The college years are an exciting time of great change for both parents and college students. Students are learning to live alone and make adult decisions, often for the first time in their lives. Parents are often both proud and anxious as they watch their students launch. We are used to having a great deal of input into their lives and their decisions. For nearly two decades we poured our energy into our children’s lives. Did we get it right? Have we taught them everything they need to know? Are they ready for this new independence? It isn’t an easy transition from hands-on mom or dad to side-line coach. Here are some common questions or concerns and information that will help make this transition smoother.
Note: Several important Louisiana State University links have been included. If your student doesn’t attend LSU, similar links will likely be available on his or her university’s website.
I pay the bills! What do you mean I can’t see his records!?
Federal legislation governs privacy rights of students. The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), sometimes called the Buckley Amendment, requires universities to keep student records confidential except in the case of university personnel who need to know (academic counselors, etc.), a court order, and emergencies. Students themselves have access to all their university records, including Career Service assessments. University officials and counselors are unable to give grades, assessment results or details about counseling to parents. It is best for parents to ask their children directly for details about classes, counseling, or copies of their records. To view more details about FERPA, visit the Department of Education website: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
Students should make their own appointments for services on campus. Parents may be present in these settings only with the student’s permission. If your student is under 18-years-old and still in high school, you have a legal right to be present. However, it is important that you respect your student’s wishes regarding your presence in these sessions.
Should I Be Worried?
College is a time of tremendous change for students. Parents should expect some transition issues. Sometimes students are overwhelmed and confused due to a lack of information. In this case, directing your student to counselors in Career Services or Academic Advising will be extremely helpful. Those counselors can advise students where to seek help if they can not answer their questions directly.
Academic struggles are common and may be due to poor study skills, lack of time management, or a belief that grades don’t really matter. Encourage your students to take their academic work seriously! Remind them that a higher GPA means more options in the future. Many students find it necessary to forsake lifelong dreams because their GPAs were too low to enter the college of their choice. The Center for Academic Success is an outstanding resource for students interested in pursuing better study strategies. Tutoring, computer training, and help with writing skills are available to university students.
Serious issues of depression, anxiety, social isolation, eating disorders, substance abuse etc. sometimes appear during the college years because students are making the challenging transition to adult independence. Do not ignore these problems and hope they will go away! Help is available on campus at the Mental Health Clinic at the Student Health Center.
He’ll never get a job with that degree!
Most parents are concerned about their student’s future financial security. Career Services has many resources and books with ideas about what vocational options are available for a variety of majors.
Many parents would be surprised to learn what students can do with even non-traditional majors. Sometimes adding a traditional minor to a non-traditional degree provides more job options. For example, a major in art and a minor in marketing might translate into wonderful opportunities in advertising. There are often several paths to a particular career goal.
Recruiters are looking at much more than a student’s major. For example, the student’s personal qualities, work experience, coursework, skills, and GPA are often important considerations. If your child is considering a career path that requires graduate school, there are several things to consider. Law schools, counseling programs, MBA programs, and many other graduate level programs often accept students with a variety of undergraduate degrees. GPA and GRE or LSAT, etc. scores are an extremely important part of the graduate level admission process.
Students should research entrance requirements early in the decision-making process. Encourage your student to speak with someone who is already working in the field to find out what academic path he or she chose. If you are still concerned, encourage your child to make an appointment with a career counselor.
Help! My kid keeps changing majors!
In other words, your student is very normal! Readiness to commit to a major or career path varies. Career decision-making is a combination of self-discovery and learning what the options are. Try to listen to your son or daughter with an open heart and mind. Arguing with your student is unlikely to be productive. If he or she is being unrealistic, or is anxious and confused, advise him or her to talk with an expert who can help. The most important point is not to procrastinate.
Encouraging activities that enhance self-discovery and exposure to career options is very helpful. Job shadowing, internships, volunteer experiences, or even chatting with family friends in the various occupations will all help your child begin to solidify his or her interests. A career counselor can help your student with experiential education and deciding on a major!
How Do I Get My Child to Talk to Me?
University students often balk at parental input because they are struggling to find themselves and achieve independence. It is a normal, though not always comfortable, part of development. It helps if parents can remain open and non-judgmental. Resist the urge to lecture! Your student will be more receptive if he or she sees your questions and input as an attempt to help meet his or her goals. Asking a few open-ended questions is a great way to get the conversation started. Here are some examples:
- What majors are you considering?
- What are your favorite classes? What about them appeals to you?
- What are your least favorite classes? What do you dislike about them?
- If you knew for sure you would be successful, what would you do?
- When are you the happiest?
- At the end of your life, what do you want to say you have accomplished?
- What can I do to help you accomplish your goals?
What can I do to be helpful?
Listen sympathetically to your student. Express your confidence in him or her, focusing on strengths, rather than weaknesses. Be flexible and realistic. This is a process! Remind your student about the resources available at his or her university but encourage your child to be independent and make his or her own appointments. Keep your own anxiety in check. Talk to your spouse or friends about your concerns but don’t burden your child with your anxiety, doubts, or fears. You spent many years preparing your child for this important phase of his or her life.
Remember there are people and resources available to your student on campus. Career counselors at CrossRoads Professional Services are also available and eager to help your child make a smooth, successful transition to the adult world.