Tips for Making the Transition
The transition to college often can bring mixed emotions for parents. While you may be doing less laundry, you may be writing more e-mail. And while the refrigerator may not be emptied nearly as quickly, you may now be worried about how well your child is eating. Your student is quickly becoming an adult, but he or she will never cease to be your child.
While some parents love the thought of their son or daughter gaining new independence and interests, others feel overwhelmed with trying to decide when or how to help. So, the best advice for all parents may be to relax and become as familiar with University resources as your student will be.
Attend the parent orientation program offered concurrent to your student’s Orientation program. Tour the campus, learn about academic resources, talk with current students, and hear advice from other parents. We’ll encourage you to think about your expectations—of your child, of the University, and of yourself.
Then, back home, you can rest assured with the knowledge you have learned. When your student calls, offer advice but don’t make decisions for them. Read between the lines of those late night e-mail messages to better guide them on when, where, and how to ask for help.
Admissions staff members offer these additional suggestions:
- Write a letter to your student, either during Orientation or just before the student leaves for college. Once it is tucked into their luggage, or mailed a few days after they leave, it will serve as a great reminder of how much you care and are there for them.
- Every Monday, send an e-mail with a positive message for the week. It can help students stay connected when faced with so many new experiences.
- Encourage your child to stay at school for at least the first two to four weeks of classes. It is the best way to adjust and meet new people. However, make plans to visit on Family Weekend!
- Try to be in tune with your student’s emotions and follow their lead the first couple of weeks they are gone. Some students may be completely lost and call home several times a day, while others may not call home or even seem homesick. However much it pains you to think your child is adjusting differently than you had hoped, be supportive.
- Connect with other parents as part of the Parents Association.
- Talk about money. It is crucial that parents and students talk in depth about finances before the student leaves for school. Discuss what is expected financially from each person. Should the student concentrate on school work, or will it be necessary for them to secure a job? Are parents going to be paying the University bill? Who will pay for books? Who is responsible for phone bills and spending money? If a family decides that the student's U-bill should be sent to the parents, the student must request that service using the Iowa Student Information Services portal, called the Iowa Student Information System.
- Review the house rules. You and your student will notice a significant change during the short time the student is away for the first semester. The student will truly be a different person by winter break. It is realistic for everyone to expect some rules to remain intact at home, such as "no shoes on the carpet," or "no food in the family room," but certain rules, especially curfews, may need to be readjusted or reevaluated altogether.
- Rolls of quarters are the best gifts. That way, parents can show that they accept the fact that the student is doing his or her own laundry, but still be supportive. Of course, students also are fans of checks, paper money, and gift certificates!
- Care packages can make all the difference. It doesn’t matter whether it is a bag of chips, or a batch of cookies, or even a toy from McDonald’s. Just the fact that you take the time to box something up and mail it shows you are thinking about your student. You can even Order Birthday Cakes or Other Treats from our residence hall staff if your student lives in one of our residence halls.
- Don't push too much too soon. Give your student time to explore majors and careers during their first few years of college without pressuring them to make a decision. Encourage them to talk to their advisor in the Academic Advising Center, or visit the Career Center. Both are great resources.
- Read Your Student's First Year. Student-service professionals across Iowa's campus offer tips and advice for parents dealing with Your Student's First Year.