Q. My daughter is a college freshman. She was at the top of her class in high school, but is having difficulty making the grades she was used to earning. What advice can you give her?
A. Managing time in college is one of the biggest challenges for all college freshmen. Your daughter needs to be commended for being at the top of her class in high school. However, she is probably at a college where many of her colleagues were also at the top of their classes in their respective high schools. The competition can be greater. She may have to devote more time to studying than she is used to. In high school, she may have been able to grasp the material quicker. College is different. Some students hardly study at all, and still receive A’s. Others study a great deal and only receive C’s. Many kids say “Life is not fair.” I love the following quotation which I share with high school seniors on this topic:
“Everyone receives 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week regardless of origin, position in life, or particular circumstances. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can learn just about anything ‘IF’ we give ourselves enough time.” - Author Unknown
In college, some students will just have to adjust their schedules to put more time into studying in those courses where they are having difficulty absorbing the material quickly. That’s what life is all about. We make the adjustments necessary based on our own particular circumstances and what goals we have set for ourselves.
Q. My son has college application forms in hand, but has done nothing with them. How do I get him to complete the application forms for colleges before the deadline without going out of my mind?
A. Working on college applications with deadlines can be stressful not just for your son, but also for the entire family. Human nature dictates that procrastination sets in with many students. As parents, we must have patience to watch how our children complete the myriad of paperwork they are faced with, without doing the filling out of applications for him. Now is the time when those applications need to be completed and deadlines creep up all too quickly. However, there are a few things that parents can do to help with the process.
1. Encorage your son to present a neat application. This means typing, printing, or writing legibly.
· Encourage your son to present a neat application. This means typing, printing, or writing legibly.
· Some colleges require a personal essay. By all means, encourage your son to submit a draft of his essay to his English teacher, a mentor, a guidance counselor, or another appropriate person for review and/or suggestions. However, any changes or additions to his essay need to be his own work. Any English teacher will tell you that every time a student revises a paper, it does get better.
· Recommendation letters. Some colleges require these and your son needs advance time to request these letters on his behalf and to follow up to make sure he receives them in ample time to submit with his application package.
· As each application is completed, remind him to proof read the entire application before submitting it.
In addition, if a financial aid application is needed, your son needs to check with his guidance counselor to make sure he has the application and completes it before the deadline. While encouragement is necessary during this entire process, the responsibility needs to fall directly on the shoulders of your son.
Q. My daughter was home for fall break. She and her roommate do not get along well. Their hours don’t match. My daughter goes to bed early in order to get up early for classes. Her roommate stays up until all hours and sleeps in even if she has to skip classes. Help!
A. Let me share with you a recent story which is similar. Ashley and Marita were roommates their freshmen year. Their hours did not coincide. Ashley had to get up at 5:00 a.m. most mornings for athletic practice for crew team followed by morning classes. Therefore, she chose to get to bed early. Marita, on the other hand, studied in the room late at night with the light on; Ashley could not sleep with the light on. Neither spoke about the problem. Ashley asked for help in solving this conflict. Generally, there are three ways of solving roommate problems:
1. One roommate just leaves the room.
2. One roommate tells the residence hall counselor.
3. Both roommates sit down and say "Look, we have a problem. Let's talk about it and
find a solution."
By Ashley’s not mentioning the problem, Marita did not know that her actions bothered Ashley. By sitting down and talking about their schedules, they were able to work things out. Marita found she could study just as well late at night in the residence hall lounge, and Ashley found she had to be quieter when she got up at 5:00 a.m.
Q. We give our son a monthly allowance while he is in college. However, he continues to go over his allowance and continues to call home for extra money. When does a parent say “enough is enough?”
A. Many times, parents feel they have the money; therefore, they continue to respond positively to the calls home requesting more money. But should you? I cannot stress enough the need to sit down and discuss how to budget. Once you have this discussion, and it may take more than one discussion, I would suggest you stick to your decisions and help your son take on the responsibility of balancing his needs and wants and living within a budget.
Q. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school. She has a 3.6 (grade point average) but she did not score well on the SAT. What are her chances of being accepted into the college of her choice?
A. Most admissions counselors tell us that the SAT or ACT scores are but one piece of the puzzle for admissions. They look at grades. This is a sustainable measure. They look at extracurricular activities. They want to know whether a student has been a good citizen in their community; service counts. Have they exhibited leadership skills? What honors or awards have they received? There are many factors they look at. Some do look at an incoming class makeup, i.e. gender and race, in order to compile a diverse student body. How well a student scores on a particular test is only a score for how well they are doing on that particular day. That is why colleges and universities use a “range” to give some indication of who should apply.
That being said, there is a place on a college campus for each student who wants to pursue further education beyond the high school level. There are hundreds of colleges and universities where your daughter will gain acceptance. She needs to narrow her choices to those institutions that offer the coursework in the field of study she is considering. She wants a good education and the academic quality of the institution should be important. If she is not sure of her major field of study, she needs to choose an institution that offers many options of potential fields of interest to her. Size of a campus, proximity to home, weather, are but a few of the considerations students look at when choosing a college. Parents, on the other hand, look at cost. Other factors can include, among others, credentials of the professors, whether experienced professors or graduate students are teaching the freshmen students, and range and quality of programs available. If you are able to take the time to arrange a campus visit, this is very important.
Q. Even with some financial aid that my son, a college freshman, is receiving from his college, he seems to be spending far more and has recently taken on additional debt. What advice can we give him?
A. Many students come to the college campus on student loans, but before their freshmen year is over, they over extend on these loans. They are going further into debt not just for school, but many are including social activities as well. This extends their debt to the point that many are deciding to drop out after the first year or two. Budgeting for a college freshman is difficult because they may have never had to budget as an adult. As parents, you can help by sitting down and preparing a budget with your son. Explain what debt is and how debt is repaid, what interest payments can escalate to, what a credit rating is, why a credit rating is important to him, how to maintain a good credit rating, how to spend within his means, how to save, how to live within a budget. Credit cards make it too easy for a college freshman to turn down. Many of what they consider “needs” are really just “wants.” They need to learn to distinguish between needs and wants. Your son needs to focus on why he is in college and how best to meet his goal of graduating from college with the skills necessary to be a productive citizen and effective participant in the workforce.
Q. My son has been diagnosed as ADD. He works very hard for his grades and does quite well academically. He wants to go to a large university versus a smaller college. I am worried he will get lost on a large campus.
A. Generally, the smaller campuses have a more personal approach to keeping its students on track and engaged on the task at hand. However, on many larger campuses, a student can “connect” to a smaller segment of that campus in order to obtain the needed help and resources to succeed. Ask questions of the colleges and universities your son is interested in applying to. Quiz them on the resources they have available for ADD students. Check their website. You may find it will have more to do with the extent of services and attention paid to ADD students than to just the size of the college campus.
Q. What is most stressful for college freshmen?
A. I ask that question a lot. Recently, I asked it of a college freshman at San Francisco State University. Her family lived in Los Angeles, California. She responded with an energetic laugh and a beautiful smile on her face, “Everything,” she said. “The weather, family far away, and difficult course work.” This is a typical response. In this case, I could tell, she would be one who will be successful. Parents can help. Keep a communication line open, be that listening ear, ask questions in a non-judgmental way, praise them freely and pray for them. They must adapt to a world they have to live in, in a world far different than you or I grew up in. They need to stay focused on their goal of achieving that college degree. Education is a gift and once they have it, no one can take it from them. What they do with it is up to them. That will be their challenge.
Q. What quality do you think is most important at this time of year as our children transition into their freshman year of college?
A. Now that approximately 1.4 million new college freshmen are on the college campus, I believe the most important quality for them to have is ATTITUDE. These freshmen will be on an emotional roller coaster ride the first few weeks while adapting to their new environment—new roommate, classes to find, schedules to adapt to, professors to meet, new friends to discover and friendships to make. Students need to realize that colleges or universities have accepted them because they believe them to have the credentials necessary to be successful on their campuses. All the resources these freshmen need are there. With a positive ATTITUDE and an open mind to utilizing the resources available, or tools as I sometimes call them, they can become an even more effective and successful student. When students need extra help to become a better student, they need to be open to searching out those resources on campus to enhance their study skills, such as workshops for time management, strategies for learning quickly and successfully, tips for reading and comprehending the material effectively, writing papers for the non-English major, and test taking skills. I believe ATTITUDE is everything!
Q. What are 529s? I often hear advertisements talking about investing in your child’s college education by investing in this type of savings plan. But, I know very little about it.
A. As families try to tame rising tuitions, deposits in state-run college savings plans have hit record highs, so says Walecia Konrad, Contributing Editor for USA Today. Named after the section of the tax code that governs them, 529s offer the biggest tax break since IRAs. Earnings grow tax-free as you save, and you pay no federal income tax on withdrawals used for college tuition. What’s more, 28 states offer income tax deductions on contributions. All states and the District of Columbia have at least one plan; some offer six. Plus, most let out-of-staters invest, so you don’t only have to look in North Carolina, but can check other state’s 529 investment plans.
How do you pick the right 529?
· Check whether your state plan offers a local tax break.
· Compare plans.
· Watch extra costs. Look for low administrative fees.
· Don’t panic if your plan changes investment managers. But find out why.
Q. Give me some general tips for parents of new college freshmen on safety, communication, and time management for our students.
A. Campus Safety Tip.
College campuses are a microcosm of society. College freshmen do need to attend the orientation session on campus safety. This will help them to become familiar with their new environment, as they are the “new kids on the block.” Precautions need to be taken.
Time Management Tip.
A schedule helps your student organize his/her time which revolves now on a 24-7 week. Social, academic, and other interests can fit, but remember 2-3 hours of study time for every hour of class time. Every national report tells us this is a must!
One study has said that this is the most secular, worldly group of kids ever coming out of high school. However, many of these freshmen have difficulty sorting out options and making good decisions. The anxiety of campus life and leaving home creates a sense of urgency for parents to set up a pattern of communication, i.e. emails, letters, phone calls, care packages, etc., to bridge the gap from high school and living at home, to the college campus. Feeling supported by family in these ways is important to reduce the stress of college life as students make the transition from a high school senior to a college freshman on a campus away from home.
Q. What do you mean when you tell parents it is important for their college freshman to “connect” to the college campus?
A. “Connecting” to the college campus can be done in a variety of ways depending on a student’s interests and goals. Besides attending classes and studying and preparing for those classes, students need to choose an activity that they are interested in where they can join with other students who also have that same interest. This way they begin to form friendships with students who have something in common. From there, they can use the support of that group as a springboard for involvement in other aspects of the college campus. Whether it be involvement in the campus ministry centers, volunteering as a hall captain in a residence hall, photographer for the student newspaper, part-time job on campus, trying out for a drama production or a sports team (besides varsity, many campuses offer club sports and intramural sports teams), visiting the career center on a regular basis or joining any of the variety of clubs and organizations offered on most campuses. It doesn’t need to be a major commitment. This will depend on the available time based on a student’s schedule, but the sooner they “connect” to the campus, the quicker they will feel at home, know why they are in college, be able to set their goals, and become even more successful.
Q. I know a family in Puerto Rico whose daughter will be attending college in North Carolina. Because of the distance and being away from home for the first time, they are worried about her feeling homesick. Do you have any suggestions?
A. International students studying in the United States find themselves hundreds of miles from home. When other college freshmen are going home for a weekend, they must stay on campus. They have to get used to a new town, college campus, culture and state all at once. They know, for some, their families have made a sacrifice in order for them to be able to be here. As an 18-year old, it is exciting to be off to college and to be living on one’s own. It is generally a little scary as well, and sometimes homesickness sets in. Many colleges and universities have a built-in support system for international students on campus. Encourage your friend’s daughter to get involved with those campus organizations that will help her feel more at home in her new “home away from home” on the college campus. Many colleges and universities also offer residence halls that are comprised of students from various nationalities. This type of campus living can sometimes offer additional support as well.
Q. What are the advantages of my son signing up for the “freshmen experience” class?
A. More and more college campuses are offering a class such as the “freshman experience” or “first-year” with varying names, but geared for incoming freshmen students. These classes can be valuable resources for freshmen students. I would encourage your college freshman to take it, if it fits into his/her schedule. Sometimes, these classes help students to become engaged or involved on the college campus, exposing them to as many campus resources as possible. Some campuses offer sections of these classes grouping honors students, athletes, or certain colleges such as engineering and business. Some group students who are undecided in a major and help them explore career options. Some are reading and discussion groups. Most all of these groups have in common the goal of helping the college freshman meet a group of fellow students and help them become more comfortable in their new college campus setting.
Q. What is the #1 criteria for success as a new college freshman?
A. Although there are many factors contributing to college success, studies will tell us the major factor is managing time effectively. If you get into a college, you should be able to be an honor student at that college. Maintaining a schedule is of utmost importance. How effectively a student manages this schedule will make the difference between academic success and possibly failure. At least two hours per class hour for study time needs to be included on this schedule. This should include reading assignments, research, and time for reviewing daily notes from class. When students prepare their schedule, they will find they will have the time to engage in extra-curricular activities, job and club commitments, exercise, and church activities, as well as time for socializing and meeting new friends. Students will be working on a 24-hour schedule, which will be quite different from when they were a senior in high school and living at home, where their hours were more structured. They need to look at college as their full-time job. They need to keep their eye on the prize – college graduation and beyond. Their goal needs to be academic success.
Q. My son was encouraged to take AP courses during his high school years. What is the value of these courses?
A. It varies. Advanced Placement (AP) courses typically are offered to high school students as a way to obtain college credit for taking what was viewed until recently as having very rigorous coursework. These courses were geared to prepare students for the rigors of college level coursework. At the end of each school year, the student would elect to take an AP exam conducted by the College Board. The cost is $82 per exam. When scored, if he received a score of 3, 4, or 5, he became eligible to receive college credit. Approximately 50 percent of all students who take the AP exams nationwide score a 3 or better on the test’s 1-to-5 scale. Many colleges allow students to skip introductory courses for a score of 3 or better. Some require scores of 4 or 5 in order to skip introductory courses. Some reject AP test results. Some give credit toward graduation, but don’t allow classes to be skipped. Recently, the College Board, who administers the AP tests, has announced plans to audit the high school’s AP courses to make sure these courses have not been watered-down. By fall, 2006, AP courses that do not meet the College Board’s requirements will not be able to use the AP label. I do feel taking AP classes is still an improvement over taking regular coursework in the high schools, if that student has set a goal of attending college.
Q. As our son is getting ready to go off to college in August, what do you think are the main transitions for college freshmen?
A. There are many transitions. Let me mention the three top changes.
1. Living away from home. Living in a residence hall with maybe 60 to 100 or 300 other people. Relating to a whole new set of peers in a major way. Usually, it shapes itself out after the first few weeks of school, as students begin to make new friendships with roommates, others in the residence hall, or others in classes or clubs where they share similar interests. Some students are better at adapting to this new environment than others. Some take longer to adapt. The residence hall system on most college campuses is set up to support the new freshmen with these adjustments. Resident assistants and residence hall counselors usually live in the building and are responsible to helping students deal with these major changes.
2. The academic scene. When I gather lists of parent concerns versus lists of student concerns, academics generally comes at the bottom of the list of student concerns, while it hovers near the top of the parent’s list of concerns. However, students DO worry about academics. Many times their emotional adjustments take a front seat, and the academic adjustments tend to follow. Students may appear that academics is not a worry, but when the first test or first paper become due, the stress is definitely there, and it is important to most freshmen to do well. Many students on college campuses are competing against those who are academically in the same category as themselves, so it becomes more difficult for many that are used to earning an “A” or a “B” grade to obtain the same grade on a college campus. Many times it may take more effort to achieve that quantifiable grade. I caution parents to not judge the entire college career of their children by their grades first semester. Look at the effort that is being put forth. That will become most important. If the effort is there, the time management skills will come into play to help a student attain his/her goals academically and career wise.
3. Readjustment to family. The first time home may be at fall break or Thanksgiving holiday or, for some, it may be the Christmas holidays, depending how far from home they have chosen to go. When your child leaves for the college campus, she will change. Six weeks at college may just as well have been six years. She will change, but when she comes home for the first time, usually not before six weeks on campus, the parents don’t really visibly see the changes and sometimes don’t adapt because to them the student is relatively the same. Yet, your daughter will have been making her schedule, managing her finances, setting her goals, determining when she needed to be where, etc. learning to be independent and responsible. Therefore, when she returns home for a weekend or for vacation, be that listening ear, make some adjustments to help her re-enter the family scene, and encourage her as she learns to make the transition from home to college a positive experience.
Q. I hear from my friends that grades of college students are sent directly to the students, not to the parents, even when the parents may be paying their college tuition. Why is this so?
A. Your friends are giving you correct information. The 1974 Federal Education Rights to Privacy Act (commonly known as FERPA) specifies that students older than 18 are legally adults; therefore, personal information, judicial, and academic information which includes grades, must go directly to the students. Many parents are not aware of this law. At parent orientation sessions, many universities and colleges will make parents aware that there is a waiver form a student can obtain and sign which can grant waiving the student rights under FERPA for an academic year. The student must obtain the form, sign it, and return it to the university or college. In more recent years, more and more college campuses are now making grades available on line directly to the student, which is accessible only by his password. This makes it more convenient for the student and saves mailing costs for the university or college. Discuss your expectations with your student. Good communication should make the grades available to a parent regardless of who is paying the tuition bills.
Q. Our daughter leaves for the college campus in August as a new freshman. She is planning to room with her best friend from home. We are worried that she may not reach out to make additional friends. Can you offer any advice?
A. Here is one example that I mention in my book A New Beginning: A Survival Guide for Parents of College Freshmen (newly revised 2nd edition), and then a recommendation with regards to rooming with a best friend as a college freshman. Kim, as a college freshman, roomed with her best friend. Guidance counselors warned them about doing that because usually one or the other is ready to move on after one semester, but doesn’t want to hurt the friend’s feelings. The student stays, but is miserable all the while. I recommend suggesting to your daughter that she consider making an agreement to room for one semester or one year, with the stipulation that they will each find other roommates after that time. In this way, feelings aren’t hurt and the two can usually remain good friends. They also have more opportunity to go out and make new friends during their college years. In Kim’s case, the arrangement worked out the first year. The girls were different, but their values were very similar, which is the reason Kim thinks they succeeded as roommates. They also had some common interests, but some different ones too. They were able to branch out and meet others in the process of pursuing individual niches.
Q. My daughter has been accepted to four of the five colleges she applied to. As the process progresses, she seems to be more and more confused as to which college to choose. She says she’s afraid to choose a college, because she is scared she might make the wrong decision. We feel she is running out of time. Help!
A. Your daughter, it sounds like, has a pleasant problem. She obviously has wonderful choices and now must narrow it down to the one she feels will best meet her educational goals. She needs to again review the pros and cons of each institution. Consider those factors that led her to apply to these colleges in the first place. There may be other factors to add that now seem important to her as well. Sometimes it is worthwhile to visit again her top one or two choices and attend classes and even stay overnight on campus. Some colleges offer a special day for those students who are still undecided, at which time they have special programs set up to help a prospective student get better acquainted with the campus and what it can offer a student. Inquire to see whether that may be the case for the colleges your daughter has been accepted to. If you still feel a final decision cannot be made by the appropriate acceptance date, you may want to consider making deposits at more than one college in order to reserve a spot, thereby extending the time period for a final decision. However, it is preferable for your daughter to choose one college by the appointed date and make only one deposit. There is generally no need to prolong the period of indecisiveness and frustration and it also holds up a college offering a spot to another eager applicant. By parents exercising patience and guidance during this period of indecisiveness, it will help a student overcome some of the uneasiness she is feeling.
Q. College tuition seems to go higher each year. Our second child will be in college in August and we are having difficulty as a family preparing to pay for both tuitions. What are your suggestions?
A. Since 1990, according to the most recent statistics, for public four-year colleges, a year’s tuition, room and board (for students attending school in their home state) rose 87% from $5,324 to $9,953. At private four-year college, tuition rose 93% during that same period. You need to sit down with both your adult children and talk about money management. College freshmen will have the stress of being away from home and then they have the additional stress of managing their finances, many times without the financial help of their parents. The decision about who pays for what needs to be made clear. Be honest about your family finances and then discuss options you have. Determine what portion of their college expenses they will have to help with. Besides tuition, room and board, college expenses range from book, gas, laundry, telephone and club dues to lab fees and computer supplies. Prepare an itemized monthly budget for college expenses. Determine how much they will need to contribute. Perhaps they will need a part-time job. Student loans are another option to explore as well as applying for scholarships.
Q. My son is preparing his course schedule for his senior year in high school. He plans to attend college. How much math do you advise high school students to complete before going off to college?
A. Studies will tell you that students who take rigorous high school courses have the best chance of success in college as far as being admitted to college and graduating from college. Advanced Placement courses generally contain the rigor for those students who are motivated to do the work in these classes. Even if your son does not plan to take any Advanced Placement courses, I would advise completing an upper level math course beyond Algebra II, such as trigonometry or pre-calculus. Math is extremely important. Starting in March, 2005, the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) will have a stronger mathematics component. To excel in math, he must be willing to complete regular homework assignments. Just as with reading or writing, math takes practice. The more he practices, the better able he will be to master the content of any math course.
Q. Does “parenting” end when we send our children off to the college campus as adults?
A. Parenting does not end when your child leaves for the college campus. However, it changes. We still need to parent, but in a different way. Just as students have the opportunity for a new beginning, starting the next chapter of their book of life, it is the same with parents. Our life at home will shift, and we can start the next chapter in our book of life. As parents, we need to be aware of the challenges our children will face, and to learn how to support our children in helpful and meaningful ways. We also need to communicate on an adult-to-adult level on an ongoing basis.
Q. My son graduated from a 4-year university last May. He is now living at home and working for hourly wages. What steps can we take to direct him towards a career job with more opportunity for him for advancement?
A. The fact that he is working is a good sign. However, there are strategies he needs to utilize to further explore his career options. As a graduate of his university, he will still be able to access the career center in person, or via the internet. Some things he might ask help with are:
Developing a resume
Making a plan listing steps to take to achieve those goals
Help to develop interview skills
Employers are always looking for skilled workers who have developed their communication skills, have the ability to work as part of a team, the desire to succeed, leadership, and problem solving skills. Even if a company is not his first choice, urge him to interview as if it were a first choice. After all, until he has an offer extended to him, he has no choices. Once he has some choices, he can then weigh the advantages and disadvantages according to his list of goals, and then make a decision.
Q. My daughter has applied to five colleges. She has already received one rejection letter. I am worried for her, as I don’t want her feelings hurt. What to do to help her over the rejection?
A. College acceptance/rejection letters will begin to appear more frequently in the next few weeks. Do not open your daughter’s mail. She is going to college, not you. When she is ready to share with you, she will let you know what the contents of the letters are. Respect that rule and her privacy. Rejection is a normal part of life. Sometimes, depending how one handles rejection, one becomes a stronger person and can then better evaluate the next steps. There are hundreds of good colleges and universities in America. Of the five she has carefully chosen to apply to, I suspect more than one will emerge, not only as an acceptance, but also as a first choice for her.
Q. My son is a junior in high school and has a learning disability. As we start our college search, what advice can you give us to get us started with the college search and selection?
A. First, find out from his guidance counselor what services or accommodations he may need. This could include access to early registration, modified exam arrangements, assistance with note taking, or the development of time management skills. Second, make a list of questions to ask when visiting a college, such as the retention rate of LD students. Ask what types of services they provide. While still in high school, make sure your son’s IEP is up-to-date and accurate. He can work to improve his note taking skills, time management and written expression via computer. When he gets to college, he will have to be a self advocate, and speak up on his own behalf in order to receive the help he needs to be successful. Generally, LD students do better on smaller campuses; however, that is not always the case. You will have to research those campuses who serve LD students well.
Q. What is an empty nester? Lately, I hear my friends use that term often.
A. According to the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, an empty nester is a parent whose child has reached adulthood and moved away from home. This term has been used frequently to describe those parents whose last child is “off to college,” leaving the household empty. Some parents feel a huge void in the household and find it difficult to adjust to their child’s absence. In any case, parents need to learn to let go and enjoy being parents to an adult “child.” When parents understand the college transition process, communicating with their children as adults will smooth the way to a new phase of the relationship. Many Hispanic/Latino students report family support as a major factor in their success in college. As one student said “What motivated me the most to move onto college were my
parents. . .they never stopped reminding me of how crucial an education is to a stable future. . .”
Q. Over the Christmas holidays, when I asked parents about their experience with their college freshman, again and again I heard the same question posed as a statement. Can’t wait until they leave!
A. Here are some of the comments parents shared with me.
· Many parents find their sons and daughters are nocturnal. They stay up late at home, meaning two or three in the morning or later, or stay out with friends. It is generally the parents who are tired, because many of them are getting up at five in the morning in order to get to the office.
· Parents feel their kids seem happy; they don’t demand much. They just seem happy to be home. They truly wanted a break from college.
· Parents were very happy to have them home, but were ready to let them go back to the college campus. Conversations around academics/finances/selection of a major/summer jobs or internships had to wait until just before they were preparing to return to the college campus.
· Peer counseling or professional counseling available on the college campus.
Child-parent relationships are important during the college years, as they strive toward independence. These visits home should give you additional insight into how well they have made the transition from home to the college campus.
Q. My daughter has changed her major from psychology to business. In order to prepare for a career in business, what is the best way to explore options within this field?
A. I recommend hands-on experiences, which can be found in several ways including internships during the summer months, cooperative education programs, job shadowing and/or volunteering. Businesses list opportunities for students in the career center on the college campus. The career center is a valuable resource for students. For example, the benefits of Cooperative Education Programs are that students are paid competitively while gaining practical experience; Co-ops work with the same organizations usually for 2-3 semesters, which provides for more meaningful relationships with professional staff. Nationally, about two thirds of students who Co-op are offered full-time employment with their Co-op employers upon graduation. With job shadowing, students learn about various career fields and network with professionals in their disciplines. Observations can be 1-3 days or may be conducting an informational interview about the career field being shadowed. Employers want to know what else students do on the college campus in addition to their class work; volunteering is an integral part of the big picture of student life and can enlarge a young person’s view of the world of work.
Q. My son’s grades for first semester are poor at best. What suggestions do you have for us?
A. You are not alone. There are many parents of college freshmen who are amazed at the poor grade point average’s (GPA) some seemingly bright, intelligent kids are coming home with. These are kids who were among the top achievers in high school. Studies show the poor use of time is the biggest single reason that freshmen do not maintain at least a C average. Surveys of undergraduate students continually show that 70 percent or more of the students report that their greatest personal need is to manage time more effectively. Some suggestions you may discuss with your son include:
· His setting up a meeting with his advisor to review his academic program and class schedule for second semester and beyond
· Work on time-management techniques which will include handling a schedule that includes sufficient time for study
· Most college campuses offer tutoring, sometimes with no additional charge, and some professors recommend small study groups to enhance learning for their students
· Peer counseling or professional counseling available on the college campus.
Q. What do you do about the high school senior who has been accepted into college already? They think they don’t have to study anymore.
A. High school counselors sometimes use the term “checked out” regarding these seniors who feel they no longer have to work hard to achieve because of already being accepted into college in the fall. Students need to know that colleges can still rescind their offer and that their acceptance is usually based on the same caliber results as in previous semesters in high school. The offer is generally not final until the senior has graduated and grades have been sent to the accepting college or university. If their GPA (grade point average) has dropped too much, they may find themselves reapplying to
Q. My son is home from college for the Christmas/holiday break. He is talking about his summer plans, which seem to include mainly vacation. I thought he'd be working during the summer months. Help!
A. The summer months can provide a college student with opportunities to build a career base through experience, which we call experiential learning. These learning experiences have many advantages:
· Incorporates classroom learning with working world experiences.
· Helps identify potential career paths and improve career decision making.
· Helps pay for college expenses.
· Teaches valuable job-search skills
· Provides work experience and improves post-graduation job prospects.
Whether it be through internships, cooperative education programs, job shadowing or volunteering, these can be opportunities for your son to acquire experience and develop skills. It is good to plan ahead and it is not too soon to make definite plans for the summer months. Summer will come sooner than we think.
Q. I am a single Mom. My freshman daughter is home from college for a month break. I missed her so much. She seems to be doing well in her studies and seems happy at college. Give me some helpful ways to maintain an even better relationship while she is at home.
A. Single parents sometimes have a more difficult role to play in the college transition process. They often must be both father and mother, so communication becomes extremely important. All parents may have to spend more time than they are used to that freshman year listening to their young adult, but it will be worth the effort while your child is adjusting. Research shows that one of the most common complaints from teens is that their parents don’t listen. The best way to become a good active listener is to practice, practice, practice. Listen more carefully. Maybe there is a reason we have two ears and only one mouth. Try shifting your communication style from that of an “adult-to-child” type of communication to an “adult-to-adult” type of communication. When you make that shift, the relationship building with your daughter really begins and will then last a lifetime. Trust me. The effort is worth it. In the final analysis, you and your daughter will eventually become best friends.
Q. How can I help my daughter understand the value of a credit card and encourage her to use restraint when considering credit card purchases? Her credit card bill is growing each month.
A. Credit cards are generally used impulsively. Many college students do not think through the potential negative consequences of credit card spending and credit card debt. Credit card companies market heavily on college campuses and give free gifts to lure students into simply “signing up” for a credit card. No longer are there credit card applications to complete. We are in a world where one can choose instant credit and instant gratification. You can help your daughter understand the implications and responsibilities of having credit cards. Learning to manage credit is a part of the basic skills in modern life. You may want to include the following questions in your discussion.
· Why have a credit card?
· How do interest rates work?
· When will my credit rating be established?
· Can my potential landlord and/or future employer check my credit history?
· Explain what a debit card is.
· What is Consumer Credit Counseling Service?
Most of all, teach by example.
Q. My college freshman still has not declared a major. He says he’s not sure what he wants to major in. How important is this?
A. Declaring a major helps give a student some direction toward a particular field of study. The goal is to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare him for a career in that field. Encourage him to connect to his advisor and to the career center on his campus soon to begin to explore his options. Numerous campuses have wonderful centers that encourage freshmen to start career planning during their freshman year. It makes sense. The relationship of college majors to careers varies. Obviously, if your son wants to become an engineer, he needs to major in engineering. Nurses major in nursing. Pharmacists major in pharmacology. They do this in order to be certified as an engineer, nurse, or pharmacist. Most career fields, however, do not require a specific major. So, engineering, history, nursing, or English majors might choose to become bank managers, sales representatives, career counselors, production managers, or any number of things. And, in most cases, a college major alone is not enough to land a job. Keep in mind that college students on average change their major three to five times during their college career. Be patient. Urge your son to keep his eye on the big picture and keep in mind the ultimate goal with every decision: graduation day and connecting to the workforce.
Q. My son is working on completing college applications. His counselor suggested applying to 4 or 5 colleges or universities. How can we make sure he is applying to the colleges that are right for him?
A. It may sometimes seem overwhelming when families have their children start making choices about which colleges to apply to. However, you must realize there are 1600 colleges out there, not just 16. Therefore, there is a place for everyone who chooses to attend college. Basically, you consider 3 things:
· Student’s qualifications
· Student preferences
· A good fit
Grades, extracurricular activities, motivation, and SAT scores all play a part in a college’s perusal of a student’s qualifications. The weight each college places on different aspects of a student’s qualifications may vary. Parents need to remember. It is the student going off to college, not the parents. Therefore, it is important to listen to the student’s preferences of a college. It may be the location. It may be a student wants to go to college close to home. It may be he wants to go as far from home as he can get. It may be the size of the school or the school that has the particular major he is looking for, if he has made that decision. Finances will enter the picture. What amount of financial support is the family willing and/or able to contribute to the expense of a college education? This needs to be clear in order for the student to determine how much he will have to earn through jobs, scholarships and/or college loans or a combination of these sources of funds. Is the choice of a particular college important enough to him to go into debt if enough scholarship monies are not available? These are questions the student needs to address with the parent’s help. How do you describe “a good fit?” I hear students say about a college, “this place is perfect for me.” That makes it a good fit. How can we describe this? It varies. But, when it happens, the student knows it, and the parent should know it ultimately, because they will have a happy and successful student on that particular campus which he chose.
Q. The Thanksgiving holidays are here. I am so excited as my daughter, a college freshman, will be home. How can my husband and I make the most of her visit?
A. Make her feel welcome. Listen, listen, listen. That is why God gave us two ears, and only one mouth! Your daughter will have experienced a great deal during this first semester of college.
Mid-term exams have been completed, which should give her a good sense of how she is doing academically and how much more she may have to do to reach her goals. Communication is so important. Continue to build mutual respect on an adult-to-adult level. She is responsible for her life and for attaining her goals. Ask the questions to get some sense of how things are going. She may or may not want to discuss some issues that are on her mind. Many college freshmen tell me they want to share their college experiences with their parents. Students also say they need assurance that their parents still love them and care about them.
Q. My son mentions his roommate has his girlfriend spend the night sometimes in their room. That bothers my son. Any suggestions?
A. Such behavior as you describe has become much more acceptable within our society as a whole, as well as on college and university campuses. There are some students who could be classified as sexually promiscuous. However, it does not make that behavior right. When a student pays for a room with one roommate, then that is exactly what that means. There are only two people sharing that room and the rent for that room. There are generally three different ways of handling problems with roommates. In the first way, one or the other roommate just leaves the room most of the time. In this situation they are avoiding dealing with the problem. The second way is when one roommate goes to the administrator, area coordinator, or counselor to discuss the problem. Usually all residence halls have someone to talk to about roommate situations. This occurs more frequently with freshmen during the second month of school. The third way to deal with roommate problems is for both roommates to sit down and say, “Look, we’ve got a problem; I don’t like what’s going on; let’s work it out.” I often share what some upper-class college students have told me in dealing with roommate situations: Do not compromise your values, but compromise. Compromise your situation maybe, but not what you believe in. You have to be strong. Believe in yourself and your values and you will do just fine on the college campus. Hopefully, your son will speak up for himself.
Q. My daughter is doing well academically. But, she is still feeling that she doesn’t “fit in” to the college scene. How can I help?
A. Praise her. Encourage her. Her efforts have paid off and she is keeping her eye on the prize, college graduation, where academics are important. Listen to her apprehensions about getting involved in what she terms the “college scene.” What does she mean by this? It is important that a student connect to the college campus. Perhaps, she can find some club or extra-curricular activity that interests her. Generally, that means she will begin to meet other students with similar interests as hers. Volunteering is another avenue to explore. When she thinks ahead toward college graduation and the workforce, remind her that employers want to know what else students do on the college campus in addition to their class work. Volunteering is an integral part of the big picture of student life and can enlarge a young person’s view of the world of work. Every decision she makes will help her toward her ultimate goal.
Q. My daughter is a senior in high school. She says she doesn’t need college and wants to just get a job after her high school graduation. What is the job market success for a high school graduate?
A. Many years ago, high school grads came out of high school with basic knowledge and skills and could be employed in a work force whereby they could get lifelong, well-paying work in a factory. This is no longer the case. Today, and especially in our state, North Carolina, our economy is changing. We are moving to an advanced manufacturing and information technology job market, where high school grads earn an average of $15,000/year less than college grads. Most of the fastest-growing job sectors require higher education. In North Carolina, statistics tell us to be a successful and productive citizen, one needs two years beyond high school. Whether it be on-the-job training, 2-year community college or technical school, or a 4-year college or university. Therefore, I would encourage her to look beyond high school for further education. Ask her to visit the local career/counseling centers at CPCC, the community college in Charlotte, and/or other local colleges and universities to begin exploring the world of work and career paths. In addition to traditional careers, we’ve seen an explosion of new careers and job titles, since the technology revolution. Your daughter needs to know her education is her most valuable asset right now and is the key to open up a whole new world of opportunity. However, only she can tap into this opportunity with her effort, hard work, and commitment to reach her goals.
Q. When my freshman son was home recently from college, he stated he was unhappy with the college scene and says college isn’t for him. He said he failed his first test in Honors English. He did go back for the remainder of the semester, but we are looking for advice.
A. As parents, we know that high school seniors have learned to work the system in high school. They study the night before a test, and most of what they study is memorization. College is different and students must study way before the night before the test and work with a schedule to help them manage time. A similarly stated case was a student at the University of Georgia. He failed his first test in Political Science, called home and said, “Come get me because I’m not college material.” His parents said, “Buck up. We’re not coming to get you. Go see your professor.” When he did, his professor helped him learn how to read the material , how to best listen to his lectures, and offered tips on how to take the next test. The student did everything the professor suggested and made the highest grade in the class. He learned a powerful lesson - how to learn. Students need encouragement, but as parents, we know our kid best. Our gut feeling sometimes tells us which way to go in some situations. What may work with one student may not work with another. Ultimately, it is the student who has to do the doing. There are resources on every college campus that a student can tap into to get the help they need to make a successful transition to college and ongoing academic help when needed.
Q. Although our son seems to be adjusting to the college life, his handling of his finances worries us. He doesn’t seem to make ends meet at the end of a month, and he doesn’t see the need to balance his checkbook and then wonders why the bank doesn’t agree with what he should have in the bank.
A. Many freshmen have difficulty in understanding why they need to make a budget and why balancing their checkbook regularly is important to help keep them on track. Students sometimes say, “If my Mom or Dad had only explained the banking process to me…” and parents often ask me about the best way to help their young adults set up a personal finance program. Parents can help by showing their students how to balance a checkbook and read a bank statement, or by having them make an appointment with the customer service representative at their bank. All banks are happy to sit down with the student and explain the instructions for reconciling a bank statement, and students may actually listen to a person who isn’t their parent. If you are providing funds for him regularly, I would suggest a monthly allowance rather than a lump sum for the semester or year. That may help him to learn to budget monthly and learn to stick to it. As the Christmas holidays approach, remind him that getting a job at home part-time during the holidays will help defray college costs or provide extra spending money. One student landed a job as a bank teller during his Christmas break freshman year. During the rest of his four years of college, the bank utilized him ongoing whenever he had a day, a few days or an entire week. Besides the money earned, this provided him with valuable work experience, exposure to the financial world and a credible reference for his resume upon reaching his goal – college graduation!
Q. My daughter at college for the first time says her assigned roommate is unbearable. She wants to change roommates and is asking us for advice.
A. It sounds like your daughter is asking for your permission to change roommates. However, she needs to make that decision. On all campuses I have visited, residence hall counselors are readily available for those who ask for help in working through their roommate problems. Counselors at the student health centers on campus also are available to discuss roommate situations and options in dealing with those situations. I usually tell students that by changing roommates during those first few weeks, their only choices are others who also don’t get along with their roommate. If the problems encountered with the roommate are not too great and if they stick it out first semester, they each have time to search for another roommate who may be more compatible. All of my surveys of college-bound high school seniors indicate that getting along with a roommate is still the number one concern or anxiety among college-bound high school seniors as they look toward their freshman year. Many give up too soon with trying to work out roommate difficulties. Sometimes, they miss out on a rich learning experience and the benefits that come from associating with another person who is not exactly like them. As parents, listen, listen, listen, but let your young adult come up with options for a workable solution.
Q. My daughter will soon be coming home from college for fall break. I can’t wait to see her. My friends tell me things will be different. What do they mean?
A. All parents need to recognize that when your children go off to the college campus they will change. Your student has been away from home and has had a vastly different experience being on a college campus. That first visit home can be stressful for parents as well as students. Parents just haven’t had a chance to catch up with the changes in their students’ lives in such a short period of time. Make changes that will fit into your household; take time to talk with your young adult, building mutual respect, and bring your communication level to an adult-to-adult level. Whether the potential conflicts may be about curfew, chores, or responsibilities, students feel they shouldn’t be treated the same way they were when they were seniors in high school and living at home. For example, your daughter may need some leeway to decide how to manage her hours while at home. She needs to know you have faith in her decision about when to go out and when to come home. Students’ schedules on a college campus are vastly different from your schedule at home. College freshmen are growing and changing at a rapid rate during this transition process. However, your daughter also needs to respect your wishes, whatever you decide, because it is still your own household. Consider making some changes, though, for this first visit home.
Q. Academic success at college has been our goal for our daughter. However, since she started her freshman year, we are concerned that academic success may not still be as high a priority on her list. How can we help?
A. Your daughter probably is still wanting the same thing – academic success. But, the first semester brings so many changes that sometimes their focus on what’s really important is out of focus. College freshmen have a transition period to work through first. They have to meet some of the needs that are most important to them, such as making new friends, before they can settle down to the business of academic success. As parents, stress the importance of a schedule to help organize and manage her time. If you sense she may be in academic trouble, ask questions such as:
· What do you find most challenging with your coursework?
· Have you considered scheduling an appointment with your professor, dean, or academic advisor?
If she finds studying difficult, the counseling centers on most campuses offer workshops on “How to Study More Effectively” or “Taking Good Notes.” There are so many resources on a college campus to help any student achieve academic success. But, the student has to take the initiative to utilize these resources and find the help they need to reach their goals. Be patient and remember not to judge her entire college experience on her first semester grades.
Q. My son, a college freshman, calls so often asking for money that I almost feel like he thinks I am the bank. How can I best handle these calls?
A. One of the most difficult adjustments for college freshmen is managing money. As a parent, you may have just paid the college tuition and room and board and now your student is asking for more money. Students in college do have the added stress of managing their money, many times without the financial help from the parents. The decision about who pays for what needs to be clear, and this decision will vary greatly from family to family. Help him set up a budget. More than likely, his requests are not emergencies. They are probably “wants” versus real “needs.” I used to tell my children, “Your poor planning is not my emergency.” The more often you respond to requests for more money for obvious “wants,” the more calls you will continue to receive.
Q. My son is a junior in high school, class of 2006. He wants to attend college and knows he will need to take the SAT. They say it’s a new test and he can take the old or new SAT. What is your advice?
A. The new SAT I, a college entrance exam, will first be administered in March, 2005. The class of 2006 can choose to take the current SAT before then or wait and take the new SAT I. Along with more advanced math content, the new SAT I will include a new writing section that includes multiple-choice grammar problems and an essay. Brian O’Reilly, the College Board’s executive director of SAT information and services, says the new SAT I is a better, more useful exam that emphasizes the importance of writing and looks more like what students face every day in their high school classrooms. Adding the writing portion to the new SAT I, I feel, is a step in the right direction, by focusing on important communication skills. As employers seek for competent college graduates for their work force, they are increasingly looking for students who possess excellent written and oral communication skills. Whichever one of the exams your son chooses to take, or if he chooses to take both, taking any SAT is like any other skill. Practice makes perfect. In either case, I recommend obtaining a copy of The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT, available in October from the College Board.
Q. My husband and I are leaving our oldest child, Edward, off on the college campus soon. What can help ease my feelings of concern and fear?
A. There are times when as parents logic and reason leave us and emotion sets in. This is one of those times when it is okay. I describe my feelings in leaving my fourth child on the campus much like my freshman son described his feelings as we left him—exciting but a little bit scary. Let’s talk about the scary part first. As parents, what are our main concerns?
· Distractions keeping our child from focusing on an academic education?
· Time-management. How is he or she going to manage all that free time without our help?
Let’s talk about the exciting part. As parents we have the opportunity to write the next chapter of our book of life. Our lifestyle will change somewhat and I need to be prepared. I was prepared; yet I cannot deny the tears I tried to fight back as I said goodbye to my freshman. And, I’ll always remember my parting words to him “Love ya,” and his response, “I love you too.” I didn’t want him to see the tears as we stood outside his residence hall in the night, but I can sense he knew what I felt. “Letting go” is not easy, but it is a necessary step in the life of parents. “Letting go” allows our child the freedom of writing his own new chapter of his book of life. After all, being a college freshman gives students the opportunities for new beginnings. I, along with many parents, need to make the most of my opportunity for a new beginning as well. Exciting but a little bit scary? You bet!
Q. My daughter did not apply to college, yet now as many of her friends are leaving for the college campus, she is feeling that she may have made a mistake and is re-thinking college. What can we do to help guide her in this process?
A. You are right. It is a process. She still has options. The local colleges/universities are a good place to start as well as Central Piedmont Community College, which has an open-door policy. Start by having your daughter set up an appointment with an academic counselor to explore various options on a particular campus. There may be a way to take one or two courses this fall for credit. Perhaps choose coursework in a particular field of interest to her. This allows her to begin looking at various career choices, while living close to home. There are students who are not yet ready to leave home, and being able to attend college while still living at home is certainly a good choice for some. Research tells us that in North Carolina a person needs two years beyond high school to be a productive citizen, whether that be on-the-job training, a community college or technical school, or a 4-year college or university. The main advice is to encourage her to create a “plan” for today and at least the next year to three years out. She then can refer to the goals she has set for herself and see the progress at each step of the way.
Q. How can I best communicate with my college freshman now that she is starting her freshman year?
A. Let me share a story of a college student admitting to apprehensive feelings when preparing to start her freshman year. “How am I going to know what to do when I get there and my Mom and Dad leave?”, Kim asks herself. “Even though you always try to think of yourself as grownup and independent, when you get there, you feel how small you are.” That was Kim’s greatest fear before she left for college. Parents can alleviate some of these fears by establishing a pattern of communication, such as writing weekly letters by regular mail or e-mail. “Care packages” are always a welcome sight, especially during exams or at other stressful times. Phone calls are another way to continue to communication from home to college. However, be sensitive to the fact that many college students stay up late, so don’t choose eight in the morning to call when you are fresh, wide awake and ready to go. Your student may not be so alert. Perhaps set up a time suitable for both of you on a regular basis. That way you are more able to have a meaningful conversation. In any event, remember why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Listen more; talk less!
Q. The college my son is attending this fall will hold a “Parent’s Weekend.” My son tells us it is not important that we attend. What do you think?
A. Listen to what he doesn’t tell you. He may really want you there, but may sometimes be timid about making a big deal of it. After all, they are told they are supposed to handle all the stress of college life on their own! Yet parents’ weekend provides a meaningful opportunity for a family to communicate. In my experience with my four children and hearing other parent’s comment, it’s very worthwhile to go. Parents’ weekend can give you a glimpse of your child’s life on campus. You can see how he has decorated his room, meet his roommate and new friends, and see how he manages in his new environment. This is a good time to look into the window of college life your child is experiencing. You should come home with some idea of how well the transition from home to college has progressed.
Q. Help me understand why college tuition bills are mailed to parents, but grade reports are the confidential privacy of the students only and are mailed directly to the students. If I am paying the bills, why can’t I see the grades?
A. The 1974 Federal Education Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA) specifies that students older than 18 are legally adults; therefore, personal information, judicial, and academic information which includes grades, must go directly to the students. When I speak to parents of soon-to-be college freshmen, most of the parents are not aware of this law. At parent orientation sessions, many universities and colleges will make parents aware that there is a waiver form a student can obtain and sign which can grant waiving the student rights under FERPA for an academic year. The student must obtain the form, sign it, and return it to the university or college. In more recent years, more and more college campuses are now making grades available on line directly to the student, which is accessible only by his password. This makes it more convenient for the student and saves mailing costs for the university or college. In all cases, sit down and communicate with your soon-to-be college freshman. It is the most beneficial thing parents can do. Discuss your concerns about your wanting to know his grades and why. In my opinion, when I pay for my children’s college tuition, I expect to see the grades. If my children were paying their entire college tuition, I would still expect to see the grades.
Q. My daughter is talking about joining a sorority at college. Fraternities and sororities on college campuses seem to have bad reputations. What advice do you have?
A. On some college campuses, sororities and fraternities, which have come to be known as Greek organizations, offer students an opportunity to feel a sense of identification and belonging. Most look to them as social organizations; however, they also offer leadership opportunities, give awards for academic achievements and campus honors, and a chance to participate in a national philanthropic cause or to get involved in community or campus service projects. Sororities often serve as a springboard for connecting to the university or college by encouraging additional involvement in other student campus organizations. Their reputations vary from campus to campus. Therefore, your child may want to look into what percentage of the student population is involved in Greek life, what other clubs or organizations are of interest to her, how will Greek life fit into her reaching her academic goals, and how expensive is it to join a sorority. Some college campuses rush students during the first week, others wait until 2nd semester and a few only permit Greek organizations to rush during their sophomore year of college. Rush includes a series of activities such as open houses, parties, and late night snacks. These activities give those students indicating a desire to join a Greek organization the opportunity to know members in a variety of Greek groups, in order to make a valid choice. It can be time consuming. There are advantages and disadvantages and it depends on the campus.
Q. As time is getting nearer to my son leaving for the college campus, how can I help my son manage his finances while at college?
A. If you haven’t, it is not too late to have that conversation with your son about budgeting, managing money, and handling credit. Begin by creating a sample budget to use as a tool for this discussion. Money management is a part of the basic skills in modern life. All college students will face basic money issues. A budget will help him visualize the types of expenses he will have to pay for. Maintaining his checking account and learning how to balance his checking account is important. How to use an ATM machine and knowing that using an ATM machine for a bank other than his own bank will result in a service charge on his account is useful information. Many times, college students are lured into taking credit cards with the offer of ‘free’ gifts, just for accepting a credit card. He needs to know what the contractual obligations are of owning and utilizing a credit card. How do interest rates work? When will my credit rating be established? Explain what a debit card is. Help him devise a budget, adjust it when needed, yet still come out with a balanced budget at the end of his freshman year.
Q. What good book can you recommend for parents of college freshmen?
A. I recommend my own book, A New Beginning: A Survival Guide for Parents of College Freshmen (newly revised 2nd edition, $12.95).
A New Beginning: A Survival Guide for Parents of College Freshmen provides a realistic and practical look at campus life, but it also offers time management tips, a guide to getting the most from classes and study hours, and also helps parents and freshmen plan a budget. It also gives parents advice about keeping lines of communication open while allowing their children to develop the autonomy and decision making skills they need to flourish in college. Watching your children go off to college can be both exhilarating and scary. You are proud of your children’s desire to continue their education. At the same time you wonder if they are prepared to cope with the challenges ahead. For many young people, going off to college represents the first time they are autonomous and not accountable to parents on a day-to-day basis. Some may revel in their independence a bit too much, which quite naturally is a concern to parents. I believe parents must understand the realities of college life. Alcohol and drugs are always available and we shouldn’t deny that crime on college campuses is a serious problem. Beyond that, many young people must cope with new academic demands while also learning to manage their finances and time. By the time our children go off to college, we have done our job. We have passed on our values and provided love and guidance. Now it’s time to trust them as they embark on their new adventure. Our job is to still provide emotional support and love, while at the same time, we let them go!
Q. Can you help us in making decisions about what to take to college in the fall?
A. The summer months will find high school graduates trying to decide whether to take their CD players, VCR, TV, bicycles, and whether to pack their skis or pick them up at Thanksgiving. Residence hall rooms are usually small. It is a good idea for your student to make contact with his/her roommate over the summer to avoid duplication of items. As parents, our priorities may focus on appropriate clothing, bedding, and essentials such as a dictionary, an alarm clock, a laundry bag and shower pail. The need for computer equipment will vary from campus to campus. Find out what is provided and/or what is required by the college or university. Will the residence hall room have ample hook-ups for computers? Are the rooms carpeted or are the floors bare, in which case an inexpensive rug can make a student room feel “homey,” Are there drapes needed? Some of these items can be picked up cheaply at a yard sale. I have found a special item to include is a collage of their high school years or senior year including family pictures. Students can easily do this over the summer using poster board. It will help bridge the gap from home to the college campus.
Q. How can college freshmen handle working a job along with their class load?
A. With rising tuition costs, many families find their students need to hold a job not only in the summer but also during their freshman year in college. If this is your situation, encourage your student to work on campus. Even though the pay may be less, there are advantages in getting to know another professor on campus who could later serve as a recommendation on a resume when graduation comes. Generally, professors understand a student’s first priority is academic success. Therefore, if an exam is coming, professors are usually more flexible with a student’s work hours to accommodate study time. Again, “connecting” to a campus is important. Keep in mind a student needs to balance his schedule with the number of hours needed for class, study, and work, in order to be successful on the college campus.
Q. My daughter is planning to room with her best friend. Is this a good idea?
A. No. However, it is her decision. One of the biggest adjustments students will have to make in the first few weeks involves getting along with their roommate. If she is adamant that she wants to room with her best friend, suggest what students who have completed their freshman year in college recommend. That is to make an agreement to room for one semester or one year, with the stipulation that they will each find other roommates after that time. Usually one or the other is ready to move on after one semester, but doesn’t want to hurt the friend’s feelings. By agreeing to change roommates after a semester or a year, feelings aren’t hurt and the two can usually remain good friends. They also have more opportunity to go out and make new friends during their college years.
Q. Should I allow my son to take a car to college as a freshman?
A. The decision about whether to have a car on the college campus during the freshman year will vary greatly from family to family. Some things to consider:
· Convenience to drive home from college and back.
· Exploitation by fellow students to run errands for them, thereby utilizing time slots that may better be used for study.
· Automobile insurance regulations when others borrow the car.
· Expense of car with gas, insurance, and repairs.
In most cases, my recommendation is to leave the car at home at least for the first semester, if not the entire freshman year. Some campuses do not allow cars for freshmen students. It is another distraction that freshmen have to contend with. Most campuses provide convenient student transportation such as bus shuttles to cover the entire campus. Students need to “connect” to the college campus their freshmen year. They will have many distractions to keep them from focusing on why they are in college. A car is something most college freshmen do not need. I suggest saving money for a car to have when they leave for their sophomore year in college. They will then have something to look forward to.
Q. Now that my son has made his decision to attend North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, we are concerned that he has no idea what he plans to major in. What advice can you give us?
A. Many students do not have a clear idea of what they want to focus on as they prepare to leave for the college campus. In your case, at least your son is planning to be on a college campus with a multitude of choices for majors with strong coursework and degree programs. Statistics tell us that college students change their majors an average of four to five times during their college career. Encourage him to utilize the career counseling center on campus to help him assess his abilities, interests and educational options. Suggest he include one class that first semester in a subject area that may serve as a potential major. This will help him begin to gauge his interest.
Q. My daughter is planning to attend UNC-Charlotte. As an Hispanic/Latino, what information might be helpful to my daughter as she makes the transition to a university where she will be in the minority?
A. The sooner your daughter “connects” to the college campus, the greater success she will have. One suggestion is to look into the “freshmen learning communities” that UNC-Charlotte offers. What this does is group freshmen students by a projected major or those undecided as to a major under Arts and Sciences. A new learning community is now offered in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Students in these learning communities attend certain required classes with the same group of students. This helps incoming freshmen in finding a peer group to identify with. In addition, UNC-Charlotte offers a Freshman Seminar class which I highly recommend to any freshman student. This class invites outside speakers who deal with a wide range of topic areas of interest such as exploring careers and study abroad opportunities. There is also a Latin American Student Organization that promotes Hispanic culture on campus and in the greater Charlotte community as well as a Multi-cultural Resource Center on campus. Connecting to the college campus helps a student feel a sense of belonging, and from there she can begin to reach out to determine what resources will be most helpful as she begins to make more of her career and life choices.
Q. My daughter and her friends seem to have “senioritis.” They feel they have been accepted to a college or university and that this semester’s high school work will not count much, so why study? Please help.
A. “Senioritis” is a slang term referring to that time of year for a high school senior when studying and focusing on what is important in the classroom no longer holds as much importance to some young people as they are easily distracted and find themselves looking ahead to high school graduation and the beginning of their college career. A wonderful topic to discuss at this time of year to counteract the effects of this systemic condition is time-management. More than ever, they need to learn to make the best use of their time. Whether they use an ordinary calendar, Microsoft Outlook program, or a planner book to organize their time, encourage them to utilize these tools to sharpen their time-management skills. Managing time in college is one of the biggest challenges for all college freshmen. Studies show that poor use of time is the biggest single reason that freshmen do not maintain at least a C average. Surveys of undergraduate students continually show that 70 percent or more of the students report that their greatest personal need is to manage time more effectively. Do they have a schedule written down so that they can see how successful they are in balancing their time for study, social, family, church, volunteer, work, and exercise. Creating awareness of the importance this skill will become in managing time in college will help to alleviate additional stress when they arrive on the college campus in August. Remind then also that most colleges and universities have accepted them in the winter and spring of their senior year in high school with the condition that their last semester of high school work continues to stay at the same caliber or better. Their final high school grades will count.
Q. We have talked with our son about our willingness to pay for his college tuition, room and board. What other budget items need to be discussed?
A. Begin by creating a sample budget to use as a tool in discussing money management. Besides tuition, room and board, student expenses range from books, lab fees, meals, and club dues to dry cleaning, laundry, gasoline, and telephone. Decide who is paying for what and be aware of the hidden expenses. Be clear in your expectations of who pays for what. No matter what amount of money your son had, it will never be enough. Again, budgeting becomes very important. The decision about who pays for what needs to be clear, and this decision will vary greatly from family to family. Be honest with your family finances before your son leaves for college. Go over a college budget with your son.
Q. My son has narrowed his college choices to two schools that he was accepted at. These top two choices are so vastly different. I don’t understand why he cannot make his decision now rather than waiting until May 1st, the deadline to notify these schools of his decision.
The reasons students choose one school over another are generally very different from what parents feel the reasons should be. Many times their reasons may be somewhat mundane such as the weather, the size of the school, distance from home and high school friends. They think about such things as “Will I fit in?” “Where are my high school friends going?” Parents, on the other hand, may want them to consider such things as tuition, size of classes for freshmen, academic standing of the school, prestige factor, or opportunities for campus involvement. You may be concerned about TA’s (teaching assistants) in the classroom versus full fledged professors. You may want to know about campus resources to help your student in particular areas where you know this help will be needed. Periodically, you may want to listen to your son and ask questions which may help him in this decision-making process. Your son may not feel the pressure to make a decision before the school is requesting his decision. Respect his wishes. When he is ready, he will make it. Trust he will make the best decision for what he feels is right for him.
Q. My daughter has applied to four colleges and is still awaiting responses, so the choice has not been finalized. However, our family is already feeling “separation anxiety.” This is our first child going off to college and our family is very close. What advice do you have?
A. College is a new beginning. As my fourth child described his feelings as we left him at a university 700 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina—exciting but a little bit scary. As parents, try to focus on the positive aspects of college life. Look at the opportunities that your daughter will have on each of these college campuses. Talk about the things your family values most, the importance of an education in order to lead a productive life, the closeness of your family, how important your daughter is to your family and how proud you are that she has chosen to further her education. During this process, you have a real opportunity to move your level of communication from ‘adult to child’ to ‘adult to adult,’ as your daughter is in the transition process to becoming an adult.
Q. My son graduates from high school in June. He plans to attend UNC-Charlotte in the fall. However, he has no idea what he wants to major in. How can I help him decide?
Encourage your son to connect to the career center on his campus during his freshman year. Colleges are paying increasing attention to retention and addressing the fact that so many students are not graduating. So, numerous campuses, including UNC-Charlotte, have wonderful career centers that encourage freshmen to start career planning during their freshman year. It makes sense. The sooner they ‘connect’ to a major, the sooner they will be able to plan for a career. Career centers provide resources for students to explore potential jobs and then they are in a better position to determine what majors may be helpful in attaining their career goal. While he is exploring certain fields and taking coursework to help determine whether that is an area he would like to major in, ask him to consider these learning experiences while in college:
· Internships during the summer months.
· Cooperative Education Programs.
· Job shadowing.
Q. My daughter, a high school senior, is so excited about leaving for college in the fall. She can’t wait for what she calls the freedom and independence of being a college freshman. As parents, we are not sure she is ready to handle all the freedom and independence that college life offers.
A. With freedom comes responsibility. One study has reported that this generation coming is the “most secular, worldly group of kids ever coming out of high school.” However, many are not able to sort out options and make good decisions. Many decisions young people make are neither right nor wrong, but somewhere in between. Your job as parents is to learn to ask questions in a non-judgmental way, in order to keep the communication process open and continue to support your daughter in helpful and meaningful ways as she transitions into the life of a college freshman.
Q. My son is starting to receive college acceptance and rejection letters. How do I help my child deal with the rejection letters?
A. Rejection is a normal part of life. Generally, I recommend that a student apply to 3-5 colleges. One of those schools should have been in the “easy to get into” category, based on criteria for that college or university. At least one should have been a college or university that he should be able to be admitted to, based on his qualifications. One additional application should go to a “stretch” school, meaning one he would love to be admitted to, but he isn’t sure his qualifications would meet their requirements for admission. Any of these schools he has applied to should be ones he has researched and would be happy to attend. Thus, when he starts receiving these letters, he should have at least one acceptance. What is important is to make sure your son opens his own mail. Do not hover over him as he reads these letters. He will share them with you when he is ready to talk to you about its contents. Be sensitive to his feelings and wait until he is ready to talk.
Q. The decision as to which college or university to attend seems to bring such agony and indecisiveness to my daughter. How can I help in this decision?
A. When your daughter is ready to make a final decision, make sure it is her decision, not yours. She is the one who is choosing to attend college, not her parents. You may help in the decision making process by asking questions or asking her to list the pros and cons of each college or university. Many times, when they can see these differences on paper, they are better able to think through the process and come to a better decision based on that process. You can then ask why. Tuition, size of college or university, proximity to family and home, choice of variety of majors, professors or where friends are choosing to go, may be some of the criteria your daughter may list as important to her.
Q. My son has been accepted to three colleges. His first choice is a private college. The tuition is $30,000 per year. There is no way we can afford this tuition, but I don’t want his hope of attending this college to be shattered. How is the best way to handle this?
A. If you haven’t talked about how to finance his college education before now, it is not too late to do so. Be honest when talking about your family’s finances. Managing their money is added stress for students, but when parents make it clear from the start how much money they are willing and/or able to spend on their children’s college education, they will understand better what they are responsible for. There are times when students are willing to take out loans, submit applications for scholarship money, or enter into a work-study college program, in order to attend their first choice of colleges. Being clear about who pays for what will help in the decision making process.
Q. My son is a high school senior and has not applied to college. Now, he has changed his mind, and wants to go to college. What choices are available for him?
A. Some colleges have rolling admissions policies, which means they accept qualified applicants ongoing until they complete their enrollment process, which may vary. Another option is the community college. Here in Charlotte, North Carolina, Central Piedmont Community College has approximately 40% of its students who are enrolled in college credit classes. CPCC has an open door policy, which means they accept everyone. There is no application deadline. A prospective student can meet with an academic counselor at CPCC in Student Support Services to explore the student’s needs, to help look at options, to set goals and come up with a plan of action. In this way, if a student is wanting to graduate from a 4-year college or university, he/she could feasibly complete the first 2 years at the community college, earn an Associates of Arts degree (AA) and transfer directly into a 4-year institution as a junior. Many times, these students who come from community colleges do better at a 4-year institution transferring in as a junior than those who have started at that institution as a freshman. There are many advantages to this option, including staying close to home, meeting students of all ages, ethnicity, creeds, and reducing the burden of expenses. Encourage your son to explore this option among others. It is not too late.