Frequently Asked Questions from Parents of New Students

Answers to the questions most often asked by parents in the days leading up to the start of college.

Parents helping student

What should I be doing before my child leaves home to get ready for orientation and for college?

Anything you can do to help your student take care of the personal responsibilities of college will contribute to success on campus. Some of the practical skills include clothing care (laundry, stain removal, minor repairs, ironing), car maintenance if your student will be commuting to campus, organizational skills, financial management, and cleaning.

If your student has a medical condition that requires medication or ongoing treatment, be sure he or she fully understands daily care and any symptoms that may indicate a need for treatment or an adjustment in prescriptions.

Turn over time management and decision-making to your student. At college, students will need to manage their own schedules, and they will be responsible for their decisions. Don’t try to solve problems that their poor decisions might have caused. If there are no negative consequences from their choices, they will never learn to consider outcomes in future decisions.

Money management is another critical component of student success. Research has shown a correlation between high debt and poor grades. For ideas on discussing finance with your student, check out the College Finance

I’m getting information about Parent/Family Orientation. I’ve been to campus several times already while my student was deciding on a college. Do I really need to go again?

The information you heard during the admissions process was designed to give an overview of the college or university and a broad look at the education your student will receive. Parent/Family Orientation addresses the steps you and your student will be going through during the summer and throughout the first months of college. The program will provide practical information about academic advising, meal plans, and the student account system, as well as information about student and parent adjustment during the first year. You will also hear about campus resources that will help you support your student throughout the college years.  For more information, see Orientation—It’s Not Just for Students.

How can I help my student prepare to register for classes?

Although it is helpful for students to look over course offerings and information about the major they’re most interested in, they may not be able to plan their schedule before they arrive for orientation. At most schools, students meet with an academic adviser or with an advising team and receive advice about signing up for classes that will satisfy academic requirements and move them toward graduation. Students should be watching for information to come from their college about how to prepare for registration.

What parents can do before orientation is talk with their student about types of classes, not about specific classes. For example, it can be helpful for students to take at least one course with a small number of students–20 students or less. This helps them get to know an instructor better, to gain confidence in expressing their opinions in class, and to meet some students in a smaller classroom setting. First-year seminars and language classes tend to be smaller classes. Students can be overwhelmed by too many lab classes or very large lecture courses, or by taking too many classes that require a lot of writing. Talk with your student about the benefits of balancing the types of classes they take the first semester. Suggest that they ask their adviser for ideas on selecting a class with a small enrollment, a class that combines lecture and discussion, and maybe one class that will introduce them to something entirely new and different.

My student grew up in a small town where we know everyone. I’m worried about safety on a college campus. What should my student know about staying safe?

The first and best advice is to talk with your student about using common sense, trusting his or her instincts, avoiding walking or traveling alone at night, letting a friend or roommate know where he/she is going and an estimated time of return, and keeping belongings safe and secure.

For more information about campus safety, see Campus Safety.