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.
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 one of the most utilized and trusted sources of health information for students. College is the first time many students make 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, 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. If students do call home with legitimate roommate complaints, be supportive but encourage them to seek out their resident assistant (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. Faculty and staff work hard to communicate these expectations to students, but it is important that you also communicate your personal expectations.
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 & Dining. “Parents worry, and having a plan to hear that familiar voice once a week helps.”
Part of the college experience is learning to become an independent adult. For parents, that means learning to take a backseat. Resist the urge to fix your student’s problems; learning to navigate life’s bumps and ruts is invaluable to a student’s growth and development. Remember that students living on campus have a built-in support network that includes professional, experienced staff members and carefully selected and trained RAs.
The Office of Admissions offers advice for parents of first-year students at www.uiowa.edu/admissions/undergrad/parents/transition.