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Health & Safety

Parents of College Students Share COVID-19 Questions and Advice


We recently surveyed our Loop newsletter audience to find out how our community is adjusting to the changes the coronavirus is bringing to student and family life.

Thank you to everyone who participated!

We’re happy to share your responses and highlight some of the common themes, questions and concerns along with ideas and resources to support you during this very unusual and challenging time.

1. What is your college student going through right now?

Not surprisingly, the common emotions for students who had to abruptly leave their college campuses and friends (sometimes without even being permitted to return to school after spring break to collect their belongings) were disappointment, anxiety, grief, uncertainty and worry.

College life has so many layers — and the pain and disappointment our kids are going through does, too. One parent wrote: “[My daughter] is a sports administration major and is crushed that all the spring sports are canceled. This also puts an end to a marketing internship that she adored participating in.”

Another parent shared that her son is “worried about being bored with nothing to do and no social life, and the difficulty of engaging with course material when he’s looking at/listening to pre-recorded lectures.”

The good news: You may already be observing your student having a can-do attitude and making a successful adjustment to a new way of learning and interacting with instructors and classmates.

If they are still struggling to get organized, you might want to read “How to Help Your Student Succeed at Remote Learning.”

It’s important to remember that very likely we are in this for the rest of the spring term. One parent observed, “Right now, [my son] is okay but I think staying home for a long period of time is going to get more difficult.”

Like adults, most college students get that this pandemic is way bigger than their own individual setbacks, but it's natural that soon they'll start to chafe at their restricted circumstances. You can help your student find creative outlets for their energy by looking inward and outward.

2. The transition to online/remote learning

We asked "What advice are you looking for?" and not surprisingly the biggest immediate parent question is how their student will transition to remote/online classes.

Because every school and individual professor will have a different approach and expectations, it’s key that your student pay close attention to the instructions they receive and continue to treat each day the way they would if they were on campus. In other words, even though being home with their family might make it feel like a vacation in some ways, spring break is over and they need to prioritize studying.

What if your student takes studio classes or has science labs that depend on hands-on learning?

Again, this will be handled differently in every situation. At Harvard University, some science professors intend to video themselves performing laboratory experiments which then will be shared with students; art professors will be mailing kits of supplies.

Check out this article about UC Berkeley putting its GSIs (graduate student instructors) and their tech savvy creativity to good use — there’s a nice video of a graduate student who donned a GoPro to film a chemistry lab.

Ask your student if they have everything they need to do their work at home; you might be able to brainstorm creative ways to supplement their online art or science experience.

Know that faculty in all subject areas will want to hear from students who are having a hard time understanding online instruction, getting the materials they need, or in any other way encountering obstacles to learning. Some families do not have high-speed internet. Be sure your student communicates with their professors and TAs if things are not working the way they should.

What about final grades?

Students who can stay on task should be able to keep their grades where they need to be — or maybe even raise their grade.
But this challenge will fall more heavily on some students than others. Some students may even be coping with COVID-19 illness in their household.

If you are following the news, you may have seen that at a number of institutions, there is discussion about whether or not to offer Pass/Fail options for this spring’s courses. We will pay close attention to this developing story.

3. What family activities are you turning to in your free hours?

  • Board games
  • "Getting outside for a family walk with the dog anytime the sun is out"
  • "I'm going to teach my kids to cook!"
  • Bike rides and hikes
  • Online yoga ("We're taking the Yoga Dose 30-day challenge on YouTube")
  • Crafts, house projects, organizing and editing family pictures
  • Watching movies
  • "My son is helping me with chores around the house. Now is the time to pay back for all those diaper changes!"

4. How is this going to impact your student's summer (or post-college) job search?

This summer is going to look very different for college students and new graduates as many summer internship and research programs will either be canceled or transformed into online experiences. The usual summer job options may not be there, but it's still too soon to say.

One parent wrote: "I have a recent (2019) grad who's on a one-year fellowship and searching for his next job, so it's almost like he's a senior again. I've advised him that, even if no one's hiring right now, he can connect with people at some of the places he might like to work in the future — figure out what kinds of positions there are, who's in charge of hiring, and share his interest. This is a great time for informational phone interviews, and also using his school's alumni network."

Do you have a college senior? Share "Tips for a Job Search During the Coronavirus Pandemic."

Thank you for being part of our college parent community.

Even though we are spread across the United States, and even the world, and come from diverse backgrounds and family dynamics, we all share a common goal: we want to see our children succeed and thrive.

No matter how much we prepare ourselves, we simply can't have all the answers. If you have questions (and don't we all!), don't forget that there is an online community in the same boat as you. Your fellow parents may have the answers — or the same questions, and sometimes it's comforting knowing you're not the only one.

Join our College Parent Facebook Group to share your thoughts and ideas or seek advice when you need it. We're all in this together.

CollegiateParent supports you on your own personal journey during your student's college years. We answer questions, share stories and connect you to life on campus. Reach out to us at any time!
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