As a parent or family member, it is important to understand FERPA which was created to protect your student’s privacy. While in high school, it is acceptable to converse with the school regarding your student’s educational records, it is much different in college in that your student’s educational records will be protected and not discussed under FERPA. Please take some time to learn about FERPA.
Supporting your student as they transition into college:
- Let your student know that you believe in him/her!
- College is much more difficult than high school; understand that it takes time (sometimes more than one quarter) to adjust.
- If your student attended FYE, reference what was taught.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Be understanding and a good listener.
- Help your student to focus on the positive and to brainstorm possible solutions if problems do occur.
- Express your support.
- Ask about what they are learning.
- Show interest in their classes and experiences.
- Understand that it may not be realistic to expect the same grades they earned in high school.
- Support your student by understanding the stress he/she feels in adjusting to a new environment and schedule.
Some questions to ask your student:
- Which classes are you the most interested in and why?
- If your student took FYE (a mandatory new freshmen class), have them tell you about the FYE class and ask what was the most helpful?
- Does your instructor have office hours? What are the office hours for?
- Tell me about your syllabi. Do they give you the dates of your mid terms and finals?
- If your student attended FYE, they talked about time management, ask your student if they’ve had the opportunity to organize their personal and college class schedule?
Empower your student
Higher Education is governed by federal privacy laws. The college instructors and staff are not at liberty to discuss your student’s college classes, progress, grades or other related business. Your student needs to be able to function independently with the instructor and college staff, both in and out of the classroom.
- Have the student make phone calls to the college on his/her own.
- Allow the student to attempt to first articulate his/her need to the college member; then allow the college member to communicate with the student if he/she needs further clarification.
- Allow the student to complete his/her own online and in-person transactions.
- If your student is nervous, stay present and show encouragement.
If your student is beginning to show signs of stress
With college comes many different types of stressors. Some are emotional; some are social, and some are seasonal. Keeping the communication lines open, knowing the on-campus support areas and creating an at-home support network helps with this stress.
- Listen, sometimes that is all your student may need.
- Allow your student to grow into college at a reasonable pace.
- Encourage your student to talk with their instructor.
- Refer to the FYE pages with the resource information-Student support services
- Encourage the student to connect with their academic advisor.
- Refer your student to work with a counselor who is trained in mental health counseling in a college environment.
- Be sensitive to seasonal stressors: midterms, finals, and deadlines for class projects and assignments.
If Your Student is Unsure About a Major
It is okay if your student is still exploring a major, this is very common. All students must take many classes for their degree, regardless of the major; this allows for exploration in a variety of subjects.
- Don’t pressure your freshman student his/her first year.
- Know that the largest population of students are those who enter as undecided in a major.
- Allow your student to explore!
- Go through the course catalog and look at course descriptions together.
- Encourage your student to talk to people in that major, meet with a career counselor, take a career or major exploration class or sign up for an internship.
- Explore the Career Website with your student.
Going to college is expensive and degree requirements can be complicated. An academic advisor will make sure your student is taking the classes he/she needs for the degree, which saves time and money, has a balanced course load, understands degree and transfer requirements, and has the prerequisites for future coursework.
- Encourage your student to make an appointment early and often. Encourage them to see an advisor before the registration time opens.
- Ask if the advisor created an educational plan and ask to see it.
- Ask the student what the name of his/her advisor is.
- Encourage the student to see the same advisor.
- Explore degree audit with your student.
- Know the degree requirements.
College v. High School
College culture is very different, both socially and academically. Classes move much more quickly than high school and your student may be in class with students varying in age from high school to lifelong learners.
- Be sensitive to the increased pace of study. For example, one year of high school foreign language is equivalent to only one quarter in college. In short, one day of college is equivalent to three in high school.
- Know that the majority of coursework is outside the classroom.
- Know this may be the first time your student is in class with varied age groups.
- Be sensitive to the ebb and flow of homework and seasonal stressors.
- Encourage your student to get involved on campus.
- Discuss time management in college.
- Ask your student what have been the differences he/she has noticed and how he/she has adapted.
- Know that your student must advocate for him/herself.
If Your Student has a Disability
If your student has a disability, encourage him/her to work with the Disability Resource Center. Your student needs to contact the office well in advance of starting college so that everything can be in place when classes begin.
- Visit the Disability Resource Center’s website (DRC).
- Become familiar with their intake process, services, and accommodations.
- Gather all your IEP, 504 or other supporting documents for DRC.
- Your student must request the services through DRC.
- The instructor will not know the disability, only the accommodations.
- Accommodations in college are under the American Disability Act.
- Accommodations are confidential.
- The college embraces disability as part of our pluralism efforts
Seasonal Stressors in College
Expect that there will be ups and downs over the academic year due to the demands of college. Some possible monthly struggles are:
- September – adjusting to a new environment and new academic expectations and culture; feeling confused/overwhelmed by new information; changing and making new friendships; desiring to fit in; possible disappointment with first test grade(s); feeling that she/he is the only one struggling.
- October/November – anxiety about mid-term exams; ongoing adjustment to academic demands; stress resulting from involvement in school, work, extracurricular activities and social life; possible consideration of changing majors as registration begins in November.
- December – apprehension about finals and grades.
- January – readjustment to college routine after the month-long break
- February/March – possible mid-winter “blues” as students realize there are several months left of winter and school; pressures around academic performance; concern about choosing a major; worries about belonging to a peer group; anxiety about mid-terms.
- April/May – possible spring-fever making it difficult to come to school, study and/or pay attention; worry about examinations, research papers and grades
Internet links for parent and family members
We encourage you to explore the related links we put together for you. These are only a few websites we found that are designed for college parents and family members. Take some time and explore these and others. You can just do a search for “college parents” and a wealth of links and information will be at your fingertips.
Here are some examples of links:
Last Updated November 30, 2017