The University Parent – Part 1

The semester has started, and you have found yourself faced with a wealth of texts and social networking posts from your university student. “It’s too difficult!” “I can’t ask for help!” “My instructors hate me!” “There’s so much work to do!” “This is stupid busy work!” “This isn’t fair!”

And so on.

Being the Good Parent, you want to help your student. Back in the day, you provided band-aids for the invisible wound because it made the bumped knee “feel better” or you indulged the extra cookie after a rough day to soothe frazzled nerves. During elementary school, you emailed or called or met with the teacher to discover what was involved with reading assignments or math problems. In middle school, you met with the science teacher to get extra guidance regarding the projects so you could help your student. In high school, you met with the guidance counselor or resource professional to learn how to help your student with college applications. You proofread essays, drove to soccer practice, and sympathized with your student over the minor inconveniences of required academia.

Many university professionals understand. Away from the desk, many have young children of their own – they even keep the band-aids in their desks. Some even keep an emergency stash of chocolate or lollipops for the distraught student who shows up. They know, and they are in this profession because they have chosen to help young adults as they pursue a dream of higher education.

That’s an important distinction. These university professionals are helping young adults, not children. Your student may still be your ‘baby,’ but for the rest of the instructors, staff, and eventual employers, the student is a young adult who will have to take responsibility for academic decisions and course requirements. That means that your ‘baby’ will be treated like a young adult, with all rights and responsibilities therein.

At the university level, your student is expected to read a syllabus, attend classes regularly, and interact with faculty on a regular basis. As a parent, you can help your student adjust to the university with a few simple practices:

  1. Ask about the syllabus. Every class has one. During the first week, ask about the syllabus, the number of exams, the attendance policy, and any projects or papers. Encourage your student to write down due dates on a calendar.
  2. Encourage the student to talk to the professor. In the university environment, students take responsibility for their learning. Professors and instructors expect to interact with students, not their parents, in their quest to educate young adults. When a problem arises or a student has a question about the course, encourage the student to meet with the professor or send an email. As a young adult, a student enrolled at the university is expected to interact with the professor on a regular basis. Would you expect your parent or spouse to call your boss to intercede in a workplace dispute? Being a university student is a full-time job with multiple supervisors, and it is the responsibility of the student to initiate and maintain dialogue with the professor.
  3. Be informed. Before you take the student’s word that there is “nothing to do” or “no one to help,” take a moment to go through such important documents like the University Handbook or the Student Life website. Better yet, go through these with your student when conflicts arise. Mutual understanding of the policies and requirements can help you educate your student when it comes to working with university faculty.

What else can you do? Come back to our blog next month when we discuss how you can help your student manage the first round of exams as well as what you can do to empower your student if that first exam didn’t go as well as expected.

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