Unsolicited Advice for Parents and Students from a Three-time University President
As a university president, the annual ritual that I loved most was the opportunity to welcome new freshmen to campus. No matter how busy I was, I always made time to meet new students and their parents and to assist them with moving into the residence halls. Freshmen move-in was far more than a photo-opt for me; it was an opportune time to meet new students and their parents and to share with them the university’s expectations and commitments. As a person who was physically fit, and still is, I was known for lugging heavy suitcases, boxes, television sets and cartons of water to the eighth or ninth floor of a residence hall without waiting for the elevator! Most students and their parents were surprised by the fact that the Chancellor would do more than pass out a few bottles of water and make small talk while they struggled to move in. Not only did I assist students, so did members of the entire university family: faculty, staff, alumni and administration. The experience was something to which we all looked forward. I am convinced that new student move-in is one of the most important bonding opportunities with students and families that any university has.
As colleges and universities around the country, especially HBCUs, prepare to welcome the Class of 2018 to campus, I want to share with students and parents the prerequisites for a successful freshman year. While there is nothing sacrosanct about the list, I believe it reflects common-sense advice for freshmen and their parents. The list is based on my 40-plus year career as a faculty member and chancellor at both PWIs and HBCUs.
Class of 2018 Advice for Students
- Participate fully in new student orientation, don’t just attend;
- Establish clear academic objectives and strategies for achieving them;
- Follow the advice of your academic advisor, not your mama/daddy, roomie or homie;
- Abstain from taking frequent weekend trips home;
- Manage your time wisely; it’s your most important resource;
- If you want to soar like an eagle, you can’t hang out with turkeys! Select your friends and associates carefully;
- Manage your stress by establishing and following a weekly physical fitness routine;
- Strike a balance between academic and social activities. When in doubt, always err on the side of academic activities;
- Assume full responsibility for your own academic success. Don’t entrust it to anyone else.
- Utilize all academic and support services provided by the University to ensure your success; that’s why you pay tuition!
- When in doubt about anything, ask questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question!
- Follow university policies and procedures for resolving issues and concerns you may have;
- If you must work, do not exceed one job or 20 hours per week;
- Attend every class no matter how easy or difficult you may think it is;
- Establish a quiet place to study and utilize it consistently;
- Embrace all aspects of diversity, e.g. economic, racial, gender, LGBT, international, etc.
- Abstain from getting one of those “easy to secure” credit cards;
- Sit in the front of the class and get to know your professors;
- Believe in yourself;
- Always do your best and don’t fret the outcomes;
- Enjoy being a student and keep your eye on the prize!
Class of 2018 Advice for Parents
- Discuss academic and personal expectations with your child before dropping him/her off on campus;
- Don’t be a helicopter parent; let your son or daughter resolve his or her problems;
- Abstain from making surprise visits; you may get surprised;
- Participate in new student orientation, as well as parental activities throughout the academic year;
- Always listen before attempting to advise your child. He/she may want your ear rather than your advice;
- Discourage frequent weekend visits home;
- Make use of university policies and procedures to address any concerns you may have;
- Agree on a budget with your child before he/she leaves for college;
- Discourage your child from acquiring easy to obtain credit cards;
- Maintain weekly contact with your child without suffocating him/her with your love and concern;
- Stay in contact with your child via email, texting or scheduled visits. Never forget that you are your child’s parent, not his or her buddy.
The first year of college is a year of unparalleled adjustments for parents and students alike. By working collaboratively, parents and university personnel can aid students with making a successful transition to college. Research suggests that a smooth transition to college is an important factor in whether a student will persist, stop out or drop out during his/her first year of college.No matter how academically prepared for college a student may be, the engagement and mentorship of parents and significant others is critical to long term and sustainable student success.