Tips for Parents
Why Parenting is Part of the College Experience
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By Julie Hitchcock
In June, I attended a number of high school graduation parties. Having recently hosted two of these special celebrations ourselves, it was a true pleasure to attend only as a guest and observer. The students were predictably tired, happy and mostly relieved. Their parents and family members looked slightly shell shocked, acted a little giddy, and were of course extremely proud. And why shouldn’t they be? They did it! The kids have been launched!
However, like all flights, this launch isn’t the end of anything, but rather the start of something else. For these parents, and for anyone reading this article, that something is a fierce determination to see this next phase of the education mission through to completion: graduation from college.
Yes, parents of the class of 2017 will now relax for a bit, but, like they were in their students’ K-12 years, they soon will be right back in support mode, attending orientations, summer send-offs, welcome days, family weekends, and other school-sponsored events.
But aren’t students old enough and smart enough to be left alone now? Shouldn’t parents just leave their college age children to the care of their respective schools? Why do we continue to be so involved and to care so much?
Our efforts are, in part, a genuine, wholehearted interest in our son or daughter’s life experience. Like our kids, we’ve enjoyed their company, we’ve been involved in their lives. The pre-college process was exciting and incredibly interesting, with all the travel, the tours, nights together spent working on applications, the discussions with family, the negotiations, the selection, and arrival on campus. We work hard to ensure our children are really happy with their choice, because for the most part, happy students = successful students. And successful students = college graduates. All the better if that happens in four years.
There’s also the financial side of caring – you want (and need) to protect your impending investment. As the core financial contributor (along with your student) it is both your right and responsibility to participate in the continued high functioning of your student’s college or university. Your knowledge, your participation, and your oversight all contribute to a healthy campus.
Happily, most colleges and universities invite you to support your student through their parent and family associations (PFAs). Parents may be introduced to PFAs even before orientation sessions. They are the perfect vehicle for staying connected and to have a voice in the institution. Here’s how to find out more:
• Do a web search. Many college websites have their own parent and family page. A search usually will quickly yield information about an institution’s PFA organization.
• During orientation, find out how to join the PFA. Every school operates a little differently. At some, you’re already a member by virtue of having a student in attendance; other PFAs are membership or fee based.
• If you can make the commitment, volunteer for a PFA board or committee. These volunteer positions are meaningful and important to institutions – and also a lot of fun! You may volunteer for:
1. School sponsored events
2. Summer Send-Off Events for other incoming students
3. Make some decisions about where parent funds should be allocated within the university.
4. Meet other parents at your student’s school and share in the joys and challenges of parenting a college student.
So go ahead, continue to stay involved during your student’s college years. In fact, your student’s college or university will appreciate your help.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips and advice to help your college student succeed. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group.