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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
November 22, 2014

Canadian Excellence

Top Ten Things to Know

Here are the top 10 things that every parent of a first-year university student should know...

1. Be prepared for ANYTHING. University is a time when students experiment with different lifestyles nad interests. Your son or daughter could come home at Thanksgiving and shock you with news that they have joined a skydiving club, taken up a political cause or drastically changed their hairstyle. Gear up for the unexpected and have fun with it.

2. Academic Expectations are High. First year students deal with a lot of change during their first year at university and it is not uncommon for grades to drop a little, or in some cases a lot, especially during the first term. As students get used to their new surroundings and what is expected in class, their marks should improve. Encourage them to do their best but don't put too much pressure on them when it comes to academics.

3. Brush up on important dates. First year students are very busy upon arriving at university and sometimes important dates or events can slip their mind. Keeping track of tuition deadlines, exam schedules or school holidays will help you understand what is going on in your student's life.

4. Remember that it is okay to change. First year is a time for your student to explore. He/she may be exposed to new programs, courses, people, opportunities and experiences. Over the course of the first year, your student may realize an interest in something different from what was originally planned. This is okay and many students change their majors after first year. Having your support academically and personally will mean a lot to them.

5. Write to them. There is nothing better than receiving mail -especially if you are a first-year student! Every now and then send them an email or write them a letter telling them that you miss them and that you are proud of them. If your son or daughter is feeling homesick, these little notes will make a world of a difference.

6. Trust them. When students arrive at university they are going to be treated like adults. They will begin making decisions for themselves and your role may move from parent figure to mentor or advisor. Give your student room to make decisions and room to make mistakes. You will often find that the more freedom you give your son or daughter, the more comfortable he or she will feel asking for your advice.

7. Avoid being a "helicopter parent". Be involved in your student's life. If possible, come to visit, attend a university sponsored event such as Parent's Day or just take your student out to dinner. However, avoid "hovering" too much by calling before you visit to ensure they don't have plans and try not to visit every single weekend. Visiting once or twice a term is perfect and your student will truly appreciate it!

8. Budget. Encourage your son or daughter to draft a budget for his or her first year at university. Be sure to sit down and discuss exactly how much money you will be contributing to his or her education and what your expectations are. Make sure that all issues regarding money are out in the open. There is nothing more stressful than to be in your first year of university worrying about how you are going to pay for everything.

9. Know the student services available to your child. When your son or daughter calls home to tell you that they didn't do so well on an exam or they require help with an assignment, it is helpful to know what services are available on campus. Keep in mind that campuses are like small communities, they have both personal and academic services to help your son or daughter get through first year.

10. Be there for them no matter what. When your son or daughter leaves for university it may feel very similar to the day you dropped him or her off at Kindergarten - you're excited about the new adventures that lie ahead, but are afraid to let go. In many ways, first year can be a culture shock. With new people, classes, resources and advice, your student is going to be overwhelmed at times with the amount of information and change in their lives. As a parent, this may be hard to watch, but remember that university is really a time for your son or daughter to spread his or her wings and fly. Have patience as they go through this tranistion and try to do everything you can to make them feel secure and loved. They won't ever forget it!