The Academic Talk Parents Should Have

Parents who send their children off to college often have a checklist of topics to discuss to prepare them for the upcoming semester. There are talks about alcohol and drugs, talks about relationships and safe sex, talks about technology usage, talks about budgets and spending, and even talks about how often parents want to get a phone call, text or email. But, how many parents talk about their academic expectations for their children during the first year, even the first semester?

From a student success perspective, not every student arrives at the university completely prepared for the challenges of the first year. It’s why we have classes like University Experience and Strategies for Success to help students learn those skills and explore resources on campus that help them realize their academic potential. At the same time, student success requires active student involvement, and some new students struggle with the challenges and distractions present in the first year. Academics can take a back seat to demands for social involvement, athletics, part-time employment, and the sheer freedom that the first semester provides.

As a parent, it’s important to agree upon ground rules for academics. Parents should emphasize class attendance and homework completion; they should support students’ education habits, not question a newfound work ethic or academic talent. What is an acceptable grade point average, and what happens if the student doesn’t maintain that GPA? From the university perspective, maintaining that minimum good standing of 2.0 is dangerous; going below that places a student on academic probation, which has both academic and financial ramifications. For many students on scholarship, a 2.6 is the acceptable minimum. Parents and students should agree upon what is considered acceptable when it comes to academic achievement; how many credits is a student expected to complete in a semeste? Sometimes students drop classes that are too difficult; when are students expected to retake the class, and what changes can they make to succeed in that class the second time?

And, one of the most difficult subjects when it comes to academics, is the moment at which the parent and student agree that perhaps this isn’t the right time for university coursework. Sometimes a student is not ready, but they struggle through four semesters before leaving school. By this time, their GPA is ruined and they have accumulated debt that will need to be paid off. Parents should talk frankly with their students about the circumstances that would require them to withdraw, and maybe consider what an acceptable back-up plan would be.

Parents should encourage their students to use their campus resources to assist them in their academic success. Attending group study sessions at the Academic Support Center, working with a writing instructor on a first essay, and checking out the CAPS information sessions about topics like homesickness, time management, and relationships are important extracurricular activities that can help students discover people and departments willing to partner with them for success during their first year at Florida Tech.

For more information about how parents can help their students prepare for the first year, check out this article at

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