How to help your student adjust to college…and ease your own transition
Encourage your student to balance social and academic life.
College is about more than academics; it’s a time to explore a variety of interests. With nearly 500 student organizations at Iowa, there truly is something for everyone. Plus, studies show that students engaged in extracurricular activities that are not alcohol-centered are much more likely to succeed.
Another important part of the college experience is learning to become an independent adult. For parents, that means learning to take a backseat. Fortunately, students living on campus have a built-in support network that includes professional, experienced staff members and carefully selected and trained resident assistants (RAs).
Keep your radar running.
Students meet regularly with academic advisors, and faculty members are available during established office hours, but parents should note some red flags: “Watch for things like falling behind in school work,” says Sam Cochran, director of University Counseling Service. “Or if students seem to have a negative spin on the entire experience—‘I don’t like my classes, my professors are unfair, I hate my roommate’—or if they feel sad about returning to the residence hall and their friends here, these could be warning signs.”
Help your student take charge of their health.
Parents are not only one of the most utilized sources of health information for students, but also one of their most trusted. College is the first time they will be making many health decisions on their own. Let them know that you support them, but that they are responsible for the consequences of their decisions. A good resource is the University’s Student Health Service web site at http://studenthealth.uiowa.edu.
Teach your student to respect others.
Prepare your student to be tolerant and respectful of others, and encourage him or her to establish ground rules with roommates for day-to-day living. (And, although it may be tempting, resist the urge to look up online profiles of your student’s roommates.) If students do call home with legitimate roommate complaints, be supportive but encourage them to seek out their RA, who can help them mediate conflicts. If problems continue, hall coordinators also may be consulted.
As a community, The University of Iowa has norms of accountability, civic engagement, and intolerance of violent, abusive, or destructive behavior of any kind. Faculty and staff work hard to communicate these expectations to students in a variety of ways, but it also is important that you communicate your personal expectations to your son or daughter.
Resist the urge to fix your student’s problems, because learning to navigate life’s bumps and ruts is invaluable to a student’s growth and development.
Share your expectations for communication before your student leaves: “Let them know, for example, ‘I would like to hear from you once a week. Call me on Sunday night,’” says Kate Fitzgerald, assistant director for residence life in University Housing and Dining. “Parents worry, and having a plan to hear that familiar voice once a week helps.”
by Linzee Kull McCray