Campus beat: No-nonsense advice for college parents

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2014 - 9:26 PM

Ever wonder what drives professors crazy about college freshmen?

One of the biggest complaints, writes history professor Claire Potter, is “how emotionally, and practically, underprepared” many students are for their first year at college.

She offers some no-nonsense advice for parents in a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Bye-Bye Birdies: Sending the Kids Away to College.”

Potter, who teaches at the New School for Public Engagement in New York, repeats the familiar theme that many 18-year-olds are too emotionally dependent on their parents, and often have the mistaken impression that college is “more or less similar to high school.”

So if you really want to help your kids succeed, she writes, here are some parental Dos and Don’ts.

• “Offer less help and advice.” Be ready to give advice if your child asks for it, but only then. “If your kid is going away to college, let him go away. This means not texting and talking every day, or even every other day.”

• Don’t contact a faculty member or dean unless your child is in “mortal danger.” Roommate troubles and bad courses don’t count.

• Before school starts, talk about the differing expectations between high school and college. For example: Students shouldn’t expect to be able to redo assignments or retake tests if they don’t like their grade. “There are no do-overs in college, except at the professor’s discretion,” she writes.

• As a parent, don’t even think about doing the “final edit” on your student’s papers. That’s usually a violation of the honor code, not to mention counterproductive. If they need help, she writes, that’s what professors and teaching assistants are for.

• Teach them to do laundry and clean up their space. “One of the greatest causes of friction between first-year roommates is cleanliness.”

Potter admits that the summer before college may be a little late to start teaching students responsibility. “On the other hand, better late than never, right?” she said.

 

maura.lerner@startribune.com

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