IMPORTANT HEALTH CONVERSATIONS â€¢ STAYING SAFE ON CAMPUS
FIRST YEAR TRANSITION
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER MOVE-IN DAY SURVIVING THE EARLY WEEKS
FALL 2019 | AUSTIN, TX
Welcome to College Parent Magazine There’s nothing like the energy of a college campus in the fall. We hope you’re enjoying this time with your student and having fun getting to know their new community. A year ago, I was in your shoes, helping my daughter move into her first-year residence hall. I remember how excited and nervous she was. Now she’s a confident sophomore. The start of college is an emotional time for students and parents alike. We have so many dreams and expectations but also questions and concerns. That’s what inspired College Parent Magazine. In the following pages, you’ll find advice about supporting your student’s transition and lots of practical tips you can share with them about everything from getting along with roommates to eating right in the dining hall. There’s information about safety, internships, budgets and more — and we haven’t forgotten health and wellness because we know from experience that a student living a balanced life is more likely to be happy and successful.
CollegiateParent has published this regional edition of College Parent Magazine for parents of students in Austin. This publication was made possible by the businesses and professionals contained within it. The publisher does not endorse the products or services offered by the advertisers.
Hold onto the magazine throughout the fall term so it’s there for you when you hear from your student about a struggle in one of their classes or when they realize it’s time to figure out next year’s housing. There’s lots more to explore on CollegiateParent.com and we’d love to connect with you weekly through our parent newsletter, the Loop — you can sign up on our home page. Our very best wishes to you and your student. Happy fall!
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What’s inside 2
Welcome to College Parent Magazine
THE STUDENT AND FAMILY TRANSITION 4 6 7 8
First year of college wisdom What to expect after the college drop-off Surviving the early weeks as a new college parent The academic adjustment from high school to college
HOUSING AND CAMPUS LIFE 10 12 14 16 18
Finding community on campus Help your student stay safe Housing timeline Planning for next year’s housing
The most important health conversations to have with your college student Eating right on a campus meal plan — 6 tips to share Supporting mental health — A checklist for parents The relationship roller coaster In praise of an extra semester
PRACTICAL MATTERS 30 32 34 36
An RA’s best tips for helping roommates get along
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART 20 22 24 26 28
Keep an eye on the budget Building career-ready skills — The importance of internships in college How to apply for and WIN scholarships Help your student choose the right credit card
MEET OUR WRITERS
THE STUDENT AND FAMILY TRANSITION The start of college is a time of adjustment and transformation — for students and parents. The following pages hold nuggets of wisdom to help you support your student through typical first-year challenges, and take care of yourself, too.
First year OF
wisdom By Vicki Nelson
As a professor, I often feel I have so much I could share with new college students to help soften the blow of the adjustment — if they would just listen to me. But students don’t always heed the advice of their professors. However, they do listen to other students — they’re interested in the wisdom of those just a step or two ahead of them.
THE STUDENT AND FAMILY TRANSITION
As the last academic year wound down, I had the opportunity to sit with a group of eight first-year students as they reflected on their experiences. I asked each of them one question: “What will you do differently next year?” Their responses showed a firm desire to build on lessons learned.
Join in As a freshman, James was so worried about getting his work done that he turned down chances to join clubs and participate in intramural sports. James loves basketball and wishes he’d joined the campus newspaper so he could write about sports. He plans to sign up for a few things this fall so he can get to know people who share his interests.
Time Management Marcus was quick to say he knew exactly what he needed to do differently next year: manage his time. Although he’s a good student, he realized he needs to do more planning; just assuming he’d find the time to get things done meant that he was always worrying about his projects and assignments and still sometimes missed deadlines. First on his list for sophomore year is to buy a good planner — and use it to sketch out when assignments are due and what he will do when.
Self-care Hillary had some academic struggles as a freshman, often because she had trouble staying focused. She is determined this year to take better care of herself — especially by working to shut out all of the drama that can happen with roommates and with other students’ problems. Her summer plan was to learn more about meditation so she can use it to calm her thoughts and distance herself from everyone else’s high emotions.
Discipline Matthew said he already had a planner and put his assignments in it faithfully. What he didn’t always do was to follow through with his commitments. His calendar said it was time to study for the upcoming test, but he often found all sorts of other things to do instead. This fall he’s going to try to discipline himself to stick to his plans.
Lists Austin intends to become a list maker. His first year of college, he often felt overwhelmed by everything he had to do — both inside and outside of the classroom. He had a planner for big assignments, but it was the little things that got past him because he was trying to hold them in his head. He wasn’t sure whether he’ll keep lists on paper or in an app on his phone — just so long as he gets all of the to-do’s out of his head and together in one place.
Sleep Stefan also knew right away what he he wanted to change: his sleep habits. He said it’s sometimes hard to stick to a schedule and the residence hall isn’t always a quiet place, but he knows he needs to get more zzz’s. He struggled in classes and with assignments when he felt groggy from lack of sleep — and even missed a few early morning classes. He plans to buy noise cancelling headphones and be consistent about going to bed at a reasonable time.
Balance Unlike James, Marisol got involved on campus — maybe to a fault. She’s a great student and managed to keep up her grades even while participating in several clubs, hosting a radio show, and saying yes to the many requests to get involved in special projects. She wants to learn to say “no” — not to everything, but enough to be selective. She calls it “self-protection” and recognizes that doing less will let her enjoy what she does do even more.
Procrastination Shari said her problem wasn’t so much putting things off as consistently underestimating how much time things were going to take. Reading harder college material, writing papers and studying for tests all took way more time than they had in high school. She’d had to ask for too many extensions on projects and had taken too many tests feeling that she wasn’t ready. As a sophomore, she intends to start things earlier to avoid all that last minute panic.
This is first-year wisdom straight from first-year experiences. Eight students with eight ideas that will make a difference for their success. 5
What to expect after the college drop-off
By Marlene Kern Fischer
You’ve imagined it countless times in your head, and now it’s a reality. After all the planning and shopping, packing and unpacking, your student is officially a college freshman. You may also be wondering how you’ll stay close now that you don’t live under the same roof. The bottom line is you’re not going to know what they’re up to at any given moment (and you wouldn’t always want to). But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be an integral part of each other’s lives. Family group texts, funny short emails that could include photos of a pet (a cheap but effective trick), and little care packages are all ways to stay connected. We tried to have a set time to speak with our sons by phone but it wasn’t carved in stone and often the day and hour would roll around and they just weren’t available to talk.
You’ve moved them into their residence hall, said your goodbyes and shed a few (or more than a few) tears. What happens next?! This will be my third (and last) go ‘round as the parent of a college freshman. So, though it will be my first experience returning to an empty nest, I do know what it’s like to drop off your child at college and head home. I can tell you that it feels odd to depart with one fewer family member in your midst — kind of the opposite of when you gave birth and came home from the hospital with an additional person.
On that note, dropping your student at college is a bit like leaving them in a foreign country with its own time zone. Scheduling conversations can be difficult. My oldest once called home at 1 a.m. to chat and I was like, “Are you kidding me?!” He’d somehow forgotten that my bedtime was several hours earlier. Even if I allowed for the one-hour difference between St. Louis where he was and New York where I was, that hour just wasn’t going to work. I wanted to talk to him, just not when I was half conscious.
After I left my two older sons, I waited breathlessly for a text or call. And waited and waited. Even though communication was never their strong suit, I was still surprised I didn’t hear from them. I wanted — no needed — to hear how they were doing, and they didn’t provide much information. I found out that this is normal. You may hear a lot from your student, or you may hear very little. If you are in the “very little” category, don’t worry; know that your student is navigating a new environment, meeting new people, figuring out their academic schedule, adjusting to having a roommate, etc. In other words, they have a ton going on, and calling you may not be their first priority. If I was lucky, I received brief (sometimes one word) replies to my texts. More often, there was radio silence. With great difficulty, I squelched my desire to reach out all the time; I knew it was better to leave them be for a while.
You may have concerns about your student’s well-being — parents of 18-year-olds have all seen their occasional lapses in judgment first-hand. Know that the lessons you have taught your child and the values you instilled in them have impacted who they have become. My husband and I were happy to discover that, for the most part, it appeared our boys had been listening to us all those years (even when we thought they weren’t). In other words, despite the likelihood that they will make some mistakes, your student will be okay. You did a good job. Now it’s time to trust them.
One thing was worse than a lack of communication: the phone calls and texts I got when they had a problem or were unhappy. Those caught me off guard because, by the end of the summer, my sons had seemed so ready to leave. I wasn’t always sure what to say when they were upset, but learned that just listening and offering reassurance and support was the best course of action. Keeping the lines of communication open and letting your student know you’re there for them despite the physical distance is the best you can do. Parents of other first-year students may be reluctant to share that their offspring are also going through a period of homesickness and adjustment. However, I can assure you there is a settling in period for everyone.
I’ll leave you with this: as you journey home, whether to a house that still contains other children or an empty one, the new normal will take time to get used to. The future will be a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of your students leaving and returning and leaving again. But the ties which bind you will remain, strong and enduring.
THE STUDENT AND FAMILY TRANSITION
Surviving the early weeks as a new college parent By Suzanne Shaffer
The start of my daughter’s college career was a mix of excitement, frustration and panic…and those were just my emotions. After 18 years of doing my best to raise a responsible adult, I wasn’t so sure she would act like one — or so sure I was ready to let her try. College requires a new approach to parenting. Here is what I learned and recommend to you. Embrace your changing role.
Anticipate some academic struggle.
The day-to-day responsibility of meeting all your student’s needs now gives way to listening and advising (with a heavy emphasis on the former). Fear not: you are sure to get the occasional phone call with a ridiculous question (“How many degrees is a fever and what did you used to give me to make me feel better?”) reminding you that they still rely on you.
When my daughter, a former straight-A student, got B’s and C’s on her first papers and tests, she was crushed. I encouraged her to take advantage of tutoring, writing labs and study groups and to meet with professors to ask for help. It takes a term or two to adjust to the college curriculum, work load and testing style and to figure out what’s important to study out of all the reading material and lecture notes. Grades will almost always improve.
Don’t expect overnight adulthood.
Resist the urge to race to the rescue.
No matter their maturity level, all freshmen need time to get the hang of their new responsibilities. Be patient. As they figure out how to study, write college-level papers, keep an eye on their bank balance, make new friends, detach from those friends if they turn out to be unsuitable, and so much more, they will drop balls and make mistakes. It’s a process.
Emory University psychology professor Marshall Duke has addressed family members at the university’s new student orientation for three decades. If and when your student calls home with a dilemma, Duke recommends moving “like your feet are stuck in molasses.” Remind your student of the resources available on campus and express your confidence in their ability to handle things. In my experiences with both my son and daughter, they almost always just needed to vent and talk through the situation. They weren’t looking for me to solve their problems; they simply wanted a listening ear and advice if asked.
Dealing with homesickness Even students who proclaimed, “I can’t WAIT to get out of this house and on my own!” will be homesick at some point. Resist the temptation to bring them home for the weekends. Students need to adjust to the campus culture, make a few friends and find activities to occupy their free time. The feelings usually pass after the first few months so, even though your heart will break a bit, give your student a chance to work through those feelings on their own.
Register for Family Weekend! If there is a fall Family Weekend at your student’s school, make plans to attend if you can. It’s something for both of you to look forward to. Having that date on the calendar will help them during bouts of homesickness, and knowing it won’t be long until you’re reunited and both get some much-needed hugs will help you overcome the urge to over-parent. 7
The academic adjustment from high school to college By Vicki Nelson
In high school, students have little control over their schedule, and teachers and parents help them stay on track. In college, students must keep track of their own work and progress. Students who are ready to advocate for themselves and take advantage of the support available are students who succeed. Support your first-year student by talking with them about how their college academic experiences will differ from high school in three major areas.
1 Classes and assignments HIGH SCHOOL
Teachers follow the textbook. Assignments, quizzes and tests tend to come directly from it.
Lectures may not follow the textbook, but students are still responsible for whatâ€™s in there as well as whatâ€™s covered in class.
Reading assignments are usually paired with an evaluation (quiz, test, paper).
Students might not be tested on reading done at the start of the semester until late in the semester or even on the final exam.
Teachers regularly remind students of assignment due dates. Time is spent in class reviewing before tests.
Professors may not remind students of due dates and may spend little or no time on review. Students need to manage their own progress by following the syllabus.
The emphasis is on learning information/memorizing facts and mastering rubrics (in writing, for example).
There is greater emphasis on theory and application of concepts.
A studentâ€™s grade comes from regular quizzes and tests, plus points earned from completed homework and class participation.
Final grade may depend on only two or three big tests or projects. The professor may or may not consider attendance, attitude and effort.
THE STUDENT AND FAMILY TRANSITION
2 Expectations outside of the classroom HIGH SCHOOL
CLASS TIME vs. FREE TIME
Students spend 6–7 hours a day in class, five days a week.
Students only spend 12–15 hours per week in the classroom. The extra 20+ “free” hours mean that they are free to schedule their own study time, not that they don’t have anything to do during that time.
Most learning takes place during the school day, with 1–3 hours of homework daily.
Students do most of their coursework outside of class — on average 2 hours for every hour spent in the classroom. In other words, a student carrying 15 credits (15 classroom hours) should be spending an additional 30 hours a week on assignments and class preparation.
Students who need extra help may be required to attend tutoring sessions. Parents are kept in the loop through conferences.
Students are responsible for recognizing when they need help, and taking advantage of the resources available.
3 Relationships with teachers HIGH SCHOOL
There is daily contact with teachers. Typical class size is 20–30 students.
Students may see a professor only a couple of times a week and some classes are large lectures with 100+ students. Most professors want to get to know their students better and help them succeed, but it’s the student’s responsibility to make this happen by attending office hours, etc.
The teacher is your student’s main point of contact for the class, although sometimes there’s a student teacher.
Some classes have Teaching Assistants (TAs) who run discussion sections, labs and study sessions. These upper-level students are knowledgeable and approachable.
A document handed out in each class at the start of the quarter — it includes the information covered by the course; dates and deadlines for tests, papers and projects; the instructor’s contact information; required books and materials; attendance policy; and grading procedures.
Regular times each week when faculty members are available for students to drop by their office without an appointment.
HOUSING AND CAMPUS LIFE Academics will be central to your student’s experience, but they’ll learn as much if not more outside of the classroom. Residential life and extracurricular activities are important parts of the college success puzzle. Here’s what you need to know!
An RA’s best tips for
By Cambria Pilger
Whether your student chose their roommate or is rooming with someone they never met, it can be intimidating to live in an unfamiliar place, away from home and surrounded by new people. Some first-year roommates become best friends, from day one of college through graduation. Others just try to get through the year (and hope they score a single room as a sophomore). 10
HOUSING AND CAMPUS LIFE My own personal experience fell in the middle. I got along with my freshman roommate but we didn’t interact a lot outside of our room and that was fine. I decided to apply to be a Resident Assistant (RA) for sophomore year because I wanted to be challenged in my relationships, organize fun and creative events, and support and dote on those living in my hall. I learned a lot as an RA and am happy to share my insights!
the weeks passed, Kate’s sleep schedule shifted. She stayed up late studying or hanging out with friends in the room when Emily was trying to sleep. All I had to do was draw their attention to the roommate agreement. Kate and Emily talked it over and decided that, if either one of them stayed up later than the other, they should do so in one of the lounges or study rooms and respect their roommate’s sleep time.
A roommate agreement is easy — and essential.
Who is your student’s neutral support person?
Most schools pair roommates based on common interests, but even in the best matches there’s room for conflict. Not surprisingly, living, sleeping and studying a few feet away from another person can lead to irritation and misunderstanding. Perhaps one roommate doesn’t clean their half of the room, stays up super late in the room talking to friends, or never actually leaves the room.
Building relationships early in college is key. When a problem comes up, whether big or small, it’s helpful for students to have someone to talk to outside the situation. Maybe it’s an older student they know from a club or team, an athletic coach, or a teaching assistant in one of their classes who’s become a mentor. They can turn to this person to share what they’re going through, unload some of their emotions, and brainstorm a solution.
In these situations, one of the best tools students can turn to is a roommate agreement. The object is to lay out, early on, the rules each person wants to have for the room. How late is too late to have friends over? Are roommates allowed to borrow each other’s stuff? If one person has a complaint about the other, how should they communicate it (tell them, write a note, etc.)? Whenever I was called in to help roommates work through an issue, one of my first questions was whether it was covered by their roommate agreement. If there was a clear violation, we could use the agreement as a starting point to resolve the conflict. Take Kate and Emily. At the start of the year, they discussed their sleep routines and found that they both went to bed around 10. They agreed they’d be quiet if one of them stayed up later than the other. However, as
My top recommendations for dealing with residence life and roommate challenges:
Use the resources. There are so many, from residence life leadership and student success programs to faculty and staff support, friends and family. Especially during the first year, encourage your student to take advantage of these resources to work through uncertainty or conflict.
Make a connection. Your student and their roommate may be very different people, with different habits and backgrounds. Finding things they have in common will help them strengthen their relationship and be more comfortable living with one another.
Talk honestly about disagreements. Your student shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their roommate. After all, this is new territory for both of them. The flip side of this is being open to criticism or feedback from the roommate. A willingness to listen needs to come from both sides.
One of my hall residents relied on me in this way. Adam got along with his roommate most of the time, but when they did fight or argue, he’d come to me to talk through the situation and get a new perspective on it. I could offer a listening ear and advice without getting personally involved.
Don’t fume silently. Address issues promptly instead of ignoring them. This could mean talking to the RA to design an action plan, being straight-up with their roommate about how they feel and suggesting a compromise, or learning to accept things as they are.
Luckily, in my hall I didn’t have to intervene too many times because students resolved their problems on their own — and this was ideal. Although as an RA I was there to support and guide residents (and if a problem was serious, I was ready to step in), my job was to empower them to defuse conflict on their own rather than referee every squabble.
Roommate agreements My university’s Residence Life department passes out roommate agreements. If your student’s school doesn’t, they and their roommate can create one by discussing what’s important to them or use a template like this: images.collegexpress.com/article/ roommateagreement3.jpg. Rules may need to evolve as the year goes on, so your student and their roomie should be ready to revisit this conversation.
Know that there is never a single solution. Every student and situation is unique. Remembering this is always the first step to solving problems and keeping peace with one’s roommate.
Finding community on campus By Kelli Ruhl
To thrive instead of just survive, college students need to find community. Community is a friend or a group of friends who feel like home — who allow your student to grow into the person they want to become, and stand beside them throughout their college years and beyond. All new freshmen want to make friends but it doesn’t happen overnight. To find your people, you have to put yourself out there. In my case, it took a whole semester (and a firm nudge from my parents) to find a group of close friends at my large public university. The first few months on campus, in a new place without the circle of friends I’d grown up with, I felt adrift. Seeing this, my parents pushed me to check out The Annex, a college ministry that my older brother had attended, and to sign up for an Annex service trip to Costa Rica. Despite my reservations — as in I didn’t know a single person on the trip! — I gave it a shot. That decision changed my life. On that trip I found my community. Your newly independent first-year student is in the driver’s seat now, able to make their own choices about how to spend their time outside of the classroom. They are no longer limited to the experiences and personalities of their hometown, or the high school pressure to blend in. In college, they get to celebrate what makes them stand out. One of the coolest things about college is the incredible variety of opportunities. If your student isn’t sure where to start on the road to building community, here are some options worth checking out.
Social and cultural identity groups These are a great way for students to engage with individuals of similar backgrounds or lifestyles. The University of California Santa Cruz, for example, has a large selection of student-run groups, including chapters of the Sikh Student Association; Prism: Student Coalition for Gender, Sex, & Sexuality; Iranian Student Association; College Diabetes Network; Black Student Union; Hermanas Unidas; and Hmong Student Association among many, many others. No matter your student’s unique identity, they can find a place to embrace it among peers, and many of these groups welcome allies and host campus-wide activities.
Intramural and club sports For serious (and not-so-serious!) athletes, intramural and club sports are a fantastic way to meet people and feel part of a tight-knit group. Intramural sports provide a range of men’s, women’s and coed team and individual activities. Club sports are a more competitive option for those who want to compete at the local, intercollegiate, regional or even national level.
Student clubs and organizations No matter what sparks your student’s interest, there is likely a club that caters to it. From school publications and student government to groups centered around chess, creative writing, entrepreneurship, yoga, beekeeping, fashion, mathematics and more, there truly is something for everyone.
Sororities and fraternities Students looking for a truly immersive social experience may want to look into Greek life if there are chapters on their campus. These “brotherhoods” and “sisterhoods” involve communal living, secret handshakes and social calendars chock-full of parties, meetings, philanthropic events and bonding experiences. Sororities and fraternities can be expensive, but they often pay off in the long run. Alumni look out for their brothers and sisters, which translates into prime networking opportunities for graduates.
Beyond finding a group of close friends, it’s also important for students to get involved with their campus community as a whole. Cheering at games, attending events or getting involved in volunteer work are fun ways for your student to feel like they are truly a part of their school. 12
Volunteer and social justice opportunities: Suggest that your student explore the college’s website for opportunities to volunteer in the community or sign up for an “alternative break” trip (these may be local projects over shorter breaks, or involve travel to other parts of the U.S. or even abroad). Intercollegiate athletics: Sporting events are a prime place to meet people, and also the perfect way to foster team spirit and feel connected to their school and their classmates. Campus events and performances: Calendars boasting a wealth of schoolaffiliated events, from concerts and lectures to art and photography exhibits, can be found on the college website. Encourage your student to check the calendar every week or two to see what sparks their interest. Take a class in a new academic area: As your student digs into their major, there should still be time to take a few classes just for the joy of discovery. Cheer them on as they embrace the challenge of moving outside their intellectual comfort zone. The bonus: a chance to get to know classmates they might not otherwise cross paths with.
Creating community — both with a group of close friends and with the school as a whole — is a vital part of a vibrant and successful college experience.
Help your student stay safe By Suzanne Shaffer
Colleges and universities work to foster safe environments but rely on students to partner with them in this goal. As your student acclimates to their new campus and life, check in with them about what they do on a daily basis to keep themselves safe. What is the relationship between their campus and the surrounding area (whether rural or urban)? Are there places they shouldn’t walk, jog or bike? Are they good about using the buddy system?
Parents can help by supplying good advice and the best safety tools available. Essential safety checklist Many of these recommendations will be shared at orientation and move-in, but it’s good to revisit the list periodically — it may take a while before your student checks off every box. Always lock your room and secure your valuables.
Use campus security escorts and safe rides.
Don’t let anyone without a student ID into the residence hall. Even if they ask nicely. Verify their identity.
Take advantage of safety training. Many campuses offer self-defense classes, or you can sign up for one at a local Y or recreation center.
Sign up for campus emergency alerts. (Parents may be able to sign up for these, too.) Program emergency numbers into your cellphone for easy access.
Register any valuables with serial numbers (electronics, bikes, etc.) with the campus police department. This makes them easier to track if they’re stolen.
Use the buddy system. It can be tempting to go for a run alone, or make a quick trip to the library by yourself after dark, but it’s not worth the risk. Never be alone at night or in remote areas. Stick with your friends at parties and NEVER let a friend leave a party alone or with someone you don’t know. Use the buddy system when taking public transportation, Uber and Lyft, too.
Exchange family contact information with your roommate(s). It’s a good idea for parents to have the roommate’s phone number, too, so everyone can connect during an emergency.
HOUSING AND CAMPUS LIFE ALCOHOL CAN MAKE ALMOST ANY SITUATION MORE DANGEROUS.
Tools for staying safe Safety apps Your student’s smartphone can be a great self-defense tool. Safety apps give them instant access to authorities, parents and fellow students when they feel they’re in an unsafe situation. Encourage your student to ask their friends for safety app recommendations, and give free apps a test drive. A few to consider are Watch Over Me, Circle of 6, Shake 2 Alert and Panik.
Students who drink excessively are at higher risk of being involved in car accidents, hazing and sexual assault. Talk honestly with your student throughout college about alcohol and substance use. Ask questions and listen to what they have to say about social situations they’ve been in or witnessed. Discuss possible scenarios so they can anticipate how they might act, react and help their friends.
Self-defense carry items These pair well with a self-defense class because, when faced with danger, your student needs to be prepared to use the items quickly and with confidence. A whistle or personal safety alarm is the simplest option. Alarms, which are small and can be attached to keys for easy access, emit up to 130 decibels to scare off an attacker plus capture the attention of bystanders who might come to your student’s aid. Pepper spray (which causes severe irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory system) is popular because it’s quick, easy to use and effective. However, pepper spray is illegal in some states. Check the law. Don’t be afraid to talk about personal safety with your student. Knowing and practicing safety precautions will help them feel empowered, not scared. Informed students are ready to steer clear of dangerous situations. Prepared students are more likely to emerge unscathed from an attempted crime. Help your student be both.
How to stay safe when hailing a ride Uber and Lyft have changed the transportation scene for college students, who use them now almost without thinking. However, while these services are convenient, authorities encourage following certain safety practices:
Request the ride inside and wait there until the driver arrives.
Verify the ride by matching the license plate and make and model of the vehicle.
Ask the driver to confirm your name and confirm their name before getting in the vehicle.
If possible, ride in the back seat, behind the driver.
Share your trip details with family or friends by clicking the “share trip” button within the app.
Follow your intuition. If anything goes wrong, you can call 911 from the rideshare app itself.
Uber has embedded additional safety features in their app and your student should take advantage of all of them. But why not have a second line of defense? They can download two personal safety apps and stay safe on any kind of trip: 1. SafeTrek: A button on the app works as a trigger when you press and hold it down if you feel in danger. Police are notified and rush to your location. Release it when you feel that the danger has passed and use a 4-digit PIN to verify. 2. bSafe: This app uses location tracking to keep a group of your favored contacts updated about your whereabouts. They can track you via a map on their end. There is a large red SOS button to notify them of danger. Many smartphones have their own built-in emergency response features. Use them!
Housing timeline Your student is all moved in so housing is off your to-do list for a while, right? Wrong! Housing season starts earlier than you might think. If you don’t want your student scrambling at the last minute or discovering that all the desirable housing (and roommates) are taken, share this timeline and check in periodically about their progress.
Right now Look at the university’s housing website to find out when applications are due for returning students. Even if your student doesn’t plan to live on campus, this is a good end date for having a plan in place. On-campus housing applications are due . Have your student ask an upperclassman when apartments start to fill up (try their RA or a Teaching Assistant from one of their classes). This varies by area, so the inside scoop is valuable. Don’t be surprised if it is early! Off-campus housing tends to fill up by .
Early October Now’s the time to start talking to potential roommates if they haven’t already. Check out the housing options comparison on p. 22 to help your student think through their preferences and priorities. Your student should have a good idea what types of housing are available, and in some rental markets should already have started looking for a place.
Thanksgiving break If your student wants to live on campus: Encourage them to check out the different residence halls and on-campus apartments. If your student wants to live off campus: Rental search time! Start by deciding on a budget for next year’s housing (we have a helpful worksheet: bit.ly/cp-budget). Browse apartment websites with your student (their university may have a search portal) and point out the features that they may not have top of mind, but you know are important. They can also be talking to upperclassmen about which neighborhoods and buildings are desirable and which they should avoid.
Winter break Your student should know where they want to live, and in some areas should be ready to sign a lease (review the lease with them). Check out our glossary of lease terms and our property-viewing checklist (bit.ly/property-viewing).
Spring It’s time to complete the housing process with the university or sign a lease. Encourage your student to make a plan for moving and/or storing their belongings. 16
Planning for next Even though the academic year is just getting started, and your first-year student is still getting the hang of campus life and making new friends, it’s already time to start planning for next year’s housing.
Some things to consider when planning a transition to off-campus life:
At many universities, most upperclassmen live off campus and there’s lots to like about that. Moving off campus is a big step toward full independence and developing real life skills. Students love the freedom to live with the friends they choose in their very own place.
Convenience: Will there be a commute? Is transportation easy and affordable? How close are stores?
Connection: Students living off campus often need to make an extra effort to stay engaged with campus life and focused on academic goals.
Safety: Can your student relax in the environment or is crime a concern?
Money: Students may be able to save money living off campus. They will learn about leases and security deposits, and how to coordinate expenses with roommates. Budgeting carefully is key.
About that “place.” What type of off-campus housing is going to be best for your student? They can start by making a list of what matters most to them in a living situation (location, amenities, price) and comparing these priorities to the types of housing available in their college town.
A quick comparison: Apartment vs. House
Studios and one-bedrooms cost more, but appeal to students who like privacy. A private bedroom (and even bathroom) may be an option in a multi-bedroom unit.
Houses usually have more bedrooms which means rent can be split more ways, making this an affordable option for larger groups of friends. Be sure to comply with local limits on how many unrelated people can live together.
Utilities will vary from apartment to apartment. Students should pay attention to which utilities are included, and which will be separate bills. Is there air conditioning?
Renters may have to set up their own accounts for electric/gas, cable/internet, trash removal, etc. Winter heating bills can be high in older, poorly insulated houses. Water may be extra.
There might be a laundry room, added security and 24-hour maintenance as well as perks like a pool, fitness center and common areas. Is there storage for bikes? Is parking available and is it extra?
Storage and parking may be better, but students might need to budget for trips to a laundromat. Repairs will take longer if a landlord isn’t on-site or responsive (and may be needed more often if the house is older).
HOUSING AND CAMPUS LIFE
year’s housing RESPONSIBILITIES APARTMENT
Apartments are a more low-maintenance choice, which works for busy students who aren’t home much.
Renters are often responsible for lawn care, snow removal, taking out the trash, etc. Sharing a house with lots of people makes managing finances more complicated.
Apartments may have good security features such as 24-hour security, key-card entry and outdoor lighting. It can be easier to get to know neighbors in an apartment building.
Security is up to the renters. Student-heavy neighborhoods sometimes have higher crime rates. Research the specific address your student might rent to be sure it is not a “nuisance property” associated with past noise or occupancy complaints.
Shared walls and floors/ceilings can mean more noise.
The noise level will depend on housemates’ lifestyles. Establish rules about music/parties/guests.
Another option: Professionally managed student housing communities They usually include:
These are found near universities all around the country. Because the buildings are dedicated to the comfort and success of students, they have advantages from both the student and the parent perspective. 1. The communities support an academic-focused culture. Residents make new friends who share their priorities. 2. “Individual lease liability” means students are only responsible for their own lease and rent. One-semester leases or leases that just cover the school year may be an option. 3. There is a range of prices depending on the number of bedrooms/roommates. Utilities are usually included, meaning no hidden expenses. Students can opt for fully furnished rooms and/or roommate matching.
Close to campus and local transit
Well-maintained (sometimes even brand-new)
Safe, with up-to-date security features
24/7 on-call management and maintenance
Professional and student staff
Utilities and WiFi
Quiet study spaces
On-site amenities (laundry, fitness centers, social areas)
Organized social activities plus “Living/Learning” programming (tutoring, career development workshops, community service projects, etc.)
Note that not all apartment complexes catering primarily to students in a college town fall into the category of professionally managed student housing communities.
Professionally managed student housing communities tend to be: ··
If your student is happy with their living situation, they’ll have more energy to focus on being a successful student. 19
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART When you talk to your college student, be prepared to listen to how they’re doing and share advice on nutrition, sleep, stress management, partying and drinking, and relationships. These insights — including an essential mental health checklist — will help.
health conversations to have with your college student The most important
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART In college, probably for the first time, your student will be wholly responsible for taking care of their own physical and emotional wellbeing. For that reason, the most important health conversations you can have with them are ones where you encourage them to make wellness a priority in their daily lives, to familiarize themselves with health support resources on campus, and to always feel comfortable reaching out to you when they have a concern or just need a little advice.
Review the resources that are available on campus.
Go over what to do if they get sick.
They’ll receive a lot of information at orientation and during move-in/welcome week, but it can be overwhelming. If you look at the website, you’ll be able to nudge them to explore what’s offered at the student health clinic and counseling/ mental health center. Your student will find online informational materials, classes and workshops, and drop-in support groups relating to pretty much every wellness issue under the sun:
Your student should have a first aid kit with a thermometer and basic over-the-counter remedies for self-care. Talk through some possible scenarios, ranging from how to treat a cold to how to know if it’s something more serious like the flu. Remind them that if symptoms (sore throat, fever, vomiting, headache, etc.) linger for days without improvement, they should definitely visit the campus health center — but they don’t have to suffer in silence if they just want to get checked out and have their mind put at ease.
Nutrition and body positivity
Revisit health-related topics each and every time you see or chat with your student.
Sexual health, gender identity, relationships
Stress and anxiety management
Conflict resolution skills
Make sure they know how health insurance works. Go over their coverage (whether they’re signed up for the school’s health plan or are still covered by your family insurance plan) and how and where to access services. Will they use the campus health center for all their needs, or go there just for the easy/free stuff (flu shots, treatment for minor illnesses like colds) and see a provider or specialist in the local community?
Don’t forget about religious and spiritual life opportunities, and fitness classes and recreational facilities at the campus gym. It’s all FREE.
Since colleges are bound by a federal law called FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), which governs the privacy of student educational and treatment records, you won’t know if or when your student visits the campus health and counseling clinics. It’s up to your student to decide whether to share information with you, which is something else the two of you can discuss early on.
Visit “Wellness” on CollegiateParent.com to read about managing chronic illness in college, coping with allergies in the dorm, recognizing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and much more.
Talk to your student about responsible drinking. Most families have strict rules about drinking in high school, but in college an “abstinence only” policy may not be practical. National surveys show that 9 out of 10 college students experiment with alcohol, 7 out of 10 drink regularly, and 3 out of 10 will be problem drinkers. This doesn’t mean parents should feel helpless. Instead, by being proactive and talking regularly with your student about the campus party scene, their experiences with alcohol and what it means to drink responsibly, you can continue to have a positive influence. Educating your student about responsible drinking isn’t the same as encouraging or endorsing underage drinking. Instead, when you teach your student about how alcohol works in the body, the importance of protecting their cup and sticking with friends at parties, and how to recognize when it’s time to exit a situation or call for help, you’re emphasizing health, safety and self-advocacy. These conversations require that you know your facts, be honest and open-minded, and most of all, be ready to listen. Read the complete article: collegiateparent.com/wellness/talk-about-responsible-drinking.
Eating right on a campus meal plan 6 tips to share by Kate Harveston
Starting college doesn’t have to mean falling into unhealthy eating habits. There is more to college food than pizza! You can help your student feel their best throughout their college years by teaching them how to eat well and get the most nutritional value from their meal plan. Share these tips!
Choose a plan carefully.
Depending upon the school, there may be several meal plans to choose from. Your student may pay for a certain number of all-you-care-to-eat meals per term, or receive “dining dollars” to spend on individual items. Help them select a plan which lets them access the full range of food offerings. (Some fixed plans may save money, but offer fewer healthy choices.) There’s usually a chance early in the fall term to adjust their plan if they decide they don’t need as many meals per day or week, or would like to increase their access.
Teach your college student that, when hitting the cafeteria, they should make the salad bar their first stop and fill at least half their plate with fresh fruits and vegetables (and choose vinaigrette, or a sprinkling of oil and vinegar, over higher calorie ranch dressing). Salad’s not their bag, at least not all the time? Then make the first stop the cooked veggie station. They can look for wok-fried vegetables, or go ahead and put a small touch of melted cheese onto cooked broccoli. Sandwiches and wraps can be stuffed with raw veggies, and breakfast can include veggies, too — request lots of them in any made-to-order omelet, breakfast burrito or scramble.
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART
Opt for lean proteins.
When hitting up the grill station, it’s best to stick primarily to lean meats like chicken, turkey and salmon and choose burgers and red meat no more than once or twice per week. Many campus dining halls now offer vegetarian and vegan menus, which tend to include very healthy options.
Explore new flavors.
Most colleges offer foods from all over the world to please international students. All students should go ahead and try that tandoori chicken or curry — turmeric is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powerhouse. Brightly colored foods have different nutritional profiles, so eating them helps ensure adequate consumption of the various nutrients everyone needs. Encourage your student to stack their plate with foods in different colors!
Often when we feel hungry, we’re actually just thirsty, so a good tip to pass on to your student is to carry a water bottle and sip throughout their classes. Explain the science behind this choice; it’s not about denying yourself food when you actually do need it.
Build a stash of healthy staple items.
More wellness advice for your student
Take a grocery trip with your student during move-in (or any time you visit) to help them learn to make healthier choices when shopping for their own snacks. If they have a mini fridge in their room, they can store pre-cut and washed veggies and cartons of yogurt. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit offer good crunching along with an energy boost and can be bought in single-serve packages at stores like Trader Joe’s. (Prices are somewhat higher when you buy this way rather than in bulk, but it helps with portion control.) These are also yummy sprinkled on unsweetened instant oatmeal — a heartier quick breakfast than buying a muffin at the coffee shop.
Prioritize sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced brain function, fatigue, headaches and weight fluctuations. A sleep-deprived student may get sick more often or experience mood swings. Seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for college students, so encourage your student to establish a regular sleep routine and stick to it. A good night’s rest will always be more productive than cramming for a test.
EATING WELL DURING THE COLLEGE YEARS IS POSSIBLE! Living on their own gives young people a whole new level of responsibility; they’re now 100% in charge of caring for their own health. Help them feel their best through their college years by teaching them how to eat well and get the most nutritional value from their meal plan.
Get moving. It can be hard to fit a workout into a packed schedule, but even brief exercise breaks improve overall health and boost endorphins — the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. Encourage your student to check out what their campus gym offers or take a daily jog or brisk walk.
De-stress. A yoga class, a game of pick-up basketball with friends, or just vegging out in a hammock for half an hour can do wonders for your student’s mental health. Whatever their pleasure, they should set aside their laptop and textbooks for a bit each day — breathe deeply, clear their mind, center themselves.
Supporting mental health A checklist for families
By Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Ph.D. and Active Minds
Mental health issues are far more common than most people realize. Fifty percent of us will encounter a mental health challenge in our lifetime! Unfortunately, the group least likely to seek help are young people. And while starting college is exciting, some students find themselves overwhelmed by the transition to an unfamiliar environment full of new pressures and expectations. Awareness and open lines of communication — with family members, professors/instructors, coaches and friends — can go a long way toward making sure no student struggles alone. Check out these tips on how to empower and support your new college student.
Scope out services and have a plan.
All students, but particularly those who have already experienced mental health issues, should have a plan in place in case things get too difficult to handle. Call or make an appointment with the campus mental health or counseling center to learn what services are available.
Prepare your student.
If your student is already in the care of a psychiatrist or psychologist, make plans to continue that care with a clinician close to campus. (The campus mental health center may keep a list of convenient offcampus providers who work well with students.) Your student should have regular check-ins with a professional to monitor any changes. They can also pre-register with the Accessible Education Center to access helpful accommodations.
It’s very likely that your student, or one of their roommates or friends, will experience a mental health issue while at college. Prepare your student by talking about mental health on a regular basis. Review together what campus resources are available if they’re ever in a position to help a friend. By maintaining a dialogue, you’ll help them feel comfortable coming to you with questions and problems without fear of being judged.
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART
Stay in touch.
Make time for regular conversations in addition to texting your student. It’s easier to hear in their voice when something is bothering them. Facetime and Skype can be even better. Keep an eye out for symptoms of depression (including sadness), anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, restlessness, sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, suicidal thoughts, unexplained aches and pains, and tearfulness. A sudden drop in academic performance can be another sign that support is needed.
Perfection is not a realistic goal and it’s important to let your student know that you support them no matter what. Mistakes and failure are an unavoidable part of life and we can learn from them. A perfect GPA isn’t worth it if it comes at the expense of your student’s emotional well-being. If you feel your student needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 for free 24/7 confidential support.
Check in about self-care.
The importance of a healthy diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise can’t be overstated, particularly as they relate to overall mental health. Help your student connect self-care with emotional stability — ask them how they feel when they eat well or when they sleep poorly.
Active Minds is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for students.
With a presence on more than 600 campuses benefiting 5.4+ million students, Active Minds empowers students to create supportive communities, connect peers to resources, and take action for suicide prevention. Explore helpful resources at activeminds.org.
If your student is experiencing mental health issues, prioritize getting help over the fear of tarnishing their transcript or reputation. Some students will need time off from school to recover and get back on track. Each college has its own policy about granting medical leave — you can contact the Dean of Students office to find out the procedure for taking a temporary leave of absence.
The relationship roller coaster
By Jennifer See, LPC, LCDC
Your first-year college student has been in a long-term relationship with their high school sweetheart. The walls of their dorm room are plastered with a montage of pictures from homecomings, parties, prom and graduation as a couple. The two of them have been in pretty much constant contact since they started at their different colleges. Then you get a phone call. Out of nowhere (to them, to you), the relationship is “on a break.” Or maybe your student has had a fall-out with a close friend, and now their “bestie” since middle school has blocked them on social media. While many long-distance relationships and friendships survive — and even thrive and deepen — after high school, not all make it. The transition from high school to college is
a big one. Away from home for the first time, students are immersed in new experiences and freedoms, and they spend more time with their new friends than they ever did with the old high school group. Breakups happen and friendships can shift or come to a screeching halt. Regardless of the circumstances, breakups are painful, but throw in being in a new environment far from the familiarity and comfort of home, and your student could have a tough time handling the loss.
Whether you’re a first-time or seasoned college parent, here are tips for how to support your student through the demise of any relationship, romantic or otherwise.
Be there. They will probably want to talk and FaceTime more frequently during this time. Show your support by simply being there and listening. Your student needs to process the event. If they go silent after they’ve told you the news, be sure to reach out to them with periodic check-ins.
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART If your student attends school within driving distance, they might want to come home more frequently. How often is too often? There’s no right or wrong answer, but you do want to encourage them to continue with their normal college schedule of attending class and engaging with others.
Take the struggle seriously. While we all know that the chances of a high school relationship going the distance are slim, your student most likely believed the relationship would be there for them longterm. The worst thing to do is minimize the importance of the breakup. They are grieving a loss; their pain is real. Even if it’s true, this isn’t the time to say “they’ll find someone else,” or to observe that their significant other wasn’t really right for them. This will not be comforting.
Be alert. The end of any relationship is a traumatic event, and potentially your student’s first experience with feeling rejected. Whether the breakup was their choice or not, watch and listen for behavioral changes: ··
Sleeping more than usual
Loss of appetite/weight loss
Self-medicating with food/weight gain
Isolating themselves from friends
Skipping class and staying in their dorm
Any of these could be signs that your student is depressed. Encourage them to seek professional help immediately — there are people they can talk to at the campus counseling center.
Encourage healthy coping mechanisms. College students are at high risk for substance experimentation. According to a 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism,* 57 percent of fulltime college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month and 38 percent engaged in binge drinking. Throw in a traumatic and life-changing event such as a breakup, and that risk grows exponentially. Your student might not be familiar with the concept of “self-medication.” It’s something we all do, and it’s important to recognize when we’re doing it. Help them see the connection between how they feel and what they do, and apply healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise and listening to music, instead of getting drunk or high.
supervision while others stumble a bit. We all grow up in our own way, at our own pace. During this period of profound change, your student will need to recognize that some of the relationships that worked for them in high school might not evolve now that they no longer share common ground.
Affirm that time does help and heal. Your student may be devastated thinking about what their altered future looks like without their significant other or best friend. Encourage them to focus on getting through each day and to not dwell on the past. (They may or may not be interested in/comforted by stories of what you went through in some of your old relationships; you can wait for them to ask you about this.) Praise them for daily “wins” of keeping it together, and remind them that while they feel bad today, they won’t feel this bad forever — and they will come out on the other side. As cited in pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/ CollegeFactSheet/back_to_collegeFact.htm.
Help them reflect on their own growth. Life after high school is different for everyone. Some students embrace the challenges of managing newfound independence away from parental
5 ways to help your student fight off the lonely feeling It takes time to find real friends in a new place, and loneliness can be harder to bear when you’re surrounded by crowds of people all the time. What should your student do to feel less isolated and more connected? Share these suggestions. 1. Unplug electronics. Turn off the computer or phone and venture into the common areas of the residence hall — a first step to meeting new friends. 2. Make an extra effort. Attend residence hall mixers and social event nights, even if you don’t always feel like it. 3. Say “hi” and introduce yourself. To the people sitting next to you in the lecture, other people on the residence hall floor, etc. “Ask someone where they’re from, what their interests are, why they’re taking a course,” recommends a recent college graduate. “If they seem disinterested, don’t lose hope — try again with somebody else.” 4. Reach out to family and old friends. It’s okay to call and share that you’re lonely. Simply telling someone about a bad day can help you get through it. 5. Get busy with activities that make you feel good. Do something you’ve always enjoyed, whether it’s going for a long run or putting paint on canvas. (Mom and Dad: you could order them some new running shoes, or art supplies.) If you miss the family pet, consider volunteering at the local animal shelter!
In praise of an extra semester
By Connie Lissner
I’m encouraging my younger son, a full-time college sophomore, to plan on an extra semester — or even a year — in college. That’s right. I am encouraging him to spend more money on college tuition. No, I did not win the lottery or lose my mind. I’ve simply decided that four years is not enough time — for him.
This wasn’t the original plan. I remember looking at colleges when my oldest was a high school junior and wondering why they shared statistics on students graduating in five or six years. “No way,” I thought, “will my sons take more than four years to get their degree!” Clearly that vow is going the way of the “No way will I let my children watch television!” vow I made before actually having kids.
Apparently, graduating in four years is no longer the norm. According to Complete College America, a nonprofit group based in Indianapolis, only 19% of students at public universities graduate in four years. Among the reasons cited for the delay are students being unable to enroll in required courses, changing majors/degree programs and transferring — all common scenarios in today’s higher education landscape. At the moment, none of these scenarios applies to my son. He seems set on his major, has no intention of transferring, and can easily get into his required classes. It’s the number of credit hours that are giving me
pause. He insisted that the only way he could graduate with a biomedical engineering major and a minor in mechanical engineering and have an internship and study abroad was by taking 20 hours of classes his second semester freshman year and maintaining that pace through sophomore year and possibly beyond. His plan came to a screeching halt midway through last spring semester when he became ill and his grades started to free fall. The only way out of the situation was to drop a class and retake it over the summer — making the 4-hour Chem II class (that we told him not to take in the first place) twice as expensive.
A HEALTHY BODY, MIND AND HEART His response? He’ll resume his ambitious pace this year and simply be better organized. Hmmm… Maybe I have lost my mind, or maybe I’m just babying my baby, but 20 hours of math, science and engineering classes seems like an awful lot. Even if he wanted to take 20 hours of English and philosophy, or econ and accounting, I would still think he was setting himself up for failure, not to mention extreme anxiety. And at a time when anxiety and depression are at an all-time high for college students, helping my son manage his expectations is a priority. Besides...
When did college become all about studying? Don’t get me wrong — I don’t believe anyone should spend a quarter of a million dollars to hang out with friends and binge watch Netflix. But there’s supposed to be more to the college experience. Like sleeping and eating. Venturing into new spaces and trying things for the first time. Getting to know people who are dramatically different from the crowd you grew up with, stumbling on fascinating subjects you didn’t know you were interested in, grappling with challenging ideas and situations. Figuring out who you want to be as an adult. I have a friend who took an education course to be with his girlfriend and within the first month of class switched his major from architecture to education. He’s been happily teaching 6th grade math for over 20 years (not sure what happened to the girlfriend, though).
I recognize it’s not always feasible to tack on an extra semester or take random classes to find your passion. However, sometimes the cost to a student’s mental and physical health is greater than the monetary cost and needs to be given its due weight. To see if I was coddling my son or if there was merit to my concerns, I ran all this past a friend who is a college consultant and a clinical therapist. Andrea Goodman, LCSW, is no stranger to the anxiety surrounding the college process and the financial concerns that go along with it. Not only does she work with teens and young adults, she’s also the mother of three high school and college students. Andrea agrees that the college experience should be about more than just studying — to a point. “Managing their time, dealing with conflict, living with and surrounding oneself with people with differing views and perspectives, are equally important, if not more so than anything learned in a classroom environment,” she said. “This process should not be rushed as it takes time and experience — and the chance to make and learn from mistakes — to become an emotionally healthy adult.” However, she also notes that learning to manage personal finances and live within a budget is a key step along the path to adulthood. That means taking into account available resources and adjusting where necessary. Those adjustments may include completing part of the degree at a community college, applying for student loans, finding scholarships, or forgoing other plans — like study abroad or a gap year.
Shouldn’t these things also matter?
My son is still pushing to “finish in four.” He doesn’t want to go further into debt, especially since he intends to go to graduate school which will cost money, too, and postpone his entrance into the workforce. I get it. It took me a long time to pay off my student loans but that was a price I willingly paid for switching majors, studying abroad and choosing to go to law school. It wasn’t what I planned as a freshman in college but I learned to adjust. Just one more thing I didn’t learn in a classroom…
At a time when anxiety and depression are at an all-time high for college students, helping my son manage his expectations is a priority.
PRACTICAL MATTERS Is your student sticking to their budget? Have they dropped in at the career center to learn about internships? Will they apply for scholarships to make their education more affordable? Read on â€” itâ€™s all here.
Keep an on the
By Suzanne Shaffer and Diane Schwemm
One of the biggest challenges outside the classroom for students adjusting to college life is learning to manage money.
PRACTICAL MATTERS They’re suddenly responsible for paying for all sorts of things on their own, from textbooks and groceries to laundry (you hope) and maybe an occasional haircut. With the convenience of buying and ordering stuff with a smartphone or debit card, it can be easy to let little purchases add up to a financial headache.
Finding a job in the local community is always an option, but oncampus positions have special advantages. The hours are usually flexible, and supervisors will accommodate your student’s schedule. Student employees meet more of their fellow students as well as more faculty members, administrators and staff — a great network for career mentorship, professional references and all-around support.
The parent’s role? Help your student make a budget and keep an eye on the money going in and out of their bank account. Printable budget worksheets are easy to find online, including on your bank’s website, and there are many good smartphone budgeting apps, too — Mint is a favorite.
If federal work study is part of your student’s financial aid package, they can research and apply for available work-study positions, but there are usually plenty of campus jobs to go around for any student who wants one. Departments that hire students may include the admissions and alumni offices, recreation center, library, dining facilities, bookstore, museums and art galleries, language and computer labs, and performance spaces.
The fall term spending money budget If you didn’t do this before the start of the school year, take time now to make a list with your student of their likely flexible/recreational expenses (everything besides tuition, room, board and student fees — although if they’ll contribute to these, put them in the budget as well).
Electronics and school supplies
Parent perspective: “If your student is offered work study, it’s worth doing even as an incoming freshman. Work-study jobs provide useful job application and interview practice. I was impressed by how many off-campus options there were. My daughter ended up being offered several positions and was able to pick one at a non-profit closely allied to her interests. She has gained enormously in skills and confidence. That internship looks likely to lead to a summer job this year. All in all, a great experience!”
Toiletries and other personal items
Flexible expenses can include: Textbooks Clothing
A comprehensive 2009 study published by NASPA, “First-Year Students’ Employment, Engagement, and Academic Achievement: Untangling the Relationship Between Work and Grades” by G.R. Pike, G.D. Kuh and R.C. Massa-McKinley, is often cited and its findings have held up over time.
Dorm furnishings Laundry money Food/drink outside of the meal plan Entertainment Local travel (bus pass, Uber trips) Recreational travel and trips home
Banking by smartphone
Sorority/fraternity or club dues Next, estimate how much each item will be and agree on who’s paying for what, taking your student’s income into consideration. Their income will come from their savings, any earnings from a campus job (if they will work), and possibly an allowance from you. Make it a goal for your student to maintain a certain level of savings.
Many students still choose to open an account at a bank with a branch near campus. But these days, if you’d like to send money to your student, or your student needs to split a restaurant bill with friends or even pay school expenses, it can all happen without writing a check or visiting an ATM.
Be sure to discuss how peer pressure can cause students to overspend. Your student may need to say no sometimes to an activity or purchase that a roommate or friend doesn’t think twice about. On this subject, be clear up front about what will happen if your student doesn’t stay within their budget (in case they assume you’ll automatically bail them out).
The perks of campus employment
Google Pay lets you pay for goods and services both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. With Google Pay Send, you can pay anyone with an email address or phone number. Venmo, a service of PayPal, is a simple and free way to pay friends and family or shop online. You can link your bank account or debit card quickly and also track finances with the app. No matter where you bank, you can use Zelle to send money in minutes from your account to another U.S. bank account via an email address or mobile phone number.
A great way to balance income and spending is to get a campus job. College students who work part-time during the school year get better grades than those who don’t,* probably because they need to be more focused, organized and conscientious about budgeting time for study.
Your student may already be using one of these apps! Visit the websites to learn more about the apps and their security features, or ask your trusted local bank which they recommend.
Fall term will involve some experimentation. Your student may find it easy to stay within their budget or end up running short each month. Over winter break, you can look back together at the experience and help them revise their budget for spring term based on what they learned.
Building career-ready skills The importance of internships in college By Suzanne Shaffer
College without internships is like cereal without milk, chocolate without peanut butter, the perfect dress without the perfect shoes. My daughter would be the first to agree with this statement. During college, several paid and unpaid internships helped her decide on a career path and make contacts who could assist her in finding a job after graduation. According to one of the nation’s leading job search platforms, ZipRecruiter1, an internship is an ideal way for students to: ··
Apply what they learn in the classroom
Discover what they like and don’t like
Network with the right people
Get experience employers want
Develop their personal identity
Transition to a full-time position
With all the competition for jobs after graduation along with the valuable lessons they’ll learn, your student can’t afford to ignore the importance of internships.
How do internships work? The purpose of an internship is to provide a meaningful learning opportunity for the student. The company or organization also benefits because they can supplement their workforce with students, some of whom may eventually become permanent hires. Even though internships may require the student
to perform what might seem like menial tasks, those tasks will help the student gather information about the job and/or industry — and they’re also a practical reminder that we all start out on the ground floor, as beginners. Interns are student employees. Internships may be paid or unpaid and the student may or may not receive academic credit for them. Sometimes an internship connects very directly with a student’s college coursework. Before starting, a student will be informed of the particulars of the internship and specific learning objectives related to the experience.
PRACTICAL MATTERS Where do students find internships? The campus career center is a primary source for locating internships. Most colleges and universities post opportunities in the career office and online (your student may need their campus account to access the listings). The career center can also help your student with internship-related tasks: resumes, cover letters and interview tips. Another source for internship possibilities will be professors in your student’s area of interest. Professors maintain connections with companies and professionals in their field of expertise and will often recommend a student if they hear of a position. This is a good reason for your student to cultivate strong relationships with professors. Your student can also check online internship databases like Internships.com, Wayup.com and YouTern.com. While online, they can search LinkedIn where companies often post internship opportunities. (If they don’t have a LinkedIn account, now’s the time to create one!)
Why are internships important? An internship complements your student’s classroom learning while giving them valuable work experience. But there are other reasons your student should strongly consider adding an internship to their college credentials. According to a 2019 Internship and Co-op Report2 conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE):
Employers had success converting their interns from the Class of 2018 into fulltime, entry-level hires. The conversion rate for this group of interns is 56.1 percent, which is more than 10 percent higher than last year and has reached its highest level since 2016. Both the offer and acceptance rates have also increased for Class of 2018 intern hires. Internships also offer these benefits: ··
The opportunity to “try on” a career before applying for and accepting a “real” job
A chance to identify areas where they may need to take additional classes related to their career interests before graduation
The advantage of making important networking contacts at the company where they intern
Higher starting salaries based on career-specific work experience
How can parents help? Parents today are more involved in our students’ lives than ever before. We need to recognize the fine line between providing encouragement and advice and inappropriate involvement. Developing good internship and job search skills is an important part of a student’s progress toward independence. Your key role in this process is to serve as a mentor or advisor, offering guidance but allowing your student to take the lead. It’s certainly appropriate to proofread resumes and cover letters, share internship prospects
you find or hear about, and discuss their career and professional goals. Do not under any circumstances compose their resume and cover letter, apply for an internship on their behalf, or follow up on communication with a potential employer. You can also be a cheerleader when (not if) your student encounters disappointment while applying for internships. They may need to apply for 10 or 12 before landing one! Your student is embarking on their own unique academic and professional journey. Internships should be a central part of their college experience, helping them not only to secure employment after graduation but also have confidence that the job they choose will fit their personal and career goals. Supporting your student as they find their first internship will be a rewarding experience for both of you. ziprecruiter.com/blog/why-intern-in-college
naceweb.org/job-market/internships/ converting-interns-co-ops-into-full-timehires-on-the-rise 2
According to the NACE survey, 50 percent of employers would like to see an internship on your student’s resume.
Does your student have a resumé? Many first-year college students don’t think they need to worry about a resumé yet, but there are good reasons to create one now and update and polish it on a regular basis. •
Each year of college will bring new classes, campus involvements, work and volunteer experiences, etc. Keeping their resumé up to date means they’re less likely to forget to include an accomplishment or skill.
It will be ready to go when it’s time to apply for a campus or summer job or an exciting internship opportunity.
Resumés also help when they’re applying for undergraduate research opportunities (UROPs), fellowship funding, study abroad programs, and more.
Recruiters at career fairs and other networking events will be impressed!
If your student doesn’t know how to get started, this is a great excuse to visit the career center — a campus resource they should take advantage of early and often.
How to apply for and WIN scholarships
By Suzanne Shaffer
The number one question parents and students ask when they contemplate college is, “How are we going to pay for it?” Even if you were diligent and saved for higher education, tuition costs are constantly on the rise. Did you know the average annual tuition (not including room and board) at a private college or university is $35,000 per year?* State institutions are also costly, with tuition rates around $25,000 per year. This creates a challenge for most families.
In addition to using online sources, keep your eyes open for scholarship opportunities posted at fast food restaurants, coffee shops, chain store registers and local bulletin boards. Here are five more ways your student can search:
To avoid borrowing or taking money from your retirement, your student can apply for and win scholarships to help pay for college. Although many parents and students believe applying for scholarships is a waste of their time, nothing could be further from the truth. It does, however, require a serious time commitment from your student.
Locally — Always begin with local scholarship searches. Look on school websites and ask local companies and charitable organizations if they offer scholarships. While you are at it, ask friends and family, especially those who have previously won scholarships.
There are scholarships available for every student from grade school to graduate school. Most students begin searching during high school and neglect to continue applying during college. By doing this, they are leaving free money on the table which could lead to excessive borrowing and additional student loan debt.
Social media — With just a simple search, students can find a wealth of scholarship information using Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget about college prep blogs like Monica Matthews’ “How to Win Scholarships” and Jessica Velasco’s monthly scholarship list.
Scholarship search engines — Websites like FastWeb and Cappex are good places to start.
When searching for scholarships, it’s crucial to know where to look. Parents can help by listening and watching for scholarship opportunities. Smartphone apps like Scholly allow you to search while waiting in the car for your student (which I used to spend quite a bit of time doing). Once you find a scholarship that would be a good match for your student, share it with them via text or email.
High school counselors and college financial aid offices — Both may maintain lists of scholarships. Check in often to ask about any new ones that become available.
Areas of specific interest — Look for scholarships that are the best fit. Is your student interested in television and film? A budding scientist? A pre-med or pre-law major? Do a Google search using this criteria.
Where do you begin the search?
PRACTICAL MATTERS Craft a winning scholarship essay
Follow instructions carefully
Some scholarship applications take little effort, such as no-essay scholarships, while others require creative submissions like videos, artwork or photography. Most, however, have an essay as the main component.
Print a list of every element required for completion of the scholarship application. Create a checklist and verify that you have followed every instruction listed in the scholarship guidelines. A missing component is a sure rejection. You are presenting your best self through these submissions, so check and double-check your essay and supplemental materials. It’s critical that you do not miss the deadline. In fact, if possible submit the application at least two weeks before the deadline.
Writing an essay that stands out and impresses the reader is key to winning the scholarship. Be smart and read some winning essays, especially if your student can find ones for the scholarship they’re interested in. In addition, follow these steps: ··
Format correctly. If the format isn’t correct, the essay/ application may be rejected outright. Read instructions carefully and follow them explicitly. Stay within the suggested word count limit. Use the correct font and type size, following any specific guidelines provided. And of course be sure to answer the essay question!
Know your audience. Before typing one word, research the sponsor of the scholarship. Knowing about the sponsor will help you tailor your essay using specific information about the sponsor if applicable. Otherwise you’re likely to produce a generic essay, which gives the impression you’re not interested in the sponsor and what they do. When planning the essay, use the information you find and make the reader feel like you are the perfect match for their scholarship.
Outline the essay. Before you begin, decide what you want to convey and plan out each point. An essay that rambles and never reaches a conclusion will not make a positive impression.
Be authentic. If you want to connect with the reader, make your writing authentic and personal. This will happen if you write about your own real life experiences and use natural (but not slang-y) language. Your essay should convey the sense of a real person telling a unique story.
Package the application Your student’s application must stand out. Recommendations, if required, should be stellar. Choose the people who write these recommendations carefully. If there are no instructions about not including additional elements (newspaper clippings, awards, etc.), include them; and if submitting online, include a link to a personal website created to highlight accomplishments. It’s all about marketing yourself to the scholarship committee.
Mistakes to avoid Applying for scholarships is not easy. Your student may apply and get rejected. If that happens, don’t be discouraged. But if your student keeps trying without seeing positive results, they might be making these mistakes:
Proofread carefully before submitting. There must be no spelling or grammar mistakes in your essay. It should read fluently and demonstrate your writing skill. Ask someone else to proofread it, too. This is also a good moment to confirm that your essay answers the prompt, so ask your reader to tell you what question they believe the essay is answering.
Applying to the wrong scholarships — Read the guidelines carefully and only apply if it’s a good match.
Applying to scholarships with thousands of applicants — Maximize your chances by applying to lesser known scholarships with fewer applicants, such as local ones. And remember, several small awards can add up to a significant amount of money.
Having a bland or incomplete application — Following instructions and packaging properly is everything.
Giving up too quickly — The more applications your student sends, the better their odds of winning one or more.
Applying for scholarships should be a part of every student’s college preparation. First, it’s free money that will never have to be repaid. Second, your student will have a greater appreciation for the sacrifice required to finance their education and this will motivate them to strive to be academically successful. Lastly, it pays better than any minimum wage job — a $1,000 scholarship that took four hours to complete paid $250 an hour!
Be prepared to write multiple drafts.
Get the most financial aid. As you and your student have learned by now, students who receive financial aid (or would like to be considered for financial aid) must reapply each year. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) becomes available online each year on October 1st — it’s a good idea to get an early start completing this important form so that your student doesn’t miss the school’s priority deadline. If there’s been a change in your family’s financial situation that isn’t captured by the FAFSA, your student should meet with staff in the college’s financial aid office to communicate this and if necessary petition for an adjustment to their aid award. While you’re talking about financial aid renewal with your student, be sure they understand the connection between financial aid and academic performance. There are usually conditions attached to the financial aid award such as taking a certain number of credit hours or making satisfactory academic progress. If a poor or failing grade might jeopardize your student’s eligibility for institutional grants or scholarships, they should meet ASAP with their academic advisor to discuss options such as retaking a class.
Help your student choose the right credit card By Erica Sandberg
Not every college student is ready for a credit card. But they’re useful and convenient — and can provide peace of mind, especially if your student travels long distances between home and school. Additionally, building a credit history during college will benefit your student when they transition from college to work life. Many students struggle after graduation to rent an apartment or qualify for a car loan without credit history. How can you help your student find the right card when there are so many out there?
No credit history and no savings
First, know that all credit card issuers require applicants to be at least 18 and to possess enough independent income to cover the payments. That money can come from any combination of job earnings, a verifiable cash stipend, government assistance (not loans), and grants and scholarships. Issuers will also check your student’s credit reports and scores to determine lending risk (even if they’ve never had a credit card before).
Not every student has spare cash to lock up into a secured credit card’s deposit account, making an unsecured student credit card an excellent alternative. To be eligible, students typically need to submit proof that they’re enrolled in school either full- or part-time. An established credit history isn’t necessary to qualify (though it doesn’t hurt). Since these cards carry greater risk for the lender, the credit lines tend to be especially low. However, if your student treats the account well by charging often and maintaining a low or no balance, the issuer might raise the limit after a year or so.
Your student can start by identifying the most attractive accounts that are truly within their reach, then pluck the best one from that shallow pool. Here are the credit card types to zero in on if your student has…
No credit history and some savings In this case, a secured credit card is ideal. Many financial institutions offer cards that are guaranteed with cash to act as collateral against the credit line. In most cases the line exactly matches the deposit, which can be as low as a couple of hundred dollars. If your student accumulates a debt but defaults (i.e., doesn’t make the payments), the issuer can dip into the cash held in deposit and take the money that is owed. Because the issuer assumes little risk, these cards are the easiest to get.
Once they’ve identified a few cards, it’s time to carefully read the details. (Find ratings, reviews and comparisons of credit cards on websites like J.D. Power, ValuePenguin, nerdwallet, Credit Karma and CreditCards. com.) Fees should be reasonable and the interest rate as low as possible. The issuer should have a good customer service rating and an easy-to-navigate website with plenty of helpful information.
Established and good credit history Maybe your student already has positive information appearing on their reports. It could come from a student or vehicle loan in good standing, or by being an authorized user on someone else’s well-managed credit card. In that case, an unsecured credit card developed for the general population might be within reach. Your student can obtain their credit scores from FICO or VantageScores; if their credit score is in the high 600s, there should be a variety of perfectly fine cards from which to choose.
Here’s our pick for an unsecured credit card specially designed for students: the Deserve EDU Mastercard. It gives cash back and students enjoy one year of Amazon Prime for free!
Note: CollegiateParent receives affiliate compensation from accounts opened through this link.
Is Your Student Building Credit and Earning Rewards?
It’s not too late to get the Deserve EDU Mastercard before they graduate. Cardholders enjoy a year of Amazon Prime Student on us! 2
Apply now at deserve.com 36
Money Magazine Award = ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved. NerdWallet Award = ©2017-2019 and TM, NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Meet our writers AMY BALDWIN is the Director of
VICKI NELSON has nearly four
Student Transitions at the University of Central Arkansas and co-author of The College Experience and A High School Parent’s Guide to College Success: 12 Essentials. Amy and her husband are parents of a college junior and a high school senior.
decades’ experience in higher education as a professor, academic advisor and administrator. Her website, College Parent Central, is a source of bountiful information and support for the families of college students.
MARLENE KERN FISCHER
CAMBRIA PILGER is a junior at Whitworth University majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish and business. She is passionate about music, theatre and the environment and, when she’s not writing or hanging out with friends, likes to explore new places, plan events and spend time outdoors.
is a wife, mother, blogger (Thoughts from Aisle Four) and essay coach. A founding contributor at CollegiateParent, her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Grown & Flown, Parent & Co., the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, MockMom and Beyond Your Blog.
KATE HARVESTON is a health and lifestyle journalist. Find more of her writing on her blog (So Well, So Woman) and on sites like YourTango, Greatist and Care2.
CONNIE LISSNER is a writer, lawyer, wife and mother of two sons — one in college and the other a recent graduate. Connie’s parenting escapades have been featured on Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, Grown & Flown, Scary Mommy, LifeAfter50, Club Mid, BlogHer and Not Your Mother’s Book…on Parenting.
STEPHANIE PINDERAMAKER, Ph.D. is director of the College Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital, an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and an Active Minds National Advisor.
KELLI RUHL is a lifestyle writer with a passion for capturing compelling stories. She is mom to two incredible kids, a proud CU alum (Go Buffs!) and an avid reader and runner.
ERICA SANDBERG is a consumer finance expert and the author of Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families. She hosts a podcast, Adventures with Money, and her advice is also featured in outlets including Bankrate, CreditCards.com, The San Francisco Chronicle and the National Education Association Member Benefits website. JENNIFER SEE, LPC, LCDC is a clinician in private practice in San Antonio, Texas. She sees individuals ages 10 and up and focuses on mental health and substance use and abuse issues. Jennifer is also the parent of two college students. Visit her website at www.jennifersee.com and connect on social @jenniferseelpc. SUZANNE SHAFFER counsels students and families through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been highlighted on Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News College and TeenLife online and she has written for Smart College Visit, College Focus, Noodle Education and Road2College. Her articles have also been featured in print in TeenLife, UniversityParent and CollegiateParent publications.
Support your student at Austin with advice from this College Parent Magazine. Flip through and discover information about finances, safety,...
Published on Aug 12, 2019
Support your student at Austin with advice from this College Parent Magazine. Flip through and discover information about finances, safety,...