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Voices of Experience

For every family, the first few weeks of the college experience is—at the very least—memorable. No matter how prepared you think you are, excitement, loneliness, depression, and a host of other emotions may crop up at different times. On behalf of parents of students who will be attending the University of Minnesota, we asked parents of current students what advice they would give. The suggestions they offered covers a range of topics and viewpoints.

Advice about commuter issues

Tell your student:

Sign up for the parking lottery. KW

Join at least one group or organization, which will be an anchor for your college life. It helps commuter students feel like they belong. The organization might be a group that meets for class, such as choir, or the honors student group. This helped our shy daughter a lot. TH

There are lots of nice places to find an apartment, but some very poor choices also. PN

Advice about supporting your student

Advice for parents:

Something I wish I had done that first month was to write more letters and send a few "care packages." My thought at the time was that I wanted to give her a chance to settle in and get comfortable without being bombarded from home. We did call once a week and sent e-mail several times a week. But we found out later that all of her friends and her roommate were receiving packages from home. She felt neglected to the point where she joked that her roommate's mother wanted to adopt her. She was teasing, of course, but I felt terrible! With our second child, I will definitely keep closer tabs during the first month, and I will keep the letters, cards, and packages coming. SS

Communicate! By e-mail, phone, etc. I put in an inexpensive incoming toll-free number so my daughter could call any time without any cost to her. SH

Tell your student:

Be safe and think about things before you make quick decisions. Remember your morals and values. We also told her that we would always be here for her, no matter what happens. FG

Advice about academics

Tell your student:

No matter what, go to class. Whether you are tired or sick or tempted to do something more fun, go to class. You will pass just by showing up. Also, meet your professors early, email them often, stay in front of them and demand their attention. They will not come to you. JB

For the first semester of the first year, don't take 16 credits worth of the hardest courses you can take. Allow some leeway for adjusting to a new home, new people, new schedule, and long hours of homework. SW

Your primary job is to get a good education. Focus on that. PN

Do your best. Don't be afraid to succeed. Forget about your girlfriend at home and concentrate on academics. I wish he would have gone to a college closer to home! JF

If you start to feel overwhelmed, talk to someone—an adviser, the instructor, others in your class. Coming from a small school where she knew all the teachers and all the students, it was an adjustment for our daughter to come to such a big school. She has felt overwhelmed at times and was a little hesitant at first to talk to someone, but now she is not afraid to go talk to her adviser or get help from the TAs or someone else. She knows she has to speak up if she doesn't understand something. We've also talked about the necessity of keeping things balanced. She is a good student and worries too much about her grades. We have told her that giving herself some "down time" is OK, and it is all right if she doesn't get that 'A' all the time. MZ