5 Tips For Parents Sending Students Off to College

Group of students walking on a college campus.

In the coming days and weeks a virtual parade of cars filled with excited college students and anxious parents will be leaving our county and heading to campuses throughout Virginia and across the country.

Here are helpful tips provided by our commonwealth’s universities for parents – and to share with your student to ensure that they have the information they need to be safe while they are away from home.


1. Follow Campus Police/Security on Social Media

Almost every school’s campus police or security office has an online presence on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Follow or like and you will be able to stay up to date on campus safety tips, events and alerts. Most schools also have campus alerts that both you and your student can sign up to receive. Go on your campus’ website for more information.


2. Have the Safety Talk 

Before your student waves goodbye and heads into their new dorm, talk to them about having a personal safety plan. Here are a few tips that were discussed at a recent presentation by our Police Department:

  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, like a party or other gathering, then leave and don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. If someone or something appears out of place in your building or neighborhood, contact your RA or the police immediately. You are not bothering them.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible and don’t walk alone on campus at night. Perpetrators look for individuals who are easy targets, in areas where they can hide.
  • Never attach anything with your name and/or address to your keychain.
  • Tell a friend where you are going and when you will return.
  • Many universities also have free shuttles or other transportation to enable students to get to all points of campus safely even at night.  Look up the information and become familiar with the route and stops.


3. Keep in Touch 

Students get busy when they are on campus and classes may go from early morning to late night hours. And then there are study groups, sorority or fraternity meetings, sports and the list goes on. To make sure your student is doing well and adjusting to their new life and schedule, designate a weekly time that is good for both of you to talk on the phone. Parents should also get contact info from roommates and their parents, if possible, in case you have difficulty contacting your student.

You should also consider making mental health a priority conversation topic with your student. The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) can help. The Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education course is ideal for anyone who regularly interacts with students, both on and off campus, including parents. Topics include how to recognize specific stresses and risk factors faced by students in college.


4. Know Your Campus’ Emergency Procedures

Every campus is different and parents should be aware of campus procedures in case of an emergency, from a snowstorm to an active shooter. Check your campus web pages for this information. One example from Virginia Commonwealth University.


5. Physical and Mental Health Resources 

There are resources for your student to help them if they get sick with the flu or are having difficulty with depression or anxiety. Before you get the call from your student that they aren’t feeling well, research the health care options on your campus and also check about your insurance coverage. Make sure your student has the information they need to go to the doctor by themselves, including pertinent family history. Check on the university’s parents Facebook page or other resources for information and recommendations for health care resources off campus.


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