Call Your Kids, NOT Their Professors
There’s nothing quite like the frustration of watching your child underperform. When you know they can do so much better, it’s hard not to get involved. When you’re paying for it, you have an invested right to be vocal.
College students are adults, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need parental guidance. I remember scoffing at helicopter parents when the parent services department was created where I taught. Today’s lawnmower parents have upped the ante, but honestly, now that I’m a parent, I get where they’re coming from.
College and life afterward have changed.
For one thing, tuition and housing fees have increased dramatically. Beyond that, there’s the whole boomerang phenomenon. I’ve watched my friends move back home, battle layoffs, and struggle with crippling student loan debt. Knowing all this, I can’t really blame parents for being involved especially if they’re writing checks or co-signing loans.
A four-year degree is expensive. Though 18-22 year olds are very much adults, they are adults with limited experiences who may not efficiently or accurately navigate challenges of higher education. Added to that, the quality of faculty advising varies greatly. Classes are taught on rotating schedules. It’s not uncommon for a student to miss a class he needs and have to spend an additional semester or year to correct the problem, a very costly error indeed.
While in a perfect world, an adult child would be completely capable, unfortunate situations happen. Still, there is plenty parents can do to help their adult children succeed in college without ever calling a professor:
1. Send them to the syllabus
The syllabus is a written contract between the professor and the class. It has a schedule, office hours, required reading, and other important information. Almost any question about a class can be answered on the syllabus. It should always be the first place a student turns. If your child can’t show you the syllabus, then that’s a sign of a pretty big problem. The same goes for course of study.
2. Ask if they’ve gone to class
I was lucky and didn’t have many interactions with parents. I did have one mother call me about her son. I informed her that I couldn’t discuss him because it was against his legal rights. I did say, in general students tend to do well in my class by attending my class, and if I were a parent concerned about my child’s grades, I’d first look at attendance. I never heard from the mother again, but suddenly I had a student showing up to my class who I hadn’t seen regularly in weeks. Seriously though if Johnny needs an A to keep his scholarships, Johnny needs to be in class and not missing quizzes, lectures, and assignments. Before blaming someone else for their poor performance, be sure that your child is going to class.
3. Remind them about the writing center and other departmental resources
When I was an undergrad, the writing center didn’t exist, but now most universities have them. Increasing the student’s quality of work is a much better idea than petitioning the professor for a higher grade. The writing center is there free of charge for the express purpose of improvement.
Beyond the writing center, many departments pay graduate students to offer tutoring. It’s often at a set time and location. It’s a FREE service to students. They just have to show up. Before calling anyone at the university, be sure your child is making use of the provided services.
4. Set expectations
If you’re paying for the education, set expectations with consequences. Let your children know ahead of time you’ll be asking about attendance and grades. Moreover, tell them if their grades and attendance don’t meet your predetermined expectations, they will have to move home and transfer to a closer university or whatever your line in the sand is. Just make it known, and stand by what you say.
Don’t be worried about being a label. If you feel called to be involved, focus your energy on your child. If they don’t like it, they’re adults. They can pay for it themselves.