By Polly Dunn
Dr. Polly Dunn is a licensed child psychologist, wife and mom of four. She is the director of the Auburn University Psychological Services Center and offers her ‘Perfectly Imperfect Parenting Solutions’ at www.ChildPsychMom.com.
When I left for college, my parents gave me a few tips about how to survive on my own. You probably remember the typical advice from back in the day. Don’t walk alone on campus at night. Make sure you have enough money in your bursar’s account to pay for your meals. Lock your door. If you’re sick, go to the student health center. Those points were good at the time. But I’ve spent the past 25 years on college campuses, and I’m here to tell you that college freshman these days need to know more. Teach these “off to college” lessons to your college-bound child this summer, and I promise that they will have the edge over the majority of the other freshman on campus.
Go to Class
As parents we assume that our kids understand that they need to attend class. Don’t assume. Let them know that they MUST attend their classes in order to succeed. I have spoken to countless freshman over the years who are perplexed as to why they are doing so poorly after their first semester. My first question is always “Do you attend class?” Their answers vary between sometimes, not really, and when I can. It’s never yes! My guidance is not rocket science. Go to class every day. If you’re still having troubles after a semester of consistent attendance, come guess what? They don’t need to after following that one simple rule.
Get Help Immediately
After high school, parents have little ability to truly know how their kids are doing academically until the end of the semester. And unfortunately, our kids often try to hide academic difficulties from us until then. Encourage your kids to keep an eye on their grades throughout the semester, and if they are having trouble, then go get help immediately. Colleges everywhere have free tutoring services, writing centers, study skills classes and time management seminars. Tell them to take advantage of office hours for the classes they’re struggling with. Get help early on because after the grades are finalized, it’s too late.
Look Both Ways Before Crossing the Street
The next time you’re visiting a college campus, take a minute and watch the students walking to class. They walk while looking at their phones. They do not look up. Ever. This includes walking into traffic. Tell your kids that they must look up and make sure there are no cars coming before they walk into the crosswalk. I know you’re thinking that you taught them this in preschool. Well guess what? They forgot! Driving through a college campus these days is like being in a real life version of the 80s arcade game “Frogger.” Seriously. Remind your kids that although the pedestrian has the right of way, they still need to use common sense and not walk out in front of a moving vehicle.
These ideas seem so elementary. I get it. But trust me, a few extra minutes spent encouraging these lessons this summer will go a long way during your child’s freshman year.