The following is the first in our upcoming series of interviews featuring various thought leaders on topics of interest to college parents. We are pleased to feature Kathryn Kay, the Director of Orientation and Assistant Director of Student Programs at Georgetown University. As noted in her bio below, Ms Kay has extensive experience working with both college students and parents. Her responses to our interview questions provide some great insights and useful tips for parents of college students. We would like to thank Ms. Kay for her time and thoughtful answers.
Suppose a parent does not feel their child’s transition to college is going well academically and/or socially, yet the student says everything is fine. Is there anything a parent should do, or should they avoid interfering?
If a student is not engaging in campus life or not doing as well academically as they used to, it may be due to other underlying issues like homesickness or stress. Rather than stating what you’re concerned about, it might help to first ask about the student’s perceptions of how the transition to college is going and acknowledging that it is a big transition (i.e. “So college must seem really different from high school. What have the major changes been?” or “It must feel strange to no longer have class 8 hours a day. Have you had to approach studying differently?”). Often students will then open up about how they feel about these changes, creating a great segue where you can suggest resources (i.e. “It sounds like it’s been hard to acclimate to campus without your high school friends. Have you reached out to that student group you liked during orientation? I remember that they were looking for new members, and it could be a great way to meet new people.” or “Do you remember when the Director from the Academic Resource Center talked at Orientation? She might be a good person to check in with about how to take better notes. Many people must struggle with that, otherwise there wouldn’t be an Academic Resource Center!”).
Related to the above, do you have any overall advice for a parent who wants to be supportive of their transitioning student, but also wants to avoid being a ‘helicopter parent’?
First of all, I want to note that I hate the term “helicopter parent”. You have done a great job parenting and helping your children get to this point in their life, and for that you should be applauded. During this big transition, I know you are going to want to be as supportive as possible, just as you have at all the other times your child changed life stages.
Although sending children off to college seems more daunting than watching them take their first steps or learn to ride a bike, the way you help them transition is the same. When you accompany them to Orientation and Move-In, it is similar to when you held their fingers to help them learn to walk or when you held the back of their bike seat when the training wheels were first taken off. But eventually, you let go. And when you let go, you have a flurry of mixed emotions. You are excited that they are about to be able to do something on your own and also worried that they are going to fall. But you let go anyway and take a step back. And when they take their first step, you applaud and yell in support. And when they fall, you give them encouraging words and comforting hugs…but you don’t go back to carrying them and you don’t put the training wheels back on, because you know that they are eventually going to find success without that.
So when your child goes off to college, there are going to be triumphs as well as bumps. And both your child and the University community will want you there to encourage them, congratulate them, and help pick them back up. But it is important that you support them to solve issues and not solve them yourself. If your student has a rough time with his/her roommate, remind them that there is a Resident Assistant (R.A.) to go to for help and do not call the R.A. or Residence Life yourself. Try not to worry too much about the bumps that come along. Those are the best opportunities for them to learn how to be successful adults. Instead, just as when they were learning to walk, empower your children to take the steps on their own as you cheer from the sidelines.
For a student transitioning from other institution, what advice would you give them to adapt as smoothly as possible to their new environment.
A lot of transfer students do not invest much in their new institution’s orientation program, because they already have had college experience. Although I know transfer students attend with different experiences from incoming freshmen, I would encourage them to use orientation to get to know their new campus, its resources, and some current students. Matriculating to a new institution will only made easier by starting with friendly faces and knowledge of what to expect.
Are there ways that parents can be helpful to orientation staff, to ensure that their child gets the most out of orientation?
Often parents are unprepared to be separated from their student during Orientation. While it is certainly a big transition for both incoming students and their families, we recognize it is a different change for students than it is for parents. Because of this, we want to provide specified support through Orientation programs and ask parents to not accompany their child through his or her orientation and to not take your child away from any of their scheduled programming. Also, Parent and Family programs have important information that we do not want you to miss, so please try and make it to everything scheduled for parents. Even if this is not your first child you are sending to college, information can change by institution or by year, and we want to make sure you have everything you need to support your student. You can also see this as an opportunity to meet other families or to serve as a resource to parents who are going through this for the first time.
Are there any non-academic skills that you have noticed that many new college students lack?
In my experience, the main skill that college students need to develop is knowing when to ask for support. I have watched students let something get out of hand rather than ask for help, either because they do not know about the appropriate resources or because they do not want to appear inept. On the other hand, I have also seen students immediately reach out to have someone help them without ever trying to solve the problem first. While we do want students to develop their autonomy, we also want them to successfully function interdependently and rely on others for support.
If you notice your child struggling and it is not an emergency or health-related situation, rather than solve the problem yourself or calling the appropriate campus resources for him/her, I suggest that you ask questions that will help him/her get to a solution or that you name the campus resources available and suggest that he/she reach out to them. That way you are empowering them to own the situation, while also acting as a safety net.
Kathryn Kay Bio:
Kathryn Kay currently serves as the Director of Orientation, Assistant Director of Student Programs, and Co-Coordinator of R. U. Ready at Georgetown University. After working at Accenture as a business consultant, specializing in Change Management for the Financial Services sector, she earned her Master of Education in College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia. Since then, Kathryn has supported student activities and orientation programs at Georgia Tech, UGA, Kennesaw State University, and Georgetown University. Kathryn’s professional interests include orientation and transition programs, sexual assault education, and diversity education. She also currently sits on the Board of Directors as a Regional Coordinator for the National Orientation Directors Association (NODA).
Virtually all of the content within CollegeTipsForParents.org involves topics related to traditional college. However, several of our readers have asked us to add content which covers educational alternatives. Many young people feel that a tradtional college isn’t for them even though they have a terrific curriculum, but they still want to continue their education. Below is the first of a series of future posts covering some educational alternatives that might appeal to your child.
Perhaps your son or daughter enjoys helping others and wants a career in the health care field. Sure, advanced college degrees are required for certain medical professions, however there are many health care occupations that do not require a traditional college degree. Modern health care relies heavily on sophisticated equipment and technology. Hospitals and other health care providers need skilled staff who understand how to utilize these high-tech tools and techniques to deliver superior care. Many of these individuals have gotten their skills from a medical tech school. The health care field is one of the few professions that is continually looking to hire staff (particularly those with cutting-edge skills). With that in mind, medical technology training is a great alternative to traditional college.
Maybe your daughter or son is drawn to more artistic pursuits. Modern technology has enhanced some of the creative tools available for those in artistic fields.
For example in the field of photography, the level of sophistication of photographic equipment and editing tools have advanced significantly in the last few years. Today’s photographic equipment can capture amazing imagery. A young photographer will need to learn how to take advantage of these technical tools, but will also need to master the art of photography. If this is the career direction your son or daughter is considering, they may want to look into and research available photography to learn the art and techniques of this field.
In future posts, we plan to discuss technology skills training options, schools of art & design, and other exciting alternatives to traditional college education. Parents, if you have an idea or suggestion for future posts related to this topic we would love to hear from you.
At the suggestion of several of our readers, CollegeTipsForParents.org will begin featuring informational interviews on our site.
We plan to include college educators, staff, and administrators from a variety of schools – public, private, community colleges, small, large, all regions.
Examples of featured interviewees will include: orientation coordinators, R/As, transition staff, academic advisors, campus security & safety, parent association leaders, financial aid staff, etc.
We will interview not only department heads, but every level of staff particularly those that may have useful suggestions for parents. Our objective is not to focus the discussions on their particular school, but to discuss their general insights, observations and advice that would be pertinent to all parents, no matter what school their child is attending (or will be attending).
We also plan to interview relevant experts on various topics including authors, speakers, company representatives, politicians, etc.
We will do written interviews, but also plan to do some audio, and video interviews as well.
Parents, if you have a suggestion on someone who would be an insightful interview subject, please email us their name and contact info.
-Thanks in advance for your help : )
By Dr. Jon Reider, advisor with iAdmissions.com
The college admissions process takes its toll on students and parents alike, with students trying to stay afloat during the barrage of academic and extracurricular expectations, and parents trying to tread the, at times, indistinguishable line between “supportive” and “over-bearing”.
Fortunately Dr. Jon Reider, former Associate Director of Admissions at Stanford from 1985-2000, has offered to shed some light on the most effective ways to support your child during the, oftentimes, overwhelming college admissions process:
1) Parents, remember first and foremost that this is your child’s college experience about to unfold, not your chance at a second time around for yourself. You may very well possess strong values, worldly knowledge, and impressive successes, but your child is a separate human being. As such, he or she must be able to learn how to take responsibility for his or her own decisions- that necessity officially starts now.
2) Your child’s success in getting into the desired college is completely his or her own, not yours. It is tempting to want to appropriate the achievement for yourself. After all, your support has been integral to your child’s development. But you must separate yourself in order to maintain your sanity, and your child’s sanity. This is not to say that you cannot be proud of your child. In fact, you absolutely should be. Just keep the entire process in perspective. And if you have not done so already, look up the definition of “Helicopter Parents, or worse, “Black Hawk Parents”, and by all means avoid everything they do!
3) Pay as little attention to rankings, ratings, and other supposedly scientific or objective information about a college’s prestige. More than anything else, these rankings are marketing tools and designed for mass consumption. The most important and interesting conclusions about a college do not come from glitzy PR campaigns, but rather from personal experience, so talk to as many actual people as possible about potential colleges.
4) During your collegiate research, read books that take sincere and honest looks at colleges and at the admissions process. There is a great book that I recommend to parents all the time called “Colleges That Change Lives.” Colleges change lives, not resumes, and the collegiate experience is about probing your authentic self and exploring your genuine values.
5) The fundamental proposition that I can offer to you to alleviate the greatest amount of stress is that, at the end of the day, you only need one college that you like to accept you. You child does need to be accepted by every Ivy League college to be a complete person. Trust me, being moderate about your expectations will spare you from a lot of anguish and heartbreak.
Dr. Reider is currently an advisor to iAdmissions.com , a network of former admissions officers specializing in affordable, online college counseling programs.
Please note, iAdmissions has graciously agreed to provide us with an affiliate referral fee which we use to help cover the cost of running this website
-Don’t skip freshmen orientation or any similar new student sessions. This is one of the few (if any) times you will get a structured introduction to the college, covering important topics such as resources, facilities, and other useful information.
-There is a lot of useful and current info on college websites. Be sure to check back periodically for useful updates and important changes.
-Use a map to schedule classes so you don’t end up running all over campus to get to your next class.
-You’ve have probably already started getting a bunch of junk mail from vendors who are targeting new college students and families. You will also be getting mail from various departments and groups from your college. Make sure you look carefully for anything coming directly from your college, since you might be receiving important documents, receipts, deadline information, etc. So, make sure you don’t throw away anything without carefully examining its contents.
-To get off to a good academic start, you might want to take a required pre-requisite course like math at a local college during the summer. Its a great advantage to get a tough course out of the way, and it might save you some money. Be sure your course fully transfers to whatever college you are attending.
-If you already know what English or Lit class you’ll be taking this fall, try to find out the reading assignments in advance, and read one of your books in advance in the summer. You’ll have plenty to do once school starts, so it makes sense to get a head start.
-Carefully examine your dorm room and report any damage or issues before you move in. You don’t want to have to pay for something you weren’t responsible for at the end of the year.
For the parents, college brings a lot to worry about. Are they eating? Are they safe? Are they doing well in school? College is just as much a transition for the student as it is the parent.Read More
Due to increasing costs of college and tighter economic conditions, college students appear to using their credit cards for basic living costs, as well as books, fees, etc.
Credit Card debt levels of college students are at a historical high. Unfortunately, the interest cost on credit cards is generally much higher than other types of debt, such as student loans.
One of the leading causes dropping out of college is financial problems. When financially strapped, students tend to work more hours at their PT jobs to cover their expenses and debt. Unfortunately, their grades can suffer, or they are forced to drop classes.
In the coming weeks, we will be featuring tips for parents and students regarding preparing for the first year in college. Topics will include supplies to shop for, coordinating with roommates, money saving tips, packing tips, and many more topics. We would also like to invite guest suggestions and guest posts.