Parents: Are you getting oriented, too?

I came across this article the other day about college-orientation sessions for parents. These aren’t a brand-new thing, certainly. They had parent sessions when my stepdaughter started college five years ago. But it’s definitely a new phenomenon with this generation of kids.

I have absolutely no idea what parents did during college orientation when I started school. Go shopping? Maybe. Back then, lots of parents didn’t even attend orientation. Mine didn’t — I carpooled with a friend’s parents who took three or four of us kids along.

So what’s going on? Is this just more helicopter parenting at work? Or is it something more?

Part of it could be the high cost of tuition. Fewer kids are able to manage college costs on their own these days, and when parents are footing the bill, they automatically feel more involved in the college experience. It’s kind of a “what am I getting for my money?” mentality.

But helicoptering is definitely a big part as well. Parents today are simply much more involved in their children’s lives than in previous generations. And that doesn’t stop when kids head off to college — although it should slow down. These orientations are designed to help parents realize that and teach them how to disengage themselves a little from the day-to-day of their student’s lives.

I get how hard that is. I remember the day we dropped off my stepdaughter at college. It was so strange to drive away and leave her there, realizing that she was in control now — no more curfews, no more “Where are you going? With who?”

My older son is starting kindergarten this fall, and I went to a parent meeting earlier this spring where they tried to prepare us for that first day of school. Some of the advice they gave us would serve college parents too:

  • Don’t let them see you cry — it will only upset them.
  • Don’t linger, it just makes the transition harder.
  • Smile, wave, and walk away. They’ll be fine.

Parents, let us know how you’re handling your student’s transition to college.

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
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