Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Transition for Parents of College Bound Students

By Candace Powell Kinard

Parenting Young Adults.  If this is your first child going off to college, understand that things will be different.  As you know, children are growing and maturing and will develop their own believes and opinions in the process.  Their experience in college will promote an even greater opportunity for them to experience new things and form even more thoughts and opinions.  As a parent, this is where you begin to learn how to communicate with your children as they are developing into young adults. Treating them as if they are the same or as if they are still kids, will likely create an awkward relationship, stress the communication or cause strife in your household.  Learn who they are as they grow and how to communicate with them.  This can be done while still having rules, structure and being a parent.

Discuss Your Expectations Before Your Student Leaves. 
Suggested discussion topics:
New House rules- If they intend to commute to college and living at home or when the students come home during breaks, what are the new or remaining house rules and expectations.  It is likely that rules will change though they still live at home.  They will need space and room to grow and mature.
House chores – If student live at home or come home for visits, don’t expect that they will have the same amount of time they had while in high school.  Academic expectations in college are much more demanding and the freshman year is all about learning time management.  Poor time management is the number one reason that students are not successful in the freshman year and end up with poor grades or are dismissed.  Discuss their responsibilities of being a member of the family and of the house and compromise on their household responsibilities. 
How late to stay out and come in- College students inevitably become night owls which may or may not work well when they come home.  Establish rules and guidelines that take into consideration and are fair to all members of the family.  Remind them that younger siblings are watching and paying attention to their actions and choices.
Communicating with Family- If they intend to live on campus, discuss the importance of communicating back home to family (and friends).   Encourage them to connect with family back home in order for you to hear how they are doing, but also because it’s important for them to hear your supportive voice every now and then.  Don’t push, prod or dig for information.  Let them share.   If there are younger siblings in the family they may feel the loss as well.  Though they may like the break, the younger sibling(s) will feel good if the older sibling periodically takes some interest in what’s going on in their younger sibling’s life too.  Sharing what it’s like to be a college student will also be great lessons for the younger sibling.  (just don’t ask about everything they talk about- give them some space -remember your college days – and you will understand that there are just some things you don’t want to know about)
Academics –Let them know you are supportive and remind them of any academic standards you have as a family or goals they have set for themselves. Discuss that if they are federal financial aid recipients they are required to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA to remain a recipient.   If they have scholarships that require that they maintain a particular GPA, review again each scholarship and their requirements to remain eligible.  
 Finishing and graduating from college are the ultimate goal.  However, so many students don’t get there for a variety of reasons and much of the lack of understanding starts in the freshman year.  Finances are definitely at the top of the list of challenges.  So keep the search for funding and scholarships going throughout their years in college. (more on that in future newsletters.) Critical to the student’s success, however, is having an understanding of the rules, regulations and guidelines established by the campus.  Including what options exist to drop an undesired class and register for a new on and what are the consequences of dropping classes, how many credits are needed to graduate generally and in their major,  how is a GPA calculated, etc.  It’s important to understand where students can get additional help if needed and they should be aware of whether professors available for assistance and when, where they can get tutoring, etc.

Budget and finance – Review all financial aid documents and arrangements.  The financial aid office may not be contacting parents directly anymore and will likely ask questions directly of the student (see FERPA topic below).  Make sure they understand how their financial aid works, their responsibilities and that they feel comfortable calling you right away with questions. 
Student Debt Cards and Money Issues:  Discuss also what access to money the student will have while at college.  Settle on reasonable spending dollar amounts and what to do in an emergency.  (no – a new hoodie from the school store is not an emergency) Check with your bank for shared checking accounts (you open a new and separate account, you deposit money and the student has access to the account using a debit card), and debit cards specifically for teens and college students.  Good time to have the conversation around being responsible with money.
Moral issues including dating and sex – While awkward, and depending on your relationship with your child, no doubt these issues could pose a challenge.  Better to try to broach the subject now than to find that the student has found themselves in a comprising situation.  Is your student leaving a girl/boy friend at home? What are their intentions?  Sexual abuse is a very hot topic on college campuses right now as well. Students, both male and female, need to feel comfortable, supported and should know where to go for help.  Have a candid conversation to remind students of any family religious or other moral issues.  Enlist the help of your faith based community for guidance and resources.  Most campuses also have departments (student affairs, health center, counseling, etc.) that also provide support and address these issues.

“Candace Powell Kinard is the Founder and Senior Consultant of EduDreamer, a higher education consultancy designed to motivate, inspire and assistant students and parents through the process of obtaining and paying for a college education.” “From EduDreamer, “What You Should Be Doing Now” Newsletter Summer 2015 Edition by Candace Powell Kinard.  Reprinted by permission of Candace Powell Kinard”

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