NAU makes parental path to college a matter of course

Student and parent

There’s a syllabus, a timeline, a book and a blog, but the lone course at Parent and Family University won’t result in a grade. Instead, the goal of the new initiative is to help parents become coaches and mentors who can guide their first-year students through the transition to a university setting.

Student and familyA broad collaboration of faculty and administrators prompted by Nance resulted in Coaching Your College Student 101. Nance presented the concept to a group of parents at orientation in June, handing them a syllabus and a transition timeline that describes the emotional challenges a student is likely to face as the school year unfolds.“We needed something that would further develop the relationship between parents and the university,” said Crystal Nance, coordinator of Parent and Family Services at Northern Arizona University.

Parents also were invited to purchase the book The Happiest Kid on Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child), by Harlan Cohen. The author will be on campus during Family Weekend (Sept. 23), and his companion book, The Naked Roommate, is used in the NAU 100 Transition to College course.

Parental involvement in the lives of their college students isn’t necessarily the issue, Nance said. The term “helicopter parent” has become well known in higher education, describing parents who assertively intervene in nearly every aspect of college life, from grade disputes, to obtaining financial aid, to doing laundry. According to Nance, turning that dynamic into a more positive force involves motivating parents to “empower students to address issues with professors or financial aid. “

Nance plans to use the blog for that purpose, and has already set the tone. In response to a survey she handed out in June in which many parents called for weekly progress reports on their children, she wrote constructively about why such reports would be problematic.

“My intention with the blog is to address the concerns that parents have, and to give them a place to interact with other parents.”

Nance said it’s too early to tell about participation in Parent and Family University, although she did collect 460 email addresses during orientation and the NAU bookstore has sold about 150 copies of the book. Once the school year begins, she will send monthly surveys to “gather parents’ opinions about their students’ transition to NAU.”

Although there is no final grade, Nance said she has an idea of how success would look: “Just hearing a story about a parent who coached their child through a difficult situation,” she said.