Parenting a College Student
Preparing Your Student for Campus Life
College life brings a whole new set of responsibilities. Balancing increased academic workloads, a new social life, a new job, exercise, leisure activities, and religious/spiritual values presents students with a great deal of stress and anxiety. In addition, students add new responsibilities for managing life outside the classroom in ways that previously had been handled by their parents. Taking on personal and financial responsibility may be completely new to some. Others may have had experience in these areas, but may be intimidated by the thought of so much responsibility without the parental safety net.
You can help your student prepare for these new responsibilities by discussing expectations ahead of time and by allowing your student to practice before he or she arrives on campus. The more comfortable your student feels about managing his or her own business affairs, the less stressful these new responsibilities will seem in the fall.
The following are some of the experiences that many students feel are big adjustments when the come to campus:
Doing own laundry
You can help by making sure he/she knows how to operate machines, understand clothing labels and symbols, and separate laundry as needed. Practicing before leaving home is a big help.
Sharing a room
You can help by teaching him/her to respect a roommate’s personal space, property, and unique differences. You can teach your student how to communicate in personal relationships, how to set ground-rules with a roommate, and how to utilize University resources and Residence Hall staff when necessary.
Scheduling own health appointments/managing prescriptions
You can help by requiring your student to make these appointments for himself/herself, by teaching your student his/her health history, by providing him/her all of the necessary health insurance information prior to arrival on campus, and by instilling in your student a sense of personal responsibility for health-related issues.
Navigating public transportation
You can help by teaching your student how to read bus schedules, how to arrange for air/bus/train transportation, and how to arrange for shuttle service to the airport. Students can ride both the University buses and the AATA buses for free, so it is in their best interest to take full advantage of these services. Students will learn more about navigating buses at orientation. For transportation to the airport, the Michigan Student Assembly sponsors airBus, a low-cost shuttle to the airport which operates during the University’s Fall, Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring breaks.
Working with University staff
You can help by requiring your student to communicate directly with University departments and to take responsibility for his/her University ‘career.’ Students should feel comfortable with University resources and seeking assistance from University staff. Students should know which department to call when problems arise. You can help by resisting the urge to ‘come to the rescue’ by contacting the University departments yourself. Instead, encourage your student to contact the University departments directly. By encouraging your student to take responsibility for himself/herself, you will demonstrate that you have confidence in your student, and you will empower your student to be self-reliant and independent. If your student doesn’t know which department to talk to, refer him/her to the “M-Planner,” The Insider‘s Guide to the University. This student handbook helps students help themselves when it comes to navigating a decentralized University.
Living within a budget
You can help by establishing a weekly or monthly budget with your student. Teach your student how to plan for regular expenses (monthly bills, personal supplies, groceries), as well as unexpected/infrequent expenses (new clothes, health care expenses, replacing broken/outdated property, etc.). Make sure they know how to balance a checking/debit account before they come to campus. Encourage your student to take the free, online Cash Course from the Office of Financial Aid and discuss with them what they learned in the course.
Using credit cards
You can help by discussing expectations ahead of time. Should your student open credit card accounts? Or should he or she use a debit-only system? Students will be bombarded with credit card offers on campus. Teach your student how to accurately compare the credit card offers, how to read the “fine print,” and how to act responsibly when it comes to debt management. Educate your student on the dangers of credit cards and how to avoid their pitfalls. Information about credit card education is available on the Federal Reserve website, and the Office of Financial Aid's Cash Course provides some information specific for college students.
You can help by teaching your student how to accurately read billing statements, how to keep organized so that bills are not paid late, and how to resolve problems if bills are inaccurate. Keep in mind that at Michigan, monthly statements of account activity are available for students online. Students are sent email reminders to check Wolverine Access (the U-M database system) for their monthly statement. Students are responsible for payment by the due date. Students may also sign up their parents to view their student account data and have access to their monthly student account statements (eBills). More information about parent access to eBills is available online the the Student Financial Services website.
Making choices about alcohol and other drugs
You can help by communicating your expectations about alcohol and other drugs, discussing family values regarding alcohol and drug use, educating your student about campus resources, and encouraging your student to participate in the many alcohol-free events on campus. During Parent & Guest Orientation, you will learn more about alcohol issues on college campuses, and you can visit the University of Michigan's University Health Service website for more information.
Personal & Property Safety
You can help by encouraging your student to utilize University safety resources, by teaching him/her ways to keep property safe (such as locking doors and locking bikes), and by teaching your student that personal and property safety are individual responsibilities. Additional safety tips on campus are available online on the Department of Public Safety website. Parents can also check their insurance policies to find out if personal property is covered while your student is away from home, and encourage your student to purchase renter’s insurance if necessary.
You can help by encouraging your student to learn about fire safety, including the route to be followed during a residence hall evacuation (instructions are on the inside of the room door) and how to determine when it is safe to exit a student room when there is fire and smoke outside the room. Parents can also help ensure that students only use extension cords (size 12 or 14 gauge conductor only) that are in good condition, and remind them to keep the extension cords free from any weight on top of them (furniture or large objects). For more information about fire safety in the residence halls, visit the fire safety page on the Housing website. In addition, fire safety is a concern for students who move off-campus. When your student decides to move off-campus (typically the sophomore or junior year), encourage him or her to read the fire safety information online prior to signing a lease.