The links in this post may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure statement here.
Cool fall air is blowing in and it means more than changing leaves and Thanksgiving. It means that thousands and thousands of parents are getting ready to descend on their student’s universities for parent weekend. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that you dropped them off along with a van load of their belongings?
Many of you are eagerly anticipating what is possibly your first visit back since dropping them off and possibly the first time you’ve seen them since that eventful day. So, what should you expect? What do you need to know? I’m going to discuss three key points that parents need to know and understand before the visit to make sure it’s a successful one.
(1) Hotel accommodations
If you haven’t already found out, you need to know that lodging near the university will be in high demand, short supply, and over-priced. If your student goes to school in a small town, it may be too late to find a room at all. Hopefully, you follow my blog and when you read,You’ve Paid The Deposit For Freshman Year…Now What, you followed my instructions and made reservations for parent weekend.
(2) Time with your student
Prepare yourself for the discrepancy between how much time you are hoping to spend with your student and how much time they plan to spend with you. Many parents have fantasies of tearful reunions, walking hand-in-hand with their student around campus and even having their student stay at the hotel with them. Understand the likelihood that this won’t be the case. Should your feelings be hurt? Absolutely not! This is your moment to celebrate yourselves mom and dad! Your student has immersed themselves in a new routine, they have new friends and are excited about their new lives. This is a moment to be proud of the fact that you raised a confident student who has successfully transitioned to college. There are many parents out there who wish they were in your shoes.
How can you avoid hurt feelings and conflict over the amount of time spent together during the visit? Have realistic expectations. As the weeks lead up to parent weekend, you’ll likely be getting correspondence of activities the university will have going on. Some will require advanced tickets or reservations. What I recommend is sending your student a link to the activity schedule and asking what, if any, of the activities would they like to attend with you? As the weekend gets closer, ask your student to give you a rough schedule of the time they plan to spend with you making clear that you understand they have other obligations like homework, studying and possibly things planned with their friends. Knowing ahead of time will help you avoid conflict during the visit.
(3) Your student may be having anxiety over your impending visit
Some students express anxiety over their parents visiting, especially the first visit. Why you ask? They’ve lived the last few months free from parental rules and supervision and some will have concern that you will try to reassert yourself in this role during your visit. Although they are not kids anymore, like children they might try to test these new boundaries as an attempt to assert their independence. You can choose to spend the weekend criticizing and arguing with your student when they say they need to be back to the dorm no later than 9pm because they are first going out with their friends at 10pm, that they don’t want to meet you for breakfast because they’ll be sleeping until noon, because their room isn’t clean to your liking, or you don’t like how they’re dressed. You get the idea. This will make for a very unpleasant visit. Hopefully you can step back and know you’ve done a wonderful job parenting them up until this point and take comfort in the fact that you’ve prepared them to be out in the world making good decisions.
Some final thoughts on parent weekend
Some parents, like me, choose not to visit during parent weekend. I did during my daughter’s freshman year but not since. It’s extremely crowded. Parking is tough. Accommodations are far overpriced. My daughter prefers, and I agree, that we come visit a different weekend and that’s what we’ve done. I find it much more relaxing and easier to visit when it’s not parent weekend. I also like to get to know some of my daughter’s friends and a non-parent weekend allows me to invite them all out to join us for a meal. College students never turn down a free meal!
Given that this event usually takes place in the fall, it is a good time to bring up coats and warm weather clothing and take back summer stuff that won’t be used. Storage space is limited and it will make finding a home for everything much easier. It’s also a good idea to take back any items they are not finding use for to free up space.
Remember that just because your student isn’t interested in going to the session the head of advising is giving on internships (or anything else) doesn’t mean you can’t go without them.
If you won’t be spending all of your time with your student, use your free time to get to know their city. Check out local landmarks, parks, restaurants, etc.
Finally, if your student is in their freshman year and will be moving off-campus for their sophomore year, use this time to check out local apartment complexes and housing options. You can do this with or without your student.