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Should Colleges Have Parent-Teacher Conferences?

As a parent, how do you know if your kid is OK?

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

October 14, 2013 - 4:00 pm
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So you dropped your son or daughter off at college at the end of August. If you’re lucky, you’re receiving regular calls telling you all about college life, classes, and life in the dorm. Or, if you’re like most parents — or the parents of a male offspring — you’re lucky to get a text now and then asking for money or the Amazon password.

Some kids will breeze through their freshman year, both socially and academically — they were made for college life. Other students will struggle during their first semester. It’s not easy living with a total stranger, let alone a whole dorm full of them (some of whom, let’s face it, are practically sociopaths). Some kids will also struggle academically. Whether or not they’re prepared for college academically and socially, the freshman year can be fraught with challenges.

As a parent, how do you know if your kid is OK?

You dropped your son or daughter off at the college gates and it’s as if you’re not supposed to care — the kids are adults now and on their own. You suddenly became completely irrelevant. Thanks to federal privacy regulations, even though you’re paying for your child’s education, you’re not allowed to know anything about it. You’re prohibited from knowing if he is failing or excelling and prohibited from even having a conversation with his professors.

While we don’t want to be helicopter parents and we want to give our kids the opportunity to sink or swim without our interference, is there any role at all for parents in the college education process?

I say there is, and so does Hillsdale College.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
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I don't understand how folks can scoff at this practice of Hillsdale College.

How so very natural for our daughters to say, "Mama, Papa, I really want you to meet Dr. So-and-So at parents weekend next month!" So we sign up and have a ten minute chat with him, or more informally, we might enjoy a glass of wine with him during the mixer on Friday night.

The fact that our girls are the ones who want us to meet professors they admire and love says much about the professors and even more about our relationship with our girls. It is natural and normal. Frankly, it is our society and federal laws that are strange, not colleges like Hillsdale.

Sadly, it might also say something about the relationships between students and parent when young adults do not want their folks to be a part of this important aspect of their lives. It seems adolescent ("Look at me! I'm an adult!") or at least very sad. Broken relationships are not uncommon.

But even though there are immature students or broken relationships, it is still how the federal government drives a wedge between all children and parents, who often sacrifice a great deal to help their kids grow up and succeed in college and life. Hillsdale honors parents, even if the Feds say moms and dads should be brushed aside.

Even as I entered middle age, I still looked to my now late parents for input and advice. Even though, as adult,s we did not always see eye-to-eye, I would have been adolescent, foolish, and arrogant not to honor them. But this is not what our culture tells us, so I am grateful that there are still places like Hillsdale College.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry folks... posted on the wrong article. Instead...

So when should parents stop being actively involved in their children's lives... especially where education is concerned?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yet there was 450M for PBS!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't say I would have been happy with the expectation that I sign a privacy waiver for my mom to meet with my teachers. On my own I may have done it, and I think having a mechanism in place for it makes sense, but I also understand why professors would resist, and not just because of the time involved.

I have known professors that REFUSE to speak to parents, even with permission. This is because they have found too many parents willing to continue to helicopter parent and monitor junior even as he has left home.

I am a relatively strict parent, but my job is to teach my kids to be adults. If junior isn't ready when it's time to go off to college then he needs to go get a job and a place of his own. And I'm not going to be having a parent-boss conference. And if he DOES go off to college I won't be footing 100% of the bill, he will be paying enough that I know he's got some skin in the game. And if those first semester grades come back low: there is my progress report. I don't need to hear it from the teacher's mouth.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"This is because they have found too many parents willing to continue to helicopter parent and monitor junior even as he has left home. "

Professors have the power to do so, but not the right. It is not any of their business to decide when the parent should relinquish control. The child is not theirs.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
I used to get these children all the time. Fresh out of grad school, innocent of the ways of work. One showed up on the ship and declared he was "high maintenance". We told him we hoped he brought his own toolkit because otherwise he was going to be broken.

I'd heard good things about Hillsdale, now my estimation has plummeted. They seem to be more intent on churning out delicate flowers instead of men and women tempered for real world. College is suppose to be a hothouse, forcing the students to develop at an accelerated rate, not producing hothouse flowers needing fawning attention.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I assure you, they're not producing hothouse flowers. Hillsdale is extremely academically challenging. In order to succeed -- even to pass their classes-- they must be disciplined and focused. It's not a place for slackers. Without exception, the students I've met are mature and responsible. 94% are employed or in grad school within six months of graduation. Most graduate with either a double major or a major/minor and most work and volunteer while they're in school. My son works 30 hours a week and pays for own off-campus housing. He's also president of the College Republicans and volunteers for a couple other organizations. He already had a great work ethic when he started attending Hillsdale, and his 3 1/2 years there has only made him more focused and driven.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
FERPA: That is all.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I hope you read all the way to the end! :)

Students can sign waivers that would give their professors permission to discuss the students' academic records with the parents.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
As a twenty-one year old male, I think I can say with some confidence that life as a young adult is difficult enough when you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re an adult without the added burden of having to convince your parents as well.

I find it interesting that you praise Hillsdale’s decision to forego government funding and the attached strings…but then immediately turn around and cite student financial dependence on their parents as a reason for why parents should still have a powerful hand in their (supposedly) adult children’s affairs. That’s as good an explanation as I’ve heard for why people should be financially independent as soon as possible – there’s always strings. In my case, even if my parents had had any money to give me, I think I still might have opted to use scholarships, grants, and loans to pay my way, if the alternative was to give up my much-cherished independence. I paid my own tuition, I talked with my own teachers, I did my own homework, I made my own friends. I called my parents regularly and informed them of my progress because I loved them, not because I was obligated to keep my investors posted.

Now, I work my own job, pay my own bills, and have an excellent relationship with both Mom and Dad – even though they are now in many ways more my close friends and mentors than my stewards. That is, I think, the way it should be.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
You sound like a wonderful young man. Your parents must be very proud of you. And I agree completely.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Anonymous,

I applaud your self-sufficiency and maturity. I don't have any hard facts at my fingertips, but I would venture to say that most college students are still dependent on their parents in one way or another. Most are still on their parents' health insurance -- now until their mid-20's thanks to Obamacare!. Many are also on their parents' auto insurance policies and cell phone plans. They also live at home during the summer -- most don't pay rent. Paying tuition isn't the only way parents support their "adult" children during the college years.

There is a world of difference between government strings, which have the force of law behind them, and students voluntarily attending a school that encourages a partnership between the students, the professors, and the parents. Students know what they're getting into when they attend Hillsdale. There is an honor code that all freshmen sign which says that through education, "the student rises to self-government."

That's the end goal.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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