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If your student is entering college this fall, they’ll soon get an invitation to attend college orientation.

You might be surprised to find that the school may also invite you — as a parent — to attend orientation events too. If the school includes parents in orientation — virtually or on campus — they likely have helpful programming planned that’s more substantive than just campus basics or polite Q&As with university administrators. Here’s what parent-targeted orientation have to offer. 

1. Student (and Parent) Independence

Counseling professionals usually have a session on supporting your student as they begin taking more responsibility for themselves at college. Staffers may even point out particular times of the year when you can expect more anxious calls or texts from your student (fall midterms are a big one, for instance) and suggest how to empathize without getting overly involved. Counselors may also offer tips on how parents of first-time college students can cope with the transition of having kids in college.

2. Financial Aid and Billing Processes

One parent session typically covers frequently asked questions about paying for college. Common topics include bill-paying options, how loans and financial aid awards are posted to student accounts and how to deposit money in students’ campus-cash accounts. You may also be able to meet one-on-one with financial aid or billing staff members so they can walk you through the processes in detail and answer any questions you may have.

3. Academic Success Resources

Faculty and administrators often talk in detail about what the school expects from your student academically. They may also explain how your student can utilize school resources or access help if they need it — including faculty advisers, peer tutors, paid tutors and more. That way, if your student calls home in a panic about an assignment or their grades, you’re aware of campus options and can encourage your child to seek the right support.

4. Security and Safety Measures

Many parents particularly want to know how safe their students will be at school. For instance, does the campus have emergency call buttons at key locations? Can students call for security escorts if they need to walk across campus alone at night? Are services available for students who need safe rides home from off-campus events? College staff typically will talk about these issues, as well as how your student can access the student health center and where they need to go for emergency medical help.

5. Information Privacy Laws

If you’re a first-time parent of a college student, it may come as a shock to learn that you won’t have automatic access to your student’s grades, financial accounts and health information — even if you’re paying their college bills. College administrators will explain how the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects your student, and how you can work around it. For instance, your student may be able to fill out “proxy” forms that grant you access to their financial accounts and health information.

6. First Day Move-in Tips

Sometimes the most helpful information you get at parent college orientation is the logistical details. For instance, if you’re on campus, you might be able to visit your student’s residence hall. If you’re attending virtually, you could get floor plans with measurements and in both cases, you’ll learn how to simplify the process during move-in day. You may also get some insights that help you and your student pack the right things for dorm living. For instance, due to fire-safety reasons, some dorms don’t allow residents to use extension cords or lamps that have an extra electrical outlet built into their bases. Some dorms may not allow students to paint their walls a different color or nail items to the wall, so you’ll need to bring hooks that use removable tape instead.

Colleges know that many of today’s parents remain very connected to their students and often have concerns. As such, parent college orientation sessions are a great way to dispel some of your worries and help you get the important information you need about your student’s transition to college.