Summer is the best time to have that 'talk' about college

Parents at Trinity University

by David Tuttle—

Every summer the Trinity University residential life staff fields questions from parents before their sons or daughters move to campus, receiving many queries about room dimensions and configurations, the length of the clothes bars in the closet, and more. Planning and setting up a room is fun. Helping one’s offspring prepare is an important ritual in sending a child off to college. Nevertheless, there is some other preparation that is even more pressing.

I remember asking one mom why she insisted in setting up her son's room. She told me it was because if she didn't, nothing would happen beyond move-in day. Indeed, it doesn’t take long before most students’ rooms are in disarray. (At check-out in May, parents often ask, “What is all of this stuff?”) Plans for clean rooms and organizational systems are quickly forgotten amid papers, pizza boxes, and piles of laundry.

In the meantime, students will struggle with homesickness, poor time management, freedom and the consequences that come with it, opportunities for alcohol consumption and other substance use, and poor grades. While many of you have addressed things as life lessons for the past 18 years, you may want to reinforce some of these messages or address new ones specific to the college years prior to August.

So send your child to Trinity, not only with stackable bins from the Container Store and little sewing and tool kits (that they will probably never use) but also with anticipation of how they will manage real and important issues and experiences.

The answers to many of these questions are obvious as to what they should or should not do:

Safety

Will they lock their room doors when they aren’t there? Will they sleep with their doors locked? Will they drink and drive? Will they get in a car with a drunk driver? Will they leave parties alone or with friends? Do they know they can call the Trinity University Police Department for on-campus escorts?

Health issues

Can they survive on pizza and soda alone? Will they be able to develop a regular sleep pattern? Will they budget their meal points? Will they take advantage of excellent recreational facilities and the intramural program on campus? Will they take their medications?

Alcohol

Will they drink alcohol? What will they do to take care of themselves or a friend? Will they ride with a designated sober driver or just the person who is least drunk? Do they know the consequences of alcohol violations on campus? Do they know the alcohol policy?

Sex
Do they know that Trinity has a sexual misconduct policy? Do they know how to protect themselves? What do they think about “hooking up”?

Roommate issues

Will they be assertive? Will they be respectful of a roommate’s reasonable habits and requests? How will they ask for that respect in return? Will they stand up to a roommate who brings in a guest and tries to kick them out of the room? Will they ever treat their roommate this way?

Parent-child relationship
How often will you communicate and by what means? How often will you visit one another? For the first visit home: What will the house rules be applied on visits and holiday breaks?

Finances

Which bills will they be responsible for paying? How often will you send money or add funds to their Tiger Bucks account? What is your philosophy on credit cards? Should they look for a part-time job to offset costs?

Trinity University students at the Writing Center
Students can get help with essays at the Writing Center. 
Academics

What are their academic strengths? How will they get to know professors? What questions will they ask the faculty adviser? In terms of study habits, what will they do differently than in high school? What are the important dates on the academic calendar? What kind of support do they like to receive from you?

Campus involvement


What clubs or organizations are they interested in joining? How will they make new friends?

Game systems, video games, instant messaging

Will they take their game systems with them? How much will they play each day in relation to doing homework? Will they use the systems to break the ice and have fun with others? Will they play so much that they don’t get involved on campus? Will they text during class? Will they live on social media and neglect studies?

Responsible citizenship


Will they work to make the campus a better place? Will they take time to understand campus rules? Will they treat campus neighbors respectfully? Will they pre-judge people because they are different? Will they embrace diversity and learn from others? Will they care for the University facilities they are using?

Career exploration

Will they meet with staff from Career Services and their professors to relate their interests to different majors and careers? Will they investigate job shadowing, internships, volunteering, research, or other career-building endeavors, beginning as early as their first year?

That is a lot to cover. Maybe there are some topics that are more pressing than others. Even our New Student Orientation uses a triage approach to the most critical messages being shared first, usually issues related to safety. You have lots to talk about this summer. Help them get ready for college, not just ready for setting up their first room.

About David

David M. Tuttle is an associate vice president and Dean of Students at Trinity University. You can read his blog, The Dean's List, here.

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