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Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years
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Tips for Parents
Most parents want to give their children the freedom to grow, while still allowing them to use the parental safety net. It’s a balancing act. We’ve gathered some useful words of advice from our Roosevelt Fellows, Brandeis' undergraduate peer academic advisors, on how best to achieve that balance and how you, as a parent, can be most helpful in the area of academic support for your son or daughter.
- Issues with Academic Difficulty…
Your son or daughter may encounter challenges in their new academic environment. Encourage them to take responsibility for meeting these new challenges and expectations by seeking out assistance. Encourage them to use the many advising resources available, including meeting with their Class Advisor in the Office of Academic Services, their Faculty Advisor, or the Roosevelt Fellows (peer mentors). If your son or daughter is having difficulty in a particular class, you may want to ask if they have talked to their Professor or TA. You can also encourage them to check out the academic support services available, like the Writing Center or the Brandeis Undergraduate Group Study (B.U.G.S.) program.
- Adjustment Between High School and College…
Time management and structure are two of the major changes between high school and college. Even students who were successful in high school generally are not fully prepared for the amount of study time required to be successful at the college level. Also, entering students will find they have significant unstructured time on their hands: if they live in the residence halls, they will be in class perhaps less than 10% of the total time they will be on campus. Time management and maintaining a balanced life schedule are paramount. Encourage your son or daughter to set realistic academic goals for themselves (e.g., meet with all instructors during office hours, attend all classes and help sessions, keep up with work as assigned, ask for help to avoid falling behind in a course, develop a study schedule, etc.).
- Expanding Horizons…
Encourage your son or daughter to try classes in new areas of interest, to join activities, to volunteer for community service, and to get involved in areas outside of academics. It takes more than strong academics to have a well-rounded college life and expanding their horizons sets the stage for future success at college and beyond. Also, as students explore various campus offerings, it is normal for them to change direction. Expect that your son or daughter may change their area of academic interest several times. There are advisors and peer mentors who are available to help them plan along the way as they make these changes.
- Knowing your Son or Daughter’s Grades…
Unlike high school, the university releases grade information only to the student. Due to privacy rules, the university cannot give out grades to others without the student’s consent. In general, having open lines of communication is one of the most successful ways to share in your son or daughter’s academic experience. You might want to focus on asking them about courses, rather than focusing on grades. Invite your son or daughter to share with you the discovery of new academic interests and intellectual passions.
- Plan Family Communication…
Most incoming students need to retain a strong sense of family identity and wish to be apprised about/included in family activities and decision-making even though they may be away from home. It is important for a student to hear news from home, without feeling like Mom or Dad is keeping tabs on them. Even though you may feel like calling your student every day, it helps to set up a designated time to talk. For those “in-between times”, it is encouraged to let them reach out to you. For small bits of news… e-mail is always good!
- Handling Stress…
Midterms and final exam periods are extremely stressful times for even the mellowest student. Try to be supportive, and not alarmed, if your normally level-headed son or daughter seems flustered. Consider sending a care package or e-card to show that you are thinking about them during this stressful time.
- Getting Involved…
To the extent possible, try to refrain from resolving your student’s academic (and other!) problems. By guiding them to be self-advocates and problem-solvers, you can empower them to take control of their college lives. Be a coach, rather than trying to solve your child's problems yourself. Again, it is best to encourage your son or daughter to use the appropriate campus resources — to go to the health service or career center, or talk to an academic advisor, dean, or counselor.
For additional information, visit the Brandeis University Parents Program. The Parents Program serves as a bridge between families and their students at the University. Throughout the academic year, the Parents Program at Brandeis works to keep families engaged with their students' Brandeis experience and connected to the rich academic and cultural environment of the university. They are a parent's best resource at Brandeis and a great way to stay connected to your son or daughter!