Tips for Parents

Answers to common parent questions

By Priscilla Childress

I remember as if it were yesterday how many questions I had when my older daughter (now a grad student) started college! Hungry for information on how best to support her, and reassurance that she would be in good hands, I studied the university’s website, called friends who already had college students, and met as many people as I could at orientation.

Now I work in Parent and Family Programs, which gives me many opportunities to be a resource to my fellow college parents. Here are some of the questions I asked myself, with insights I hope you’ll find helpful.

1) What should my daughter do if she gets sick? Will someone take her chicken soup? Unfortunately, there’s not an emergency chicken soup service on most campuses, but colleges and universities are prepared to help your student manage her health care. Most have a student health center that offers standard medical services, similar to the doctor your student visits at home. The centers have convenient office hours and usually offer flu shots, advice for healthy living, allergy shots, pharmacy options, plus much more. Encourage your student to read up on student health services on the school’s website and drop by to see what’s there. Did your student pack a first-aid kit? If not, she can buy one at the health center pharmacy.

2) Does my student need a car on campus? The answer depends on many factors, including your student’s budget and what type of school she’s attending. Some campuses allow cars and others don’t. Some don’t allow a car on campus during the first year. Research local transportation options when you and your student are discussing the need for a car. A few things to consider:

  • Does the campus have a bus service?
  • Does the bus service transport students off campus to local shopping, grocery stores, etc.?
  • What is the cost of a parking permit?
  • Is there plentiful parking on campus or is it limited?
  • How far is the campus from home?
  • Will your student have an off-campus job?
  • How will this affect your auto insurance?
  • Does the school have a car sharing program?
  • Don’t forget bikes — a convenient, affordable, healthy way to get around campus.

3) What do I do if my student doesn’t answer her phone right away when I call? It took me a while to realize that my daughters weren’t going to answer immediately when I called them. At first, I would panic, but soon I understood that they were just busy with classes, studying, extracurricular activities, work, friends, etc. I’ve found that texting is a great option and allows for a quick exchange of information when it’s convenient for my student. It’s also a fine idea to set a day/time for a regular phone/Skype chat.

4) How do I help my student get to know people at the school? Colleges and universities work hard to encourage new students to make connections to the campus and to one another. The activities during orientation are just the beginning. Many schools have offices especially for the first year student — encourage your student to look for “New Student Connections,” “Office for the First Year Experience,” or the “Office for Students in Transition.” Early freshman year there will be activity fairs and chances for your student to find out about and join clubs. At any time during the year, she can drop by the Student Union where many clubs have their home base. Another option for your student to meet new people is just by hanging out in the residence hall. Encourage your student to get to know her Resident Advisor — the RA is a great resource.

5) How often should I visit my student? Most colleges and universities have a Fall Family Weekend, timed just right for your first visit back to campus. Your student has had time to settle in and will be excited to show you around, plus schools plan many activities for families (lectures, receptions, concerts, tailgates, and more). Whenever you visit, make sure to consult with your student. Let her choose a good time and choreograph the activities. Be respectful of the fact that her daily schedule is jam-packed. Don’t forget to include roommates when you make plans to go out to lunch or dinner!

Most likely a Family Weekend schedule will arrive in the mail, but you can also find details on the school website. When planning your campus visit, find places to stay, eat, and more by searching your student’s school on

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips, advice, and support. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group. 

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