It’s almost time for Parents’ Weekend!
But I probably didn’t need to remind many of you, since the date has been seared into your brain ever since you dropped off your student. For many parents, it’s the only extended amount of time they’ll spend on their child’s campus the whole academic year, so it’s a big deal for everyone – parents, students and schools.
As a veteran of six college Parents’ Weekends, here are 5 things to consider before you finalize your plans
1. Let your student guide the activities. For colleges and universities, Parents’ Weekend is their time to shine. Most schools will provide a profusion of events, and it can be overwhelming to try to fit in everything you might want to do. And while sitting and listening to a presentation on study abroad opportunities might sound fascinating to you, your freshman may not have that on their radar quite yet, and they’d rather go to the Sing Off that their a capella friend is in.
Ask about what sounds best to them, before signing up or paying for any events. And don’t be surprised if they end up passing on something fun because they just need to take a nap.
2. Take another student (or 2 or 3) out for a meal with you. Many kids have family members who can’t attend Parents’ Weekend for any number of reasons. It can feel pretty sad for a kid to know that their friends are all heading out to dinner with their parents when they may be walking back to the dorms for an evening alone.
Encourage your student to ask around ahead of time and find out whose family can’t make it and invite a couple of those kids to join you for a meal. Pay it forward. This might be your kid next year.
3. Do not repeat “When I was in college…” a thousand times over the weekend. While some things about college life have stayed the same for the last 25 years, there’s a whole lot that has changed dramatically. Our students really don’t want to hear repeatedly about how easy they have it now with all these resources, and how much nicer their dorms are, and how the food is so much better and blah, blah, blah.
They have their unique experiences and challenges as well. Dwell in the present and ask questions about what they love about their campus and classes. Let them show you their favorite hang out spots. Get to know some of their new friends and connect with other parents. (They will be the ones who can reminisce with you.) Which leads us to…
4. Don’t embarrass your student by trying to re-live your glory days. On many a campus, Parent Weekend festivities often include tailgating or “pre-gaming” before a football game. Depending on the school, fraternities may host open parties for anyone who wants to join in, including parents. While all of these events can be a lot of fun, and are excellent people-watching opportunities, I have seen things get out of hand.
If at any point during the weekend, you hear your student lean in and say, “Please don’t,” you probably want to put down that next beer you were about to shotgun or sit down and stop screaming at the referees. It’ll never be 1992 again.
5. Consider bringing a small offering of gratitude to your student’s R.A. I’m not suggesting you break the bank and present a grandiose gift basket, but a small gesture like a plate of homemade cookies or a gift card for a couple of coffees is a lovely way to acknowledge what a challenging job it can be to keep watch over a floor of freshmen.
The resident advisors deal with a lot of drama their first few months of school. It’s easy to forget that they also are trying to study and sleep and have a life, while at the same time helping negotiate roommate disputes, monitor unruly behavior, and discipline fellow students. Show them some love if you can.
Parents’ Weekend can be all that you’re hoping for with a little planning and forethought. Have fun, Go Team, and enjoy your kid.
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