Advice for Parents as Your Nest Empties of First-Year Bound College Students

By Terrence Maurice Cummings
July 26, 2012

It is the season where nests in family homes across the nation will become vacant.  Little birdies, or first-time college students, will be off to new homes and experiences.  Both students and parents will experience conflicting emotions which is never unusual.  There is advice for parents who will also embrace this change.

First-time college students find that college campuses are the most unique places we have in the nation.  These unique places have so many advantages and opportunities for students.  No other place can be found where there are professionals in every endeavor in life: accountants, psychologists, biologists, chemists, engineers, physicists, sociologists, musicians, educators, soldiers, economists, and the list goes on. 

Because college is unlike high school and first-year adjustment often is an indicator of success towards graduation, parents too must enroll in what this professional describes as Parents in College 101.  Data on first-year students indicate that 65% of first-year students are lonely or homesick in their first year and 48% of first-year students find it difficult to manage time effectively – one of the major concerns for college professors and other support services professionals.  Below are snippets from my Parents in College 101.  Parents of college-bound students experience what this consultant describes as the Oedipus and Electra  complexes:  Fathers don’t’ want to lose their daughters and mothers don’t want to lose their sons – and it is understandable.  Here are a few tips for parents as the nests empty.    

1. KEEP THE COMMUNICATION OPEN AT ALL TIMES. 

Though your sons and daughters may not respond to you and they will want space as they develop, regular communication, not just via emails and texts, is important.  Use handwritten notes and the telephone too.  Talk to your student frequently.  Communicate with care packages too.  Peer influence is strong, but you too can influence them most positively.  Keep the communication open!

2. STAY INFORMED ABOUT YOUR STUDENT’S ACADEMICS.

Talk to your student about classes, instructors, and assignments.  You too can be excited about what your student is learning.  Insist that your student write down academic goals; this serves to chart a course of success.  Students should study minimally two hours for each credit hour (e.g. 15 credit hours x 2 hours = 30 hours per week).  There are 168 hours in the week.  There’s time to study. 

3. PRACTICE YOUR ROLE AS COACH AND PARENT, RATHER THAN PROBLEM-SOLVER.

You will always be there, but advise your student to use college services, professional staff, faculty academic advisors, their chairs, and deans for help.  Problem-solving and decision-making skills are what employers want in college graduates.  Help them practice them now.

4.  INSIST THAT YOUR STUDENT FOLLOW ESTABLISHED RULES AND REGULATIONS, POLICIES AND PROCEDURES AS WELL AS LEARN THEM. 

Colleges have established rules and regulations, and they will be strictly enforced.  For example, if your student does not like a class and stops attending, a grade at the end of the semester will still be assigned, usually an undesirable grade.  There is a procedure for proper class withdrawal.  Students must follow established policies.  All actions have consequences   —whether perceived positively or negatively. 

5. TALK ABOUT WHAT IS A FAMILY EMERGENCY.

Let your student know that you will handle family emergencies and that you will advise your student appropriately and timely.  All families have illnesses, emergencies, and even deaths.  In general, students should attend all classes and only extreme, immediate family emergencies should result in absences from class.  These are still, however, absences, and students will be held accountable. 

6. ENCOURAGE YOUR STUDENTS TO REMAIN ON CAMPUS AND STUDY ON WEEKENDS.

Students should minimize their travel back and forth home on weekends — for safety reasons if nothing else.  This is a great time to meet new people and attend college functions, as well as study and prepare for the upcoming week.

7. COLLEGES HAVE A ZERO TOLERANCE FOR DRUGS AND FIREARMS.  LIKEWISE, TALK TO YOUR STUDENT ABOUT SEX AND ALCOHOL.

Most campuses are safe and conducive to living and learning.  Drugs and firearms have no place in a community of scholars.  Not to offend, but, Your student came as a student and not as a parent, and your student ought to depart as a scholar and not a parent yet.

8. MEET A FEW OF YOUR STUDENT’S FRIENDS. 

When you visit, ask your student to invite a few of his/her friends to join you.  Students are always happy to get a free meal, and this will allow you to know who is involved in your student’s lifespace.

9.  ENCOURAGE YOUR STUDENT’S FAITH. 

College communities have various faiths and reformations and information on places of worship that usually can be found in student centers and student activities’ office. 

10.  RAISE THE BAR!  EXPECT HIGH ACHIEVEMENT FROM YOUR STUDENT!

No one rises to low expectations.  Hold your student to very high standards.  Review your student’s college creed, its core beliefs and values.  Hold them responsibility to it.  And, remember, you are the parent—for life.  Assert your parenthood. 

All in all, your student’s college experience is also yours.  Enjoy it and keep the communication open!

 

Terrence Maurice Cummings is a motivational speaker/writer and higher education consultant in student retention and success.  He is former Executive Director for Student Success and Retention Programs at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC, with nearly 25 years serving both at-risk and scholarly students.  He can be reached at terrencemcummings@gmail.com or (803) 735-8486. 

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