Category Archives: High School Seniors

Advice for College Parents- Q&A with Director of Orientation

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.

Kathryn Kay: Director of Orientation, Georgetown University

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).

Alternative Ideas to Traditional Colleges

Virtually all of the content within 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.

Tips For Students Getting Ready to Start College

Below are some tips for both parents and for students who will be starting college in the coming months. We will be posting more tips and suggestions in the coming weeks. Here are a few tips.

-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.

The Parents’ Guide to a Worry-Free Semester

By Caitlin Fahey for

The transition from high school to college is difficult. For the parents. For those of you who are sending your children to college for the first time, I’m sure you’re a nervous wreck. But a college education is what every parent wants for their children today, isn’t it? I survived my freshman year (and so did my parents). I went on to mentor freshmen for two years, and am currently a graduate assistant, teaching two sections of freshman English. I can assure you, you don’t have to worry as much as you think you do.

Many of you probably worry about the fact that your son or daughter is alone in an unfamiliar place. How safe is their campus, you might ask yourself. In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, you aren’t the only anxiety-ridden person. Schools all over the country are stepping up the security measures. At my alma mater, there are emergency phones so evenly distributed throughout the campus that an orientation leader boasted, “There isn’t one place on campus that you can stand without at least one blue light in view.” The blue lights on the phones signal a place where one push of a large “help” button immediately calls 911. Since Virginia Tech, many schools have also implemented an emergency text message service, so that in the case of a campus-wide emergency, students may be alerted anywhere.

I bet I can guess your next worry: alcohol, right? Universities today are not only associated with higher education, but with keg parties and binge drinking. However, I’m sorry to say that it’s not your place to lecture. But rest assured: universities don’t like the “party school” label anymore than you like imagining Johnny too hung-over to make it to Chemistry. Since my college days, I’ve also seen dorm security tighten up, and many campuses assign freshmen and sophomores to “dry” residences, where no alcohol is permitted. Likewise, for two years I was a mentor for a “First Year Experience” class, a one-credit course designed to help freshmen adjust. We had a unit on drug and alcohol abuse and educated the class about everything from legal repercussions to the signs of alcohol poisoning. If you can’t stop a college student from drinking, you can help them drink responsibly.

No matter what I say, I’m sure you still have doubts in the back of your mind. What if something does happen? Chances are, your child’s school has an abundance of resources. I teach freshmen English to a relatively small class. Because of the intimate classroom setting, the students tend to open up to their English teachers. I’ve had students come to office hours to talk about boy troubles, or use in-class writing to rant about how they think they are failing chemistry. I have a number of referrals I can make in these situations. Mental Health Services offer confidential counseling for students fighting depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. There is an Advocacy Center that also offers counseling and advice for extenuating circumstances, and study resources such as the Writing Center and tutoring services. Besides, there are so many recreational facilities and student activities on campus, that there’s a good chance your child will get over their homesickness and be in good spirits all semester.

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. The bright side is that the four years of university will fly by. Suddenly, you’ll realize that the child you left in a strange dorm four years ago has become a young adult.

This article was originally written for by Caitlin Fahey a few years back, when Caitlin was pursuing a Master’s degree in English while teaching two sections of First Year Composition, a college writing course for college freshman students. As an undergrad, she similarly served as a freshman year mentor in a First Year Experience program. In addition to teaching, Caitlin’s interests include writing, theater, and film. As an experienced college student, she has some useful insights for college parents regarding: College Drinking, Campus Security, College Health, and other typical worries of College Parents.

Credit Card Debt is climbing on Campuses

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.