Parents of College Freshmen: Please Read This

This essay is a far cry from what I normally post on Soul Gatherings,
but as a former Director of a College Counseling Center,
I cannot help but be aware that all across the country,
first year college students are streaming onto their campuses.
That adjustment is difficult for students and parents alike.
Some tongue-in-cheek, but no less real,
situations and their recommendations can be found below.


10 Signs That You Are Too Attached to Your College Freshman

You are too attached to your college freshman…

1. When you bring your sleeping bag and camp out in your son’s/daughter’s dorm room for the first 2 weeks of classes because you don’t trust his/her roommate with the multiple piercings, black lipstick/nail polish, and vegan diet …

a. The college experience does stretch a person’s comfort zone, and offers each student the opportunity to explore new cultures, different lifestyle choices, various religions and new belief systems. Respect for diversity, acceptance of those who are different and tolerance for being human can be positive results. Push your boundaries.


2. When you call him or her each morning to get them up in time for their first class…

a. It’s your son/daughter’s responsibility to know their class schedule and show up on time, well-rested, and prepared…not yours.


3. When you empty your retirement fund to purchase a new Cadillac Escalade SUV (loaded!) so that he/she can come home every weekend…

a. Homesickness is a common issue for many freshmen, but coming home each weekend does nothing to help a freshman adjust to campus life. Encourage your son/daughter to remain on campus to attend an athletic event, go to a movie with a group of friends, or volunteer their time in the local community. This makes for a much healthier and easier transition for both students and parents.


4. When you drive 2 hours to accompany your son or daughter to the dining hall, after they called you crying because they don’t like to eat alone…

a. Socialization is an important part of college life, and there are many ways a freshman can find someone to share a meal. For example: go with their roommate, ask the RA (Resident Advisor) if they can accompany them, or ask the student sitting alone in the dining hall if you can join them. Other students are lonely, too.


5. When you text or call your student every 10 minutes, asking if they’re all right…

a. Your student probably is alright. Anyway, they may be in class and unable to text, at dinner with friends, speaking with their coach, taking an exam or doing research in the quiet zone of the library. Arrange a mutually agreed upon time that you can connect with your son/daughter each week, such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights at 9 pm. Obviously, reach them any time in an emergency.


6. When you’ve got your student’s Facebook page open on a computer while you’re at work, alert to every time one of their posts comes up on the news feed…

a. Whether or not an adolescent should friend a parent is a separate issue. Take the opportunity to remind your son/daughter that whatever thoughts or pictures they post on-line is essentially public domain, and this can all come back to haunt them. Employers, graduate schools, colleges, jealous peers, stalkers, predators – the audience is huge, as are the potential consequences.


7. When you call off work, book a hotel room near campus and bring your laptop in order to write the research paper that is due in your student’s major 2 days from now…

a. Your student gets a syllabus the first day of each class with class assignments and due dates. It is his or her responsibility to be aware of these and to manage their study time well. Just as they’re not getting a paper handed in on time has consequences, so, too, does having someone else write it.


8. When you retain an individual concierge for your son/daughter to answer their questions, solve their problems, run errands, etc., salaried with a toll free phone number and 24/7 availability…

a. There is a wealth of support available for your son/daughter on campus. When questions or problems arise, encourage your son/daughter to reach out to the Counseling Center, Residence Life, Security & Safety, the Health & Wellness Center, Academic Skills, the Office of Diversity, Student Activities, Campus Ministry, or the Academic Advising Office for direction, answers or advice.


9. When you take a one day course on voice mimicry so that you can impersonate your son or daughter’s voice in order to discuss his or her grades with a professor…

a. The Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits parents from communicating with faculty about their student’s academic performance. (Yes, even though you might be paying the tuition.) Keep an open dialogue with your son or daughter about how they are doing in their classes. Also, allow them to make mistakes without harsh criticism, otherwise they might completely shut you out of the information loop. Adolescence is all about learning to make good decisions, along with learning from ones that are not-so-good. Anyway, I’ve never met anyone who is perfect; have you?


10. When you call your son/daughter on Sunday morning and they answer the phone, obviously hung over, and, after a stern reprimand from you about underage drinking, you actually believe him/her when they stutter that it was a sanctioned experiment for one of their classes.

John Belushi Animal House

John Belushi
Animal House

Each year as the result of alcohol abuse, 1,700 college students die from alcohol-related causes, 2.8 million students drive while under the influence of alcohol, more than 696,000 students are assaulted by another student under the influence of alcohol, and 11% of drunken students vandalize property, and almost 2% of students attempt suicide because of alcohol or other drug use. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism)

Alcohol consumption is also associated with poor academic performance, contributing to failing tests, missing classes, falling behind in class work and higher drop-out rates due to poor grades.

Talk to your student about the importance of smart choices while on campus and the potential negative consequences drinking can have on their health, safety and future. This so-called “right-of-passage” is anything but when it can result in addiction, assault, or even death.