College Orientation: A Parent's Perspective

This time of year, many parents ask for my thoughts on attending College Freshman Orientation with their child.  Is it necessary? Will they learn anything helpful? Will they crowd their child by attending? Since my own children graduated from college several years ago, I thought I would seek advice and guidance from my two colleagues, Julie Shields-Rutyna and Lori Seuch, who both work with me here at MEFA and have children entering college as freshmen in the fall.

Both Julie and Lori unequivocally found it not only helpful but educational to attend their children's Orientation. The chance to be at the place that their children would call home for the next four years, and to look at it with a different set of eyes (as a resident as opposed to an applicant), was helpful and comforting. They each had some key takeaways and tips that are listed below in their own words.

If you're a parent planning to attend your child's College Orientation this summer, review this list of lessons learned by Julie and Lori before you go:

    • Drop-Off Day: As a first-time college parent, it was really helpful to learn the logistics of the move-in and drop-off day. From understanding where to go to find room keys and last minute supplies to learning when to actually leave your child and allow him or her to begin the new journey was incredibly beneficial.

    • Campus Resources: There are lots of people on campus who are ready (and trained) to help your child, if he or she needs it. Parental instinct may be to swoop in and solve the problem for your child, but in reality it is better for children to work through things on their own. As parents, we need to encourage our children to seek out for themselves the services that can help them.

    • Your Child's Rights/FERPA: Understanding FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) is a part of the college parent experience. There are many things related to your child's education that you will not have access to, unless your child allows it. That can be a tough concept for parents to understand, especially since parents are generally the ones paying the bill. Finding out how your child's college interprets FERPA is important. To learn more about FERPA, click here.

    • Letting Go: This is your child's experience, not yours as the parent. It is not always easy to let go, but it is important for the growth of your child that you do that.

Have you attended a College Orientation recently and have additional tips for parents? We'd love to hear them. Share them with the MEFA community on Facebook or Twitter.