Advice to Parents and Families from a Graduating Senior

By Chanya Anderson, Penn State Family Ambassador

In my four years here at Penn State, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. I have had my highest of highs and lowest of lows at this school. Still, I wouldn’t change a single second of it. My experience at Penn State has been so much more than my time inside the classroom. While academics are important, my experiences outside of the classroom have shaped me into the woman I am today. In the past four years I have travelled, created my own research study, taken on leadership positions, engaged in activism and advocacy, spoken in front of hundreds of people at a time, and have stepped (far) outside of my comfort zone more than once.

Looking back over my four years at Penn State, there was one thing that was missing, though: the engagement of my parents in my college experience. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have loving and supportive parents. Yet, outside of them asking how much money they need to send me, my parents have remained largely uninvolved. To put things into perspective, the last time my parents stepped foot onto this campus was move in day four years ago. The good news is that they’ve allowed me the freedom to pursue my education as I please. The bad news is that when I needed support beyond the normal “I’m proud of you,” I didn’t always have it.

While I can’t go back in time and force my parents to be involved, I can give advice to current and future parents and families of Penn State students. As students we want the freedom to make decisions about what we want to do, academically, professionally, and socially. On the other hand, we are still young and often have difficulty making important decisions. We get lonely even when we’re surrounded by many people. And most importantly, we miss our parents and families (even though we don’t always verbalize it).

So, what can you do for your student while they are at Penn State? Well, from a soon-to-be graduate of Penn State, here’s a list of the top five things I wish my parents would have done for me:

  1.  Check in regularly, whatever that means to you and your student. Don’t always wait for us to call you. Send us a text or give us a call. FaceTime calls are even better because then you can show us our pets, who we so dearly miss!
  2.  Understand your student’s major and what they (think) they want to do. It’s easier to talk about classes and goals when you know what your student wants, both academically and professionally.
  3.  Visit when you can. We understand that you are busy with life and work, and so are we. Yet, there’s nothing like a hug from family.
  4.  Don’t just ask us how school is going, ask us how we are feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally. School is hard and sometimes we forget that our parents were our first friends in life.
  5.  Be supportive. No student is perfect, and we’ll have hard times during our time here. Whether it be with classes, finding research opportunities, or fitting in on campus, try to be as supportive as you can. Be an active listener and reassure your student when you can. Sometimes we get stuck in the moment and forget all that we have accomplished.

As parents and families, the role that you play in your student’s journey is an important one. For us students, it helps to know that, if no one else, we can always turn to our parents and families.

Penn State Parents Council