I just finished my freshman year at Virginia Tech. With the shootings in April, it was a bittersweet time as one of the most amazing times of my life ended in such tragedy. Yet, the highs outweighed the low. I became Class of 2010 Secretary, made a 4.0, was appointed to an Executive position in the Student Government Association, and gained tons of new friends. So I offer my firsthand advice not to college-bound students, but to their parents. How can you influence your child’s success during their university experience?
A parent’s involvement with the college process truly begins during orientation. During a university’s orientation, students typically choose their schedule, get to know their school, and meet friends. It is important not to let your child feel stifled by your presence. Let your son or daughter begin to familiarize themselves with their home for the next four (or maybe five) years. As a parent, you can explore the school. Talk to teachers and students. Read about the different academic offerings. Look at the different clubs and organizations that may interest your child. Be sure to collect papers and fliers the organizations may happen to hand out. When you are back at home with your son or daughter, allow them to look at these papers to sort out activities they may want to participate in once they move into the dorms.
Speaking of dorms, one rule of thumb: Do not bring too many things. Your child is not moving into a small house. He or she is living in a twelve by thirteen foot space. The full dinnerware set is unnecessary (they will just steal utensils from the dining hall anyway). Same goes for the thirty five shelves (a desk hutch and an extra shelf or two will do). Make sure your child contacts their roommate to divide the microwave, refrigerator, and television. Also, if your school allows the option of lofting, take advantage of it. Stick with metal lofts, unless you are willing to take three to four hours to set up the wooden lofts.
During move-in, it will be a very emotional time for you and your child. While your son or daughter won’t show it too much, you will. Bring a few tissues. Also, don’t overstay your welcome. After moving in, eat lunch with your child and say your goodbyes. You will talk to them soon enough.
Once leaving campus, your main means of communication with your child is the telephone. Creating a specific time for your son or daughter to call you is unnecessary. Don’t allow them to go weeks without talking to you, but by calling them everyday, your child won’t be able to grow independence. Also, don’t be alarmed if your phone calls are rather short, because there are many other things your son or daughter would rather be doing.
A few warnings that many of you probably already know from your college days. Your son or daughter will most likely drink. Your son or daughter will most likely spend an intimate night with someone of the opposite (or same) sex. Your son or daughter will sometimes not go to class. This independence is a part of growth. Don’t harp on your child about being good, because they will hang up the phone and do the opposite. Yet college is not just about social growth, it is about academic growth.
If your child’s grades begin to slip, be sure to enforce consequences. They are not living at home anymore, but when they are take away their privileges if their grades are not up to par. In addition, withhold giving money from your child if their grades are poor. No money oftentimes means no alcohol. Make sure your child knows that their grades in college can have one of the biggest impacts on their lives.
If you, as a parent, are unhappy with a teacher’s grade, do not e-mail or angrily call the teacher. This is not high school. Grades are between the teacher and your child (who I should probably start referring to as an adult now). Their grades will reflect their work, not how much the teacher hates your child (no matter how your son or daughter skews it on the phone).
School involvement is almost as important as grades. Once your son or daughter is set on a college, buy them some school merchandise and get them excited. Getting the most out of college does not mean going to class, going out on the weekend and playing video games in between. While you certainly can’t enforce it, let your child know how important participation in organization and clubs can be. You can meet people, become a leader, and free food is often a part of the gig.
Speaking of food, the Freshman 15 is, rest assured, no longer as prevalent as it used to be. with students more active physically than ever, college weight gain is at an all-time low. If your child puts on a little weight, do not point it out. If your child loses too much weight, point it out. Anorexia is becoming far more widespread than weight gain.
For the most part, you have done much of your work during your first eighteen years of child rearing. Hopefully what you have taught your son or daughter has sunk in and they will successfully navigate college without dropping out or becoming pregnant. If they need a little guidance, just remember these tips.