Visiting my son in Rome was the highlight of his first semester in college (For me, at least!)
Well, it’s that time of year…college students are settling in for the fall semester and freshmen parents are missing their kids ever so much! I’ve sent three kids off, and love visiting my kids at school! I’m not an expert by any means, but over the years I’ve come up with a few tips to make visits with my children smoother and more enjoyable for all of us. I’m sharing them here in hopes that they might help some of you – if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
**All of these tips are college student approved by my three adult children**
# 1 – Timing is everything.
Schedule your visit during a time that is convenient for your student and keep it to 2-3 days. Visiting during exam week won’t be fun for anyone! Schedule your visit a week or so AFTER exams, however, and your daughter will be caught up on her sleep and happy to see you! Keeping your visit short also avoids disrupting classes, studying, extracurriculars, etc.
**If your student is studying abroad, the expense is far too great to go just for a weekend, so my recommendation here would be to arrive on a weekend, spend a couple of days with your student, then sightsee on your own midweek, meeting up for another couple of days before you head home.**
#2 – Be prepared to spend some time on your own.
Your daughter will be thrilled to see you, but she won’t have unlimited time…studying, club activities, socials, rehearsals, and other commitments may interrupt your visit. Be flexible and willing to spend time on your own while she’s in class. I’ve enjoyed many a peaceful hour in the gliders on the campus of University of Miami with a good book! I also once took a Segway tour of South Beach while my daughter was in rehearsal.
I spent many happy hours in these gliders while my daughter was in class!
#3 – Always let your student be the one to decide whether to invite friends to join the fun.
Don’t invite their friends along without checking with your student in private first. Sometimes they just want to be with you, and other times they’ll want to introduce you to friends or a new love interest.
Eastman Quad at University of Rochester
#4 – Ask them to show you around campus.
My kids always loved showing me where they had their classes, the dining hall, their dorm, etc. I enjoyed getting that mental picture of where they spent their days.
#5 – Get a hotel room big enough for your student to stay with you (but don’t be offended if he chooses to stay on campus).
Sometimes your son will want to get away from the dorms or his roommate and stay at the hotel with you to chill; other times it may just be more convenient for him to stay on campus. Don’t take it personally.
#6 – If your visit is for longer than one night, consider renting a place with a kitchen so you can cook some of their favorite foods.
During my oldest son’s first semester, we visited for a long weekend and rented a nearby cabin. All he wanted that weekend was home-cooked meals after two months of dining hall food!
# 7 – Take her on a Target run to stock up on snacks and supplies.
This is self-explanatory, but especially welcome if your student doesn’t have easy access to Target or her favorite stores. You’ll also win points if you bring her favorite homemade goodies (make sure to bring enough to share with her friends)!
# 8 – Family pets are always a welcome surprise if it’s feasible to bring Fido along!
Seriously…we visited our younger son when he was studying abroad, hosted nine of his friends for dinner, and they ALL said the thing they missed most was their pet (and Chick Fil A)!!
Who wouldn’t miss this face?
Tip #9 – DO tell their friends what to call you.
College is a tricky time; do they call you by your first name or by “Mrs. So and So”? Your daughter’s friends will be much more comfortable if you tell them what you’d like to be called. The easiest way I’ve found is to say “You can call me Deanna” when my daughter introduces me as her mom.
Tip #10 – Leave some free time in the schedule to sleep and just hang out.
College students are so busy that they often don’t have enough time to rest and recharge. Go out for dinner, but then go back to your hotel and watch movies together in your pajamas. Or sleep in and have coffee and bagels in the hotel rather than going out to breakfast. Unscheduled time is a luxury for college students!
Bonus tip: DON’T sleep through scheduled activities! Yep, been there, done that – I forgot to account for the extra noise of the hotel A/C unit and didn’t have my alarm loud enough…slept right through a scheduled breakfast with my son and his friends *Gulp* !
What tips do you have for great visits?? I’d love to hear them!
**Thoughts on Family Weekend**
There’s no right or wrong here. Some families love going to Family Weekend; some families don’t. My kids wanted us to visit when the campus was less crowded, hotels were less expensive, restaurants had shorter waits and we had more free time together. Other families love going to the football games, meeting the department heads, and all the other social activities that are planned. Ask your student and then decide together – some families only go freshman year, some families go all four years and it’s a fun annual event for them!