Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Navigating Student Privacy Within FERPADavid Tuttle
You may have heard that the first six weeks can set the tone for your student’s entire freshman year. There’s truth in that, but it’s important for students and parents not to panic if the start of the year is a bit rough. By understanding what your new college student is experiencing, you'll feel better able to support them as they meet the challenges of freshman year.
They’re the ones going off to college. How do parents fit in?
We are still actively parenting our college freshmen even as we encourage their independence. Being in regular touch with us can help them stay grounded during this time of transition. Don’t send a flurry of texts “just to check in,” but do schedule a weekly phone or video chat (especially if you are not hearing much). Read more about communicating with college students here.
There may be a lot of back and forth messages as they get settled in, and this is natural. They have a lot to share. If you’re on the receiving end of what feels like an excessive amount of texting/calling, consider gently disentangling yourself.
If your student runs up against an obstacle — a problem with a roommate, or with their course schedule — resist the urge to get involved or tell them what to do. Instead, remind them of the great resources available on campus (the residence hall RA, their academic advisor, the tutoring center, etc.).
College is the first time most freshmen have been entirely in charge of their own routine and activities. Your student will make choices every day and night about how to allocate all those blocks of “free” time.
When you check in with them, don’t overlook the obvious. Your student may need tactful reminders to:
Even students who took AP/IB classes aren’t always prepared for the ways in which college academics differ from high school. A few things it’s helpful to understand:
It’s common knowledge a lot of partying goes on during the first few weeks of the year at many schools. In addition, at some universities, fraternity and sorority rush kicks right in.
Ask your freshman about the social scene and the new friends they've made. They may or may not be going to parties and may or may not want to talk to you about it, but you can still check in and make sure they know that you expect them to follow campus rules about alcohol and drugs. Even though they no longer live under your roof, you still care about them being healthy and responsible, which means the conversation about alcohol and drugs needs to be ongoing during college.
On a related topic, you may have heard the first six weeks of college referred to as the “red zone” — a time when young first-year women in particular are at increased risk of sexual assault. By talking to all our students, male and female, about healthy sexual relationships and consent, and responsible partying, we express our concern with their happiness and safety and our trust that they will strive to be respectful members of their college community.
Your student will find their place but it may take time. A few observations about “fitting in”: