My College:
Family Life

How Parents Can Stay Involved, On and Off Campus

Priscilla Childress

Halfway through your student’s first year of college, you may or may not be used to this new phase of parenthood — where you follow the events of their life from a distance, waiting for them to tell you what’s new. After years of attending games and concerts, chaperoning field trips, and volunteering in classrooms and at their activities, you wonder if it’s possible to feel even a fraction of that connection to their new campus life.

It turns out, there are many ways for you to assist the college or university. Budgets are tight and schools appreciate family members stepping up to support their student and the institution. Your interest and energy is welcome both on and off the campus!

Here are some ideas for staying involved.

Attend family events on campus

The Office of Parent & Family Programs at your student’s college plans many events to bring you back to campus. Family Weekend (usually held in autumn, but sometimes second semester), Grandparents Day and Siblings Weekend allow you to reconnect with your student and enjoy all the campus has to offer. Be sure to sign up for the online family newsletter to keep up with campus news.

Be a Family Ambassador

Parent ambassadors are needed to help with campus events and as a resource for new parents and families throughout the year. As an Ambassador, you'll get to share what you have learned about being the parent of a first-year college student.

Volunteer to host a Summer Roundup/Sendoff for new students

At Summer Roundups and Sendoffs, students entering college in the fall are able to meet other students, and sometimes faculty and staff, before the school year starts. It's also a chance for parents and families to mingle and share useful information.

Volunteer as a mentor through the Career Center

Offer to assist the Career Center as a mentor. Support the students by sharing your expertise in resumé writing, interviews and internships.

Attend campus performances and athletic events

College and university dance, music, improv and theatre productions offer high quality entertainment and are a fun way to spend time with your student and their friends. Look out for student art exhibitions, too. And of course it's always exciting to cheer on the school’s student athletes.

Join the Parent & Family Council

This group represents the family perspective to university administrators and fundraises for the Parent & Family Association and the school. It is a great way to get to know other parents while learning about and supporting the college's current priorities and projects.

Help the Office of Admissions welcome new families

The Office of Admissions loves having family members of current students write letters of welcome to the families of newly-admitted students!

Support the local community

Colleges work hard to have a productive relationship with the city or town where they are located. You can be a part of this. Collect food for the Student Food Pantry or contribute to a local non-profit where students volunteer.

Be a voice for the college with local, state and national government

Lending your voice to a cause that can improve your student’s college, or advocating for higher education in general, is quite impactful.

Talk to your student

Of course you already do this! But over winter break, and at other times, try asking open-ended questions that can lead your student to reflect and share more. These conversations will stay with both of you for a long, long time. This is, after all, the best way to be involved with their college experience.

These are just a few ways to stay connected. Keep an eye on the college’s website to see what activities are coming up, and check with the school to find other volunteer opportunities.
Priscilla Childress has worked with Parent and Family Programs for more than a decade and currently serves as Director of New Student Orientation, Family Programs and Student Affairs Special Events at Missouri State University. Priscilla is the mother of two college graduates.
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