Emily White>Senior>Communication Studies>Clemson University
Going away to college is a significant milestone that students encounter after countless years of an oh-so familiar routine. While the thrill of being on your own is often exhilarating, it is important not to completely write off your family, namely your parents, who have dedicated a countless amount of time and energy to shaping you into the person you are today. With that said, though, how much involvement should your parents have when it comes to your life as college student?
Although this isn’t the case for all parents, many have a hard time letting their children take the wheel of their own lives. After years of aiding you with important decisions, parents may feel the need to assist you when it comes to the weighty decisions you make while at school—this is especially true if they are footing that hefty college bill. But how can a parent truly know what their child wants to do for the rest of his/her life?
“I have seen scores of students suffer through horrendous first semesters in career fields for which they have little to no aptitude or interest; career fields chosen by their parents for them because of the financial potential of those careers,” said Dr. Katherine Hawkins, a Communication Studies professor at Clemson University. “That’s parental influence that has gone too far.”
Regardless of who is paying tuition, if we resist their hovering ways and inclinations to make decisions for us, are we considered ungrateful for all they have done?
“I think parents should not be overly involved when it comes to college life,” said Jenni Prince, a rising junior at the University of Tennessee. “Sounds cliché, but college is really the perfect time for the transition from young adult to adult and that may be hindered if parents overbearingly interfere.”
Many students thrive when given their newfound independence, but some may take it too far, neglecting to even pick up the phone once a week. C’mon, you did used to spend every day with your family!
“Don’t get me wrong, I call my Mom like every other day, but it’s more conversational, we like to have fun,” said Prince. “I don’t think I should have to report everything I have done and every decision I have made, and I don’t think she expects that.”
This doesn’t mean parents should be shut out of students’ lives for the time that they are away at school; rather they should shift towards the role of the friend instead of the controller.
“Choosing to live your own life and follow your own dreams does not make you ungrateful, it makes you an adult,” said Emilie Wilson, a Clemson University senior.
There is really no right or wrong answer when it comes to parent involvement while students are away at college. Ideally, you should find the balance that best suits you and your parents. It is important, however, to be sure to show your parents respect and gratitude for all they have provided you with throughout the years.
“I think that success and respect is what we owe most to our parents,” said Courtney Clemmens, a student at Johns Hopkins University.
It may take a while for parents to get used to their children living on their own, but the transition will be much easier if you clue them in every now and then on what you are up to. Many students do this naturally and don’t necessarily label it a burden.
“We all make choices in cognizance of the obligations we feel to others,” said Hawkins. “So, students going to college rightly feel they have some sort of obligation to those paying to send them there (either partially or completely). Even those working through school on their own likely feel some level of obligation to their loved ones that the time spent in school is time well spent.”
It may be the most rewarding to establish within yourself how much involvement—and of what nature—you would like from your parents. Having them make decisions for you could lead to feeling suffocated, yet not incorporating your parents in important life decisions could create tension. Care packages are one of my favorite things about being away at school, but I am pretty sure I wouldn’t receive any more of those if my parents and I were butting heads!
“The best gift a child can give a parent is to become an independent, happy and functioning adult,” said Wilson.
Whether it’s an essay assignment, impossible physics equations or the latest party, any tidbit of information will leave your parents smiling.