While I sit at my desk reflecting on my week, I replay in my head the concerns freshmen parents have for their children. They regularly express them in a barrage of questions. College plays a big part in the lives of parents and students alike; the single common goal is the outcome: success.
Parents are often curious about the academic advising given to their children. I hear many recurring questions at the HBCU at which I work. How do I know my child is in the correct courses? Are these developmental courses? What can they do to my child’s future if he/she wants a particular major? How do I get updates on my child’s academic performance?
So how do we manage these questions (and many more) that our freshmen parents ask?
Always create an atmosphere of relaxation for new students and parents. Transitioning from home to college is an adjustment. If time allows, have an open dialogue about how the characteristics of college may affect his/her ability to acclimate, navigate, and thrive. At the same time, provide concrete examples for reassurance. In addition, suggest meeting with other support staff—RAs, student counselors, and other resources—about availability and services.
Present the facts. Many parents are supporting first-generation first-year students. Therefore, the parents often do not understand the meaning of General Education or Core Curriculum. Explain that all students are required to complete the core. In addition, explain what the core entails—generally Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences. Aside from the academics, remind parents of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that protects the privacy of students’ educational records.
Furthermore, I like to hear why an individual intends to major in a particular discipline. That tends to relax everyone. Students have big dreams, and they want to express them. They don’t only want to express their dreams to an Academic Advisor, but also to loving parents or family members. By allowing the student to talk freely, he/she will often provide an answer like “I think this college is a good fit for me academically because of the activities, organizations, and the curriculum track I have seen.” It’s always good to allow the freshman to build his/her resiliency and decision making skills.