Back in June, I wrote about four ways to prepare for Bellarmine from the perspective of the beginning of summer. Now it is less than a month away from the start of fall semester, and I want to focus in on one of those suggestions, a somewhat uncomfortable topic for some.
Tip number two noted: “On a practical note, encourage your son/daughter to begin self-management for the summer—getting up and going (in the morning) on his/her own is a start. Many students struggle with this when they get to Bellarmine.” I want to expand on this idea because I don’t think it was stressed enough how important it is for students to begin really taking initiative now. Naturally, you have been used to managing, assisting, and helping out with your kids’ lives for the past 17 or 18 years, so quitting “cold turkey” might seem unimaginable. I’m not suggesting in any way that you cut off your parenting; on the contrary, I would like to suggest that you begin reflecting on what parenting means as a parent of an 18, 19, or 20-something college student. Parenting a young adult should promote independence, growth, and maturity.
I have a couple typical examples of parents crossing the line from “helping” to “inhibiting” with regard to students’ college experiences. These come from the collective experience of professors and staff at Bellarmine. I’m not singling out any one family; these examples are general and common.
1. Parents use their student’s Bellarmine username and password to log in to Bellarmine systems. Even though this may seem logical and you may be used to sharing information, we do not recommend logging in to your student’s accounts. First, it isn’t secure—there is information accessible only to students for a reason. Second, it doesn’t promote student responsibility and initiative. Instead of asking your son or daughter to provide you with log-in information, ask for exactly what you want and open those lines of communication. Model for your son or daughter how you would go about navigating these new processes. For instance, do you want to review a student’s fall schedule? Ask your student to log-in and display their schedule and review it together. If there are questions, have your student make the phone call about it. After all, they’re the ones who will ultimately be attending these classes and pursing the major.
If you’re logging into your student’s account to view billing information, there is a simple solution—the Bursar allows parents to create their own accounts! Instructions can be found here.
2. Parents call or email campus offices or professors representing their student or pretending to be their student. Although you have legitimate questions about your student’s financial aid, housing, or fall schedule, students need to speak with these offices directly. It is their living situation, classes, grades, and scholarships. We will not make changes to students’ schedules without speaking with students. We will not meet with parents without the student present. When parents accompany students to office visits, questions will be directed to the student.
You are, of course, involved in students’ decisions, and, likely, you’re paying some of the bill, so open communication is key. Again, discuss with your son or daughter the question or concern at hand and let them make the call or appointment. It is okay to give them the phone number, but not okay for you to call for them.
I focused on these two examples because of how common they are. Many parents have the excuse for calling for their student that “He is just too busy.” Encourage your student to make time for important communication to follow up on schedules, housing, and financial aid. Most offices are accessible via email and phone, so students can contact us when it’s convenient for them (2 a.m.? Email us then. We’ll get back to you when we’re in the office during the day.)
Like I mentioned at in the first paragraph, I realize this is a somewhat uncomfortable subject, especially for those of you who reluctantly see your family in the mirror. You aren’t alone. If you were, I wouldn’t be blogging about this topic. Before you take action representing your student, ask yourself if it is really what is best for him or her. Take some time to reflect on what type of relationship you want to have with your blossoming young adult college student. Start taking steps this summer to encourage and challenge your student to become a responsible adult.