With your student having started college or starting in the next week or so, you might be anticipating that first panicked or emotional phone call.
New experiences and challenges are going to come fast and furious. When they call to ask what they should do in a particular situation, you may find yourself rattling off a response almost without thinking about it.
Slow down! Remember, they are adults now. Instead of telling them what to do, listen carefully to their concerns. Then refer them to the many resources available on campus.
There are several ways to find useful resources that will help your student and you, too.
- Familiarize yourself with the college website — type random words in the search bar and see where they lead you.
- Utilize the materials you were given at the school’s orientation. This could include a family handbook, a calendar, or a list of numbers for frequently called offices. If you were unable to attend orientation with your student, visit the college’s orientation website (try typing in new student orientation or freshmen orientation). Most orientation offices will post resources from their sessions.
- Bookmark the Parent & Family website. The Parent & Family Program is a great place for you to start when looking for resources. This office is dedicated to helping you, the family member, partner with the university to support your student during their college career.
- Get to know the Parent & Family Office. The staff of the Parent & Family Office is ready to help you any way they can. They will share information with you, direct you to offices that can help your student, and listen to you as you support your student. Never hesitate to contact them by email or phone when you have questions. To find them, search Parent & Family Programs on the website. I guarantee you will get the help you need!
These are all good first steps, you say — but what about specifics? Let’s go through some common “panic points” that many new college students need help addressing:
The word to remember is FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s the key to your student receiving financial assistance. For questions about the FAFSA, refer your student to the college’s Office of Financial Aid — your best resource for anything financial. The staff is well equipped to answer all your student’s questions about Pell Grants, loans, scholarships and so much more.
Getting a job
Point your student to the campus Student Employment office. The staff has listings of all the jobs for students on and off campus, and can help your student find jobs that align with their major, hobbies and interests. Encourage your student to visit this office as soon as possible.
Another round of hiring for on-campus positions will likely happen at the start of second semester, if your student isn’t ready to take on a part-time position right off the bat.
Mental Health Issues
Suggest your student visit the campus Counseling Center. The Counseling Center is staffed with professionals available to help your student in any way they can. We all know that sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone other than a family member or friend, and the Counseling Center can fill that role for your student.
The Dean of Students is another good resource. If your student is struggling with academics, personal relationships or just needs someone to talk to, the Dean of Students is equipped to facilitate conversations that can lead your student down the path of success.
Changing a major
Let’s face it, odds are your student will change their major at least once during college. And that’s okay! When they are looking at changing their major or making other academic decisions, one person can really advise them and work through the process. Did you guess? That’s right, their academic advisor. Your student’s advisor is very important to their academic journey. Advisors help students choose classes and mapp out a four-year plan — plus they are good listeners who have your student’s best interest at heart. Encourage your student to visit with their advisor at least twice a semester. I promise you, advisors are jewels of the college.
Roommate or residence hall issues
Roommate issues are among the most common that students experience. Communication is the key to working out roommate issues. Who is going to clean the room and when? What about guests? Are they sharing food? These are all conversations your student and their roommate(s) need to have early in the semester.
If the issues continue, your student’s best resource is their Resident Assistant (RA). The RA lives on your student’s residence hall floor and is trained to mediate the tough conversations. Remind your student that the RA is there to help. If issues continue, the RA will assist your student in reaching out to the next level of help.
College is harder than high school. There is no other way to say it. Students who cruised through high school with good grades and little studying might meet their first B, C or even a failing grade. It’s not the end of the world. We all need help at some point and when the grades are lower than expected, there are plenty of resources to help your student.
First, encourage your student to meet their professor, stop by during the professor’s office hours, and ask questions in class. Another key resource is the syllabus your student received on the first day of class. The syllabus is their class lifeline. Among other important things it includes the dates of tests and projects, the assignments that need to be completed, and contact information for the professor. Encourage your student to make a copy of the syllabus for each class and put the copies on their desk while keeping the original with the materials for the class.
Second, refer your student to the Tutoring Center on campus. Asking for help is not a bad thing at all and the tutors trained by the school are ready and willing to help your student as they transition from high school to college.