Best Colleges 2007

BALANCING ACT

By Mark D. McCarthy, Ph.D. — Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Development

Whether you are the parent of a first-year or a returning student, the transition from summer activities to the fall semester can be a challenging one for your students and, for that matter, the whole family. With a few months of classes
behind us, if you are like most parents some of your worries have been put to rest, while new ones have taken their
place.

Your college student’s movement from being dependent on you for structure, wake-up calls, personal meal and laundry services, and undivided attention to becoming a more independent adult is not always easy for them — or you. As the dean of Student Development and the father of two college-age students, the best advice I can give is to be available, listen carefully and help your child identify strategies and resources that are available to him/her should he/she encounter difficulties academically or socially.

As students approach midterm exams, the expectations they and you might have for very high grades can quickly be deflated. On this year’s New Student Survey, completed during orientation in August, 98 percent of students indicated that they expected to have grade point averages above 3.0 at the end of their first year. In reality, only about 50 percent will achieve this. Class attendance and participation, completing assignments on time and keeping up with a vast amount of reading are minimal expectations for most faculty and are seen as the student’s responsibility.

If your son or daughter calls in a state of panic about courses or grades:

Finding one’s place in a new situation is difficult for many students. For most, homesickness comes and goes during the course of their years in college. Leaving the comfort of friends and family is difficult, but it is also an important developmental step in the lives of young adults. It is important for parents to find a good balance between being in constant contact with them via cell phone and e-mail and simply being available.

If your student is experiencing separation anxiety, here’s how can you help:

Finally, much has been written about “helicopter parents” — parents who hover around their students and swoop onto campus to try to solve any problems or concerns their children have encountered. While it is hard to sit back while your children experience difficulties, you can help them most by discussing possible steps they might consider to work through a problem — resources that you have seen on the Marquette Web site, or people you may have met during orientation or campus visits. The sooner your students learn skills in negotiation and problem-solving, the better.

There are many people at Marquette University who are here to help you and your sons and daughters find success.

Best wishes for a successful school year.

DR. MCCARTHY'S PARENTING BOOK PICKS

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The literature about parenting college students that’s available online and in your local bookstores is growing. Here are two good books to start with:

Let the Journey Begin: A Parent’s Monthly Guide to the College Experience, by Jacqueline Kiernan MacKay (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to understading the College YearsLetting Go: A Parent’s Guide to
Understanding the College Years,
by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger (HarperCollins,1997)


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