embarks on the first semester at college:

Help with the move. This will ensure that your student arrives here equipped with all the items he/she will need before visiting with you again and provides an anchor of familiarity in sea of new faces.

Cry in private. Your student is embarking on a grand adventure without you by his/her side. One chapter is opening as another closes.  Feel your emotions; miss your student; cry it out. But, do so privately, smiling bravely when your student is looking. He or she needs to know that you're excited for the future and for their opportunities.  Your student could feel guilty for leaving home and pursuing a degree if left with the impression that you are "lost", "devastated" or "don't know what you'll do" without them. 

Exit your comfort zone to stay connected.  It may not be feasible for your student to see you often, or to call you regularly.  So, think outside the box.  Create your own account via a social media platform used by your student (Facebook and Twitter are good places to start) and friend/follow them so that you can be aware of what's going in their world and can comment/like/favorite to stay in communication and show your support.

Phone regularly, not constantly. The first week, call occasionally to see if your student needs anything, but avoid calling every day. You don’t want to smother your student.

Send money. It's one of most well-recognized stereotypes: students lack cash. A $20 bill tucked into a card can buy a couple of nights of dinner out or a movie and some popcorn.  You might also/instead consider adding Flex Dollars to your student's ID Card Account for use around campus. Either option makes for a great holiday or birthday gift.

Stay positive. Eventually everyone flubs a test or writes a less-than-stellar paper. Listen and commiserate. And if problems persist, encourage your student to see the Retention Office, his/her academic advisor, and/or seek tutoring.

Encourage campus involvement. Students tend to enjoy school more if they feel part of the community. One way to accomplish this is to participate in campus activities and organizations. And, did you know that national statistics prove that the more a homesick student goes home, the more homesick they become?  Help your student to make plans to stay on campus one evening or weekend out of every two or three they attempt to come home.

Mail something. Students love seeing letters and packages in their mailboxes (regardless of whether they reside on campus). Some homemade cookies or even a simple card can brighten a college student’s stressful week.  Targeting high stress times such as Midterm and Final Exams Week is certainly recommended.

Pat yourself on the back. Sadly, some high school graduates never attend college.  Your student is enrolled at an institution that prides itself on putting students first and helping them to succeed, partnering with supporters like yourself to make it happen. Congratulations and job well done!