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My Advice to Parents Sending Their Children Off to College for the First Time

Updated on August 28, 2012

So the fall is near and young adults are heading off college and some of them for the first time. I have some thoughts and some advice for parents on this topic. You may ask, what qualifies you to be an expert on campus life? To that I respond, I was a Community Advisor (Resident Assistant [CA/RA]) for 2 years and a Graduate Hall Director for 1 year. When I was in school Student Housing and Dining fell under the Student Affairs umbrella. This meant we, as a staff would work with our on campus counterparts to develop, promote and execute programming year round for students to attend, participate in, and enjoy other than homework, sporting events, and parties. Sometimes it wasn't easy to peak interest, but we did it.

I've spoken to parents and families on move-in day, had them call me because they haven't heard from their child in a couple of weeks, and I've had them drive out to the campus just to see what's going on with them. So I have some words of wisdom for the parents and for the student.

1. Try not to worry too much. As much bad publicity as college campuses are getting lately, most are relatively safe. Most schools have police call boxes every few hundred feet.
2. Hopefully, you have had the you are there to study not to drink talk. And even though you may have, the chances of them going to a party and trying a drink are pretty likely. I really doubt this will mean your son/daughter is going to become a full blown alcoholic.
3. Most colleges have a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking. The saddest thing to watch is a kid pour out a whole case of beer because it is in their room, they are under age, and the RA/CA, Hall Director, or police (campus or municipal) happen to see it during a walk through. Now, usually it would just be an incident report for the hall and no arrests; which comes to next point.
4. Underage Drinking and Driving. Kids get drilled into their heads in high school that they shouldn't drink and drive. Suddenly in a few short months they forget all about that and decide to drive while "buzzed", "only had 2", "blah, blah, blah." Zero Tolerance! Underage Drinking and Driving they WILL be arrested. There is no "I'm almost home", "Can my girl/boy friend drive me?" My advice is to get a good lawyer. This will probably cost as much as a semester's tuition if not more. So please reiterate this point with your kids.
5. I can't believe I still on the subject of drinking but it does lower inhibitions. So as parents, I'm hope you not only had the sex talk but drinking and sex and using protection. For young girls having to drop out because they are pregnant and have to take care of their newborn baby is a tough lesson to learn.

I know I have mentioned a lot of negativity in the above statements and it's mostly the behavior of the student. So here is some things for the parent to know about them.
6. Don't be overbearing. Your kids went away to school for a reason, now it's time to let them grow-up. In other words don't call them everyday just to see how their day went.
7. When it comes to student accounts, Student Records, Bursar's office, and Financial may be flipping part of the bill, but in the school's eyes, that does not entitle you to look at or have access to any of it. The student must give you their confidential log-ins and passwords. Don't try calling, because if you are not the student, none of the those offices will talk to you.
8. If your child lives in a residence hall, the CA/RA should try to see everyone on their floor at least once a week. If requested, the RA will do a wellness check with the Hall Director, however, they want to be absolutely sure that they do not enter a room and the student happens to be "living" with their significant other.
9. Hall personnel are trained to look for signs of depression, suicidal tendencies, alcoholism, drug use, social withdrawal, academic trouble, and a whole slew of other things. Most of their programming stems from all of these areas.

1. If you know your parents worry about you, CALL THEM on a regular basis. In fact you should call them regularly anyway.
2. You are in college to learn, but learn to have fun too. There are so many activities on college campuses today, it's a shame more students do not take advantage of them.
3. Notice all the Drinking points above in the Parents section? Those are meant to make parents aware and as a warning for you too. Zero Tolerance means Zero Tolerance.
3. If you go to a party or a bar and you partake in some drinking: a. know who is giving you a drink, b. watch for someone slipping in a substance (Ecstasy, ruffies, or some other date rape drug), c. have a designated driver or arranged ride, d. know your's not fun having your stomach pumped because of alcohol poisoning.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. If something seems suspicious, don't hang around to find out it is bad.
5. Let someone know where you're going to be if you are going to a party, late night study session, or going home for the weekend. Someone may need to get in tough with you and can't find you. That person could be your roommate, neighbor, CA/RA, or friend.
6. Take advantage of tutors, Teaching Assistants (TAs), Professor's office hours, other students, Hall staff or anyone willing to help you if you start to struggle. They are there to help you.

College it an important rite of passage for many. It's vital that they get though it without much outside difficulty. Students sometimes get their first feeling of freedom but they need to handle it responsibly. The awesomeness of this freedom scares some parents, but they need to learn to let go of the leash just a little bit and not baby their kids. As debilitating as it, some parents still do this. Let them grow-up!

Remember, college is not only a learning experience inside the classroom, but outside as well.


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