In order to help prepare your student for move-in day and orientation, there are a truckload of things to talk about. To help facilitate those discussions, here are a few topics we strongly encourage students and their families to go over BEFORE arriving on campus in August. For convenience sake, these have been broken down into four topic areas: communication, finances, academic expectations, and values.
Please note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Since students and their families all have different experiences and expectations, we seek only to raise areas for discussion, not to offer solutions. It is our hope that by talking about these topics, everyone involved in a student's transition to college will be better prepared for the upcoming challenges and changes.
How will students and their families keep in touch? By phone? Mail? Surprise visits? How often should you contact each other? Daily? Weekly?
Decide who will call, when, and how often. Most importantly, decide who will pay the bill. A word of caution: it is not unusual for the first month or two to have a phone bill that rivals the national debt.
Students live for mail. In fact, students plan their whole day around mail delivery. In case you were wondering, personal notes, articles from the local paper, cards and cash are all acceptable. Packages are always a hit.
Who will pay the bills sent by the College? Who will be responsible for following up on grant monies, financial aid, and student loans? How will spending money be allocated, where will it come from, and when will it get here? What will be the agreement for how the student can get more money if needed? Who buys the books? Should students get a part-time job to pay for some of this stuff? What about going to Florida for spring break? Whatever you decide, we encourage you to set up a checking account at a local bank. Not only will this make paying some of the bills easier, but it will provide for better money management than a credit card and should help build a credit history for the student.
Most students will take four or five courses a semester, each of which will involve a significant amount of work. Not only will students be adjusting to a new living environment, but they'll also be subject to much more intense academic pressure than they were while in high school. What kind of changes will students need to make in their study habits and time management skills? How will students and their families respond to grades which come in below expectations? Becoming familiar with the College's support services will come in handy when dealing with the academic environment.
Nowhere are a student's values more likely to be challenged and affirmed than during their years in college. Questions concerning alcohol and other drug use, sex, and religion will undergo both personal and group examination. Limits will be tested. Experimentation will take place. The structure and rules of home are no longer present. What's left are the values instilled over 17 or 18 years of family guidance. Discussing these topics within the family, though at times difficult and uncomfortable, can be an integral part of a student's success. Families need to encourage their students to manage their own affairs. They need to treat their students like adults and not jump in and do their work for them. What helps students the most is to know that their family is there to support them, to pick them up when they've fallen, dust them off, and send'em back into the fray when they've fallen.
One Last Thing to Consider:
At some point during the semester students are going to come home. They will have gone from house/family rules to a residence hall structured by group guidelines. Now they'll be coming home again. What should the rules be? Those that were in effect before they left for college, or a new, modified version? This will be an important issue to discuss before that first visit home.