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Now parents get oriented, too

Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

Used to be that parents packed up the station wagon, drove their son or daughter to college, unloaded the boxes, made the bed, shed a few tears and headed home. Today, colleges cater to parents with lengthy orientation programs.

Whether this relatively new phenomenon is a response to “helicopter parent” hovering or not, more information and services seem to be exactly what parents are craving.

According to College Parents of America, “The 21 {+s}{+t} century orientation is viewed by schools as a retention and development tool. Schools want you to have a favorable impression from day one so that you will pay your bills on time, and maybe, just maybe, decide to give a little bit more when your child eventually graduates.”

For much of the orientation students and parents are separated. Students register for classes and parents learn about campus safety, meal plans, credit cards and insurance.

Parents and students are joined for videos and presentations on a variety of student services as well as introductions to deans and advisers. During meals and campus tours parents swap stories and the anxiety of “first-timers” is slowly soothed. The funniest moments are the hilariously accurate skits by orientation ambassadors showing parents and children adjusting – and not adjusting so well – to the “letting go” phase during first semester.

Make the most of parent orientation.

Don't be shy: Take advantage of this opportunity to meet anyone you think your student might come in contact with, such as the staff at the Writing Center or Health Center.

Take notes on special opportunities: They might include leadership seminars, internship fairs, extensive career services, a learning disabilities center, free peer tutoring, free transportation, mentoring and research opportunities, etc.

Join the Parent Association committee: At least sign up for their e-mails and stay informed.

Give your student some space: Let them meet their roommates and call the shots.

Don't linger! It's hard to say goodbye, but just do it.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte: lee@collegeadmissions

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