The CPM Top 10

Answers to your most Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I be in touch with my student at the start of college?

Not hearing from a student can mean they’re doing great, or it can be a red flag. You know your student. In the early weeks, touch base regularly to get a read on how they’re adjusting and if they’re socializing too much (or need a push to join in some activities). If your student seems to lean on you every time they hit a challenge, you might limit your calls and texts so they can develop confidence in their own problem-solving abilities.

What should I do if my student is homesick?

Homesickness is normal, but it’s still hard on students (and parents!). A few pointers: 1. Don’t panic over every phone call or text. They may just need to vent after a hard day. 2. Be a sounding board — listen and ask questions. 3. Encourage your student to leave their comfort zone and get involved on campus. 4. Help them set social goals (for example, make dinner plans with two new people by Halloween or talk to one new person each day). 5. If you live near enough, they may want to come home on weekends. Encourage them to stay on campus as much as possible. Read “Settling in takes time.”

How much should I push my student to attain goals and how much should I sit back and let them direct themselves?

This whole magazine is a guide to finding the right balance (don’t miss the last essay). As one of our writers put it, “During college, we begin to form the adult relationships we will have with our students for the rest of their lives.” It’s a process…and it takes four years. We should encourage our students to set high standards, for themselves and for their college experience, and make the most of opportunities available at their school. The more they put into it, the more they’ll get out of it.

What if my student doesn’t like their roommate?

Learning to get along with other people is an essential life skill. Encourage your student to establish guidelines with their roommate early on (visitors, cleaning, noise, etc.) and deal with disagreements promptly and respectfully. (It’s not always the other person’s fault — compromise is key.) If conflict persists, they should reach out to their RA (Resident Advisor or Assistant). It’s appropriate for a parent to get involved if a housing situation is unhealthy or unsafe. Otherwise you are there to listen and advise.

How much spending money does my student need and what kind of bank account is best?

If your student’s current bank doesn’t have a branch on or near campus, you might consider a new account with a local bank to avoid ATM fees. (Credit unions may offer reciprocity.) Many schools allow students and families to load money onto the student’s ID card for on-campus purchases (laundry, library services, food, etc.). Click here for an in-depth look at budgets, allowances and more.

How do we afford college without going into deep debt?

One of the best ways to keep costs under control is to apply for financial aid every year by completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Aid is available from the federal and state governments and from the college for qualifying students. Your student should also research and apply for scholarships each year (this too is money that doesn’t need to be paid back). Graduating in four years or less is another way to cut costs. Many students work part-time during college — there are lots of campus jobs to choose from.

Why can’t I see my student’s grades?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law giving parents and legal guardians control of their children’s educational records (grades, transcripts, etc.). This control transfers to students when they turn 18 or go to college. Talk to your student about their academic goals and how much you’d like to know about their grades. If you would like to see grades and your student agrees, the school may have a consent form that your student can fill out giving you access to this information. Learn more at and by contacting the college Registrar.

What career paths are available to my student and how do they learn about them?

Most majors can lead to a variety of careers. Typically it’s up to the student to explore campus career preparation resources. Suggest they talk to their academic advisor and professors about possible career paths. At the career center, they can access online job and internship listings, connect with alumni mentors, attend resumé and interview workshops, and more. Summer and school-year jobs can provide insights into what they might (or might not) like. Be sure to read “College to Career 101.”

What health resources are available on campus and what services are covered automatically?

Most four-year institutions have a student health center that offers many services for free or a low co-pay to full-time students. This may include flu shots, basic sick visits and mental health counseling — look on the website. College students must have health insurance and many schools automatically enroll students on their plan and require a waiver to opt out. It’s up to you to compare the school’s plan to your current family insurance to determine which will work better for you. (You need to do this each year.) Make sure your student knows what to do if they get sick and consider having them sign a HIPAA release form.

Who do I call if I’m worried about my student?

The college’s Parent and Family Programs office is there for you and will direct you to the right person if they can’t help. You can also contact the Dean of Students office, who will check in with your student or ask the RA to. If your concern is about health or mental health, you may call the health and counseling centers — while they can’t give out information about whether your student has sought services, they can receive information from you and counsel you. It is not appropriate for parents to contact faculty members. If your student is struggling academically or socially, continue to encourage them to access the support that is available on campus.