Tips for Parents

Being the parent of a college student is tough. We know college is a time of big transitions for both students and their parents so we’ve gathered some tips and resources to help you navigate the college years successfully.

Top Ten Tips

1. Let them figure it out

College students are burgeoning adults and need to learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, and resolve their own conflicts. Rather than stepping in, consider coaching your student through how he or she might solve a challenge and what resources are available.

2. Have the tough conversation

The reality is that your student will likely be faced with some important decisions at college, for example, whether to consume alcohol or how to keep themselves safe. Talk to your student in advance of those choices and help them determine what their values are and what choices align with those values.

3. Listen and encourage

At some point in their college careers, many students feel overwhelmed. They may call home, questioning whether they belong at WPI. Listen, encourage and reassure. Suggest they talk to their academic advisor or their resident advisor. Remind them of the support resources at WPI, such as tutoring, help with study skills, and counseling.

4. Grades should not be the primary focus

Coming to WPI, your student is used to being one of the smartest people they know. Now they are surrounded by other highly intelligent people. This may be the first time they earn a B or a C. Odds are, your student will put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed. Rather than asking them just about their grades, ask them about their professors, the classes they enjoy, what they are learning, and what they are doing to de-stress. Assure them that their best effort is all you expect.

5. Encourage your student not to take the easy road

Many great scientists and engineers failed more times than they succeeded. At WPI, we want students to not be afraid to take risks and to choose the path that will challenge them. We know this is where students will have the greatest learning opportunities. This is why we build in space for this risk taking into the course curriculum without penalty. If your student does fail at some point, encourage him or her to try again.

6. Encourage your student to get involved

One of the greatest strengths of WPI is our sense of community. With more than 200 clubs and organizations on campus and numerous events and activities each week, there is always something to do.  Research shows that students who get involved are much more satisfied with their college experience and are more likely to graduate. It helps them relieve stress and feel balanced.

7. Encourage your student to get to know faculty and staff members

The WPI academic experience is designed to encourage close interaction between students and faculty. From their first year Insight faculty advisor, to the small faculty-to-student course ratio, to the Interactive and Major Qualifying Projects, WPI offers numerous opportunities for students to get to know faculty and staff. Those relationships will really come in handy when they are searching for an internship or job and need a recommendation letter.

8. Encourage them to learn for the sake of learning

WPI’s curriculum is designed to encourage intellectual experimentation. Encourage your student to pursue their areas of curiosity. Suggest they study a subject they have never studied before. Many students are used to collecting credentials needed for college admission. Encourage them, instead, to learn for the sake of learning.

9. Stay in touch

Between their busy schedules and, perhaps, changes in their sleeping patterns, you may not hear from them as regularly. Help encourage their sense of independence by setting up regular touch points and resisting the urge to call or text message every day.

10. Call us if you are concerned

If you are concerned about your son or daughter or need some advice, contact the Dean of Students at 508-831-5201 or fill out this form.

Additional Resources

Many of our parents have found these resources to be of value after their son or daughter has joined our community. The Dean of Students staff continues to look for articles and books to add to this list. Please forward your own favorite titles or articles to our office.

Ten Ways to Help Your Child Become Self-Reliant (PDF)

Fall Semester - A Time For Parents To Revisit Discussions About College Drinking 

College Parents of America

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