Tips for Parenting An Aggie

Please visit and refer your student to the Thrive.usu.edu website for tips and encouragement about making the most out of the college experience. Or if they need some financial perspective, watch this presentation given by Art Young, USU's Financial Aid Directory.

The Basics

Keep in touch

Students at all levels of the university experience like to stay connected with home. They also like to know that you are there if they need you. Send a quick text to wish them luck on a test, mail a newspaper clipping from home, or email just to let them know you care.

Know that you are important

Students regularly cite parents among the greatest influences in their lives. As faculty and staff at USU, we also recognize that you can be a tremendous partner in helping your student reach his or her goals in college. We look to you to encourage your student to follow his or her intellectual passions, as well as to become an independent adult.

Let them choose

Your student wants to know that you believe in them. Let them make decisions, choose their own courses, and eventually choose a major. They may choose a major based on their intellectual passion, not based on which major is likely to earn the most money.

Let them solve problems

Your student may ask you to intervene in a problem situation. Resist the urge to handle the situation for him or her. Act as consultant as your student learns to problem-solve and communicate.

Express confidence and be realistic

Your student will encounter road blocks and disappointments along the way. Allow them to make mistakes, and let them know that you are confident that they can work through issues that may arise.

Help them learn the difference between disappointment and failure

At some point your student will likely experience something they will label as a failure, such as a C on a test, even if it is not. Assure them that their best effort is all you expect.

Tips for Parenting A Freshman

Your student, along with about two million others across the nation, has entered a time that is both exciting and frightening. It is also a time of growth and change, and parents often experience vicariously much of the emotion that accompanies this transition.

Parenting a freshman means watching, waiting, and worrying through ups and downs. With the goal of helping you strengthen your relationship with your student while keeping anxiety at a minimum, here are some suggestions from Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years that may help you along.

Don't Ask if He/She is Homesick

The power of association can be a dangerous thing. "The idea of being homesick didn't even occur to me with all the new things that were going on, until my mom called one of the first weekends and asked, "Are you homesick?' Then it hit me." We recently surveyed freshman on campus and just under sixty percent preferred not being asked.

The first few days/weeks of school are activity-packed and the challenge of meeting new people and adjusting to new situations takes a majority of a freshman's time and concentration. So, unless a well-meaning parent reminds them of it, they'll probably be able to escape the loneliness and frustration of homesickness. And even if they don't tell you during those first few weeks, they do miss you.

Write (Even if They Don't Write Back)

Although freshmen are typically eager to experience all the away-from-home independence at first, most are still anxious for the security of family ties. This surge of independence may be misinterpreted by sensitive parents as rejection, but most freshmen (although 99 percent won't ever admit it) love receiving news of home and family, however mundane it may seem to you. Most of our freshman would appreciate their parents and family to send some form of communication at least once a week to as often as you want.

Ask Questions (But Not Too Many)

College freshmen have a tendency to resent interference with their newfound lifestyle, but most still desire the security of knowing that someone is still interested in them.

Extreme parental curiosity can be obnoxious and alienating. "I-have-a-right-to-know" toned questions should be avoided and are often interpreted as a lack of trust. On the other hand, honest inquiries and other "between friends" communication and discussion will do much to further the parent-freshman relationship.

Don't Worry (Too Much) About Upset Calls, Texts, or Emails

We all know that parenting can be a thankless job, especially during the college years. It's a lot of give and only a little take.

Often when troubles become too much for a freshman to handle (i.e., a flunked test, ended relationship, and shrunken T-shirt all in one day) the only place to turn, write, or dial is home. Unfortunately, this may be the only time that an urge to communicate is felt so strongly, so you don't hear about the A paper, the new boyfriend, or the domestic triumph.

Be patient with those nothing-is-going-right, I-hate-this-place phone calls or emails. You're providing a real service as an advice dispenser or sympathetic ear. Nine out of ten students just want a listening ear.

Visit (But Not Too Often)

Visits by parents (especially when accompanied by shopping or a dinner out) are another part of the first-year events that freshmen reluctantly admit liking. These visits give students a chance to introduce some of the important people in both of their now-important worlds of home and school to each other. Additionally, it's a way for parents to become familiar with (and, hopefully, more understanding of) their students' new activities, commitments, and friends.

Spur-of-the-moment "surprise visits" are not appreciated by half of the students we asked. Get to understand your student, find what helps them feel comfortable and transition more effectively.

Avoid Telling Your Student that "This is the Best Time of Their Life"

The freshman year (and the other three as well) can be full of indecision, insecurities, disappointment, and most of all, mistakes. They're also full of discovery, inspiration, good times, and good people. It is often only in retrospect that more good than bad stands out.

Those who believe that all college students get good grades, know what they want to major in, always have activity-packed weekends, thousands of close friends, and lead carefree, worry-free and mistake-free lives, are wrong.

Because freshmen come to college with larger-than-life expectations, it takes them a while to accept that being unhappy, afraid, confused, disliking people and making mistakes is normal, predictable, and part of growing up. Those parents that accept and understand the highs and lows of their student's reality are providing the support and encouragement where it's needed most.

Encourage the Use of Campus Services

The administration, faculty, and staff of the university are sensitive to the needs of students. Nearly any service a student may need is available on campus, and it is important that parents and family encourage that they be utilized. Help encourage them; almost half of incoming students don't utilize these services until their sophomore year or later. With everything from fitness facilities and tutoring centers to health care and counseling services, there is little excuse that students cannot find what they need.

When parents encourage their students to use campus services, it shows a vote of confidence in the institution and helps students to connect.

Trust Them

Finding yourself is difficult enough without feeling that the people whose opinions you respect most are always second-guessing you. A wise mother once wrote to her college student, "I love you and want for you all the things that make you happiest; and I guess you are the one who knows best what those things are."

Read Huffington Post's Recent Article

15 Things Parents of First - Year College Students Should Never Do

Tips for Parenting a Sophomore

Encourage Your Student to Stay Involved

The freshman year is full of intentional programming that is designed to help your student step out of his or her comfort zone and meet new people while becoming involved in the college experience. It is important for your student to continue that involvement during his or her sophomore year. If they have not taken the opportunity to get involved, help them start now. This is a great time to explore, looking into different majors, visiting with advisors and professors, and looking into opportunities such as undergraduate research and study abroad.

Another essential way of being involved is establishing personal relationships with professors and faculty at Utah State. They can be key when searching for ways to strengthen your resume and solidify references for graduate school.

Don't Worry if Your Student Hasn't Found a Major

As other students begin to find a major, and become excited about that major, it can be easy for students who are still undecided to feel like they are falling behind. They often put pressure on themselves, thinking that they have to chart their life-course as soon as possible. Choosing a major doesn't necessarily mean choosing a life-long career. Having a degree will open doors to graduate studies and career opportunities in a variety of fields.

Remind your student that many others are still exploring and changing their majors. Some great ways to explore include visiting Career Services for a career aptitude test, looking at the different degrees offered at http://www.usu.edu/degrees/, and taking classes in many different areas.

Remind Your Student about Study Abroad Opportunities

The USU Study Abroad Office offers many opportunities for students to gain international and global exposure. They work with existing scholarships and financial aid to make the experience very affordable. They can help your student find an English-speaking university in a foreign country, or they can help your student study in a language. Study abroad fairs are held each semester, and students can also drop into the study abroad office for a one-on-one appointment.

Encourage Your Student to Visit Career Services

It is never too early to start preparing for a career after college. In fact, nearly three-quarters of sophomores have not taken this advantage. USU Career Services offers many opportunities for students to explore majors, network with alumni in a given field, and find internships while in school.

Tips for Parenting a Junior

Encourage Your Student to Get to Know Faculty Members

When your student applies for jobs and/or graduate programs, it is important to have the reference of an academic professor or mentor. Encourage your student to introduce himself or herself before class, after class, or during office hours. Professors are generally thrilled for the opportunity to share their enthusiasm for their subject or field with an interested student.

Suggest an Internship or Research Opportunity

Junior year is a great time for your student to participate in activities that will really round out their college experience. USU has a tremendous undergraduate research program that allows students to work hands on with professors researching in a variety of fields. Career Services can also help your student apply for internship opportunities that will begin to build a strong network and provide valuable job experience.

Encourage Your Student to Take a Leadership Role in a Club or Organization

With numerous clubs and student organizations, the opportunities to lead and leave a mark at USU are abundant. If your student has been involved with clubs or organizations, encourage them to apply for a leadership position. If they are just starting the involvement process, let them know that it is never too late to get involved and even lead. As students begin to take more and more classes in their area of study, they may appreciate something outside of class to break up the uniformity. If your student isn’t sure where to start, have them visit the Student Involvement and Leadership Center in Taggart Student Center Room 326.

Make Sure Your Student is Speaking with His or Her Advisor

During the junior year it can be tempting for students to self-advise. They are familiar with policies, they generally know their major, and they are confident in their ability to choose the classes they need for graduation. It is important for your student to run their schedule by their academic advisor, even if it means sending a quick email. Advisors are aware of changes to course offerings that may affect your student’s program of study. They can also make sure your student is meeting some of the more obscure graduation requirements such as the requirement to take 40 or more upper-division courses.

Tips for Parenting a Senior

Remind Your Student about Graduation Deadlines

Your student needs to apply for graduation prior to the semester that he or she plans on graduating. Specific deadlines and the online application can be found at www.usu.edu/registrar/htm/graduation.

Be a Listening Ear

Senior year is a mix of nostalgia and preparation. Your student is looking to the future while still trying to soak up the remaining college experience. Your student may appreciate someone to listen to them reminisce, as well as someone with whom they can bounce ideas about graduate school, a career, where to live, and so forth.

Remind Your Student about Career Services

Your student can receive one-on-one career coaching, resume assistance, alumni networking, and much more from the USU Career Services office. Career services also offers entrance exams for graduate schools, a graduate school fair, and one of the largest career fairs in the state of Utah. In a recent poll sent to seniors on campus, almost seventy-percent of them had not utilized these services, help remind them.