Top 4 Things Not to Do as a Parent of a New College Student
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By Elana Goodwin, Uloop
With your student off at college for the first time, there are many things you may want to do as a parent to ensure they are settling in, having a good experience, and handling academic challenges.
However, it’s important to let your student fail and succeed on their own as they take their first steps into adulthood and flex their newfound independence. To that end, here are some of the top things NOT to do as a parent of a new college student.
1. Don’t take over
It can be tempting to step in and help your student pick from the hundreds of courses offered by their university, to urge them to join specific campus clubs, and to tell them to attend certain events at college. However, an integral part of them getting settled into college life and becoming more responsible is allowing them to make these types of choices. They need to decide for themselves what types of courses will be most interesting to them, how they should manage their schedule, and which requirements to fulfill first.
If they are having trouble picking classes or clubs, encourage them to talk to their academic advisor. While you may know your student better, they will have more insight into courses and student groups on campus and will be more able to recommend what opportunities your student should consider or pursue. By staying out of these choices, you are also unable to be blamed if your student ends up not liking the class or decides the club is not really for them.
By staying out of these choices, you are also unable to be blamed if your student ends up not liking the class or decides the club is not really for them.
2. Don’t worry too much
If your student gets a bad grade on a paper or mentions they skipped a class, don’t freak out and start panicking. There are a lot of different components that make up a student’s grade in a class and there’s bound to be a bit of a transition as your student learns that college is harder than high school and courses and work may require more effort and polish.
If your student continues to earn bad grades in a class or perform poorly, then it may be time to suggest finding a tutor — but that’s not a conclusion you need to jump to right away. Keep your worry in check and don’t stress your student out; instead, offer a listening ear and supportive encouragement and allow them some time to do better on their own.
Additionally, try not to worry too much about your student’s safety at school. Discuss with them ways to keep safe, the realities of drinking, drug use, partying, etc., and educate them on the dangers. New students living away from home for the first time can go overboard trying to experience their independence so make sure they know how to act responsibly and what resources are available to them if they or their peers get into trouble.
3. Don’t edit
Your student may ask you shortly before a paper is due to help them edit their assignment or work on the paper with them so they can get a better grade — do not do this. Part of being in college is learning to submit your own work, and even if your heart is in the right place when you work on a paper for or with your student, it’s no longer completely their work anymore. You can, of course, look over a draft of the paper and give them your thoughts, but resist getting further involved.
Instead, encourage them to meet with their professor during office hours for assistance with their essay or to take advantage of the college’s writing center to get editing help.
4. Don’t judge
You and your student are different people — so they are going to make different choices than you would if you were them or back in college today. The important thing is to be open and not judge them for whatever decisions they make; this is crucial if you want your student to feel comfortable telling you things, no matter what they are doing in their life.
Your student will be less likely to share things with you if they feel you are going to disapprove of something they did or plan to do, which can drive a wedge between you and make you feel like you don’t really know what is going on in your student’s life. Being open and non-judgmental will enable better communication between you and your student and you will start to transition from parent and student to become more like friends.
These are just some of the top things NOT to do as a parent of a new college student — though you can be sure that your student will inform you of other things they don’t want you to do as well!
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