High School

Academic Success in College – How You Can Help


College-Prep, Family Style

For many of us, preparing our sons and daughters to succeed in college can be a very daunting and often emotional task. During the course of this journey, most of us find ourselves mired in conversations involving the following:

  • SAT or ACT test preparation
  • Senioritis, high school style
  • College selection
    • Institutions: public, private, or community college.Near home or far away
    • Mom or Dad’s alma mater
    • Large, medium, or small size campus
    • Urban, suburban, or rural location
    • Major identification/Major indecisiveness
    • Gap Year option
    • Scholarships, federal student financial aid, and private loans

…the list goes on.

And, as our students receive admission/financial aid notifications, make institutional decisions, and schedule new student orientation attendance, anxiety as well as excitement starts to build.

Their home training, no doubt, will formulate the basis of their foundation as they transition into the independent world of adulthood and college life.

Theoretically, new student orientation will provide them with all the campus and social adjustment information they need to know in order to plan a productive and fruitful 4 year college experience.

Now, that’s the theory. Reality, however, offers us another perspective.

College Bound…A Look Back

I was the first in my family to attend college. So for me, new student orientation was like taking a trip to an unfamiliar, distant foreign country.

I didn’t fully understand the academic language used nor adapted easily to the culture of the Academy.

Words, for example, like matriculation, G.P.A., academic adviser, financial aid, and study abroad meant absolutely nothing to me at the time. Learn more about academic language and see our Glossary of College Terms.

And, as a result, I was not fully cognizant of my rights, responsibilities, or the “opportunities” available to me as an undergraduate student attending a non-residential, urban public university.

As a matter of fact, we (me and my identical twin sister) financed our entire undergraduate education with a loan my single parent mother obtained from her place of employment.

So there were two of us in our family of five, forlorn and lost in the same economic and cultural boat.

Although my attending college happened many centuries ago, believe or not, not much has changed today, particularly for first-generation college and even legacy undergraduates.

Nowadays, new student orientation sessions, at most campuses, continue to be information dense experiences involving administrative, faculty /student presentations, semester registrations, academic advising, and a wide array of social activities.

How You Can Help…

Going off to college is an emotional and anxiety inducing time for everyone.

It’s a safe bet to say that every family’s primary goal is for their student to achieve college and career success.

And, as parents, we have to keep in mind that there are multiple ways in which to achieve that objective…and our students’ choices may not always coincide with our own individual preferences.

As household conversations begin to percolate around transitioning to college life this spring and summer, include in your discussions strategies on how to overcome academic challenges.

Below is a list of the 5 key academic tools for freshman academic success even before they set foot on campus. Learning how to use these key tools at the outset of their academic journeys will definitely enhance your student’s chances for academic success.

These academic policy tools provide students with worthwhile options should they ever encounter any academic challenges:

The links above are sample policies represented by diverse institutions.

Although these policies differ from campus to campus, this collective of 5 key academic policy tools does exist in some form at most of the 4000+ colleges and universities across the country.

Knowing about them beforehand creates “informed” strategic planning opportunities that will help new students overcome any unintended, academic challenge they may encounter along the way.

In the case of my own sons, whenever they encountered an academic challenge, I would first “ask the question” in terms of resource exploration…which would then initiate a problem solving dialogue, resulting with them taking “informed” action.

And, in most instances, their final, informed decision was the right one for them to pursue in support of achieving their college and career objectives.

My Recommendation To You Is:

Serve as an information resource beacon for your undergraduate. Occasionally remind them to take advantage of strategic campus resources such as the 5 key academic policies, their academic and career advisers, campus writing center, tutors, and academic librarians.

Contrary to popular belief, new students rarely meet with their academic advisers on a regular basis.

As a matter of fact, research shows that, after their initial meeting with their academic adviser at new student orientation, students only revisit them perhaps once or twice a year.

Academic and career advisers are strategic collaborators who help students to delineate specific choices, interpret complex academic policies, weigh diverse options, and promote engaging opportunities.

Having limited contact with academic advisers definitely undermines students’ opportunities to maximize campus policies/resources to their academic and social advantage.

Encouraging these types of student/adviser collaborative relationships would be a tremendous asset for your student to include in her/his repertoire of college and career advice.

Unlike high school, you, the parent, cannot directly contact an academic adviser or faculty member to discuss your son or daughter’s academic progress. You have to get your “adult” child’s permission first to do so. (Learn more about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA)

In the final analysis, it’s in their best academic and professional interest to be proactive in developing their own college success team of advisers.

And as a concerned parent, you have a terrific opportunity to become one of their key members…with their permission, of course.

About the Author

Dr. Lana W. Jackman, a former higher ed student services professional, is the principal of Mélange Information Services, Inc., an educational management consultant firm based in Cambridge, MA.  She is co-author of the College Success Diet: The Insider’s Guide to Educational and Career Success and an author the College Success Lab App, available in the Apple App and Google Play stores.

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