Category Archives: College Culture

College-Bound Advice

GraduationTo College-Bound High School Graduates (and their Parents),

Congratulations on your college acceptances and deciding on your college of choice.  As you prepare to leave home, I encourage you to do a few things to set yourself up for a great start in college. Taking the time now to go over financial and communication expectations with your parents, as well as discussing guidelines with your future roommate(s) will prevent frustration and conflict later.  Here are a few things to consider doing:


  • Read this letter on Campus Safety
  • Read this letter, Six Ways College is Different Than High School
  • Discuss the FERPA and HIPA policies with your parents, now that you are 18 (or will be when starting college). Unless you sign these documents and give your college and your parents a copy, they will not be able to participate in health or educational decisions on your behalf.
  • Start to take charge of your health and well-being, if you have not already done so. Make your own doctor and dentist appointments for this summer and winter break. Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date.
  • Make more of your own meals and don’t expect your parents to remind you to get up and out the door on time.
  • Make sure you know how to do your own laundry, manage your debit/credit card accounts, navigate public transportation, read a map, cook a few meals, etc.
  • If you will be bringing a car to campus make sure you know how to change a tire, check tire pressure, change the oil and fill the gas tank.
  • Talk to your parents about what their expectations are for your personal choices, financial responsibilities, and academics.
  • If your parent is not listed on your bank accounts, consider setting up a Durable Power of Attorney. This authorizes your parent or another adult to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so.  It needs to be signed by a Notary.
  • Be honest about your personality and needs when picking a roommate. Discuss ahead of time what your expectations are regarding lights out, girlfriends/boyfriends, noise, cleanliness, etc. Here is a sample Roommate Contract for ideas about issues that might come up.
  • Remember that successful college students do three things: have a goal they focus on, are involved in at least one group outside of the classroom, and develop at least one positive relationship with an adult (professor, advisor, counselor).

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Virtual Campus Tours

Nothing can replace a college visit, and having a student feel, “I can see myself here”, or “I don’t think this is for me”.  College is a huge investment, and most of us wouldn’t make a large purchase without first seeing and feeling the item we are purchasing up close.  But time and finances limit most families to a handful of in-person visits, so using online tours to narrow the list can be very beneficial.
img_7588When trying to decide which schools to visit in person and which schools to visit online, I recommend students start by visiting a variety of colleges within driving distance. Many students feel they would never want to attend college so close to home, but once they are on campus, recognize it is a great fit; and that moving out to attend college is moving out, no matter how far or close to home.  Just as importantly, visiting a variety of schools (large research universities, small liberal arts college, public colleges, religiously-affiliated colleges, specialized colleges, etc.) gives students a chance to understand what they like and don’t like before investing in far-off travel plans.

Next, I would take a hard look at the student’s college list, and do some research to determine the student’s current top choices and to ascertain which schools care about demonstrated interest.  Many schools pay attention to demonstrated interest to gauge how likely a student is in attending a school.  The higher the percentage of admitted students that accept a college’s offer (the retention rate), the higher the school’s rankings.  There are a number of ways to demonstrate interest, but some schools place a lot of weight on the college visit. I would put those schools at the top of a student’s visit list (find out by asking the college directly or check out the admissions tab for a college in College Data). Continue reading

The Talk You Need to Have with Your Student: Binge Drinking & Sexual Assault

Not a fun topic, but a must-have discussion with your College Bound student. Please make sure your student understands that drinking (especially the  binge-drinking culture) currently on the rise on college campuses) encourages sexual assault behavior. Twenty percent of young women and five percent of men who attended college during the past four years say they were sexually assaulted by physical force or while they were incapacitated, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. But that is probably a low estimate, as many victims do not report their assault.

Don’t be afraid to ask colleges and current students about the drinking and sexual assault environment at the school. The initial college information session is a good time to inquire about a school’s sexual assault prevention strategy.  You can also look up a college’s Clery Report (here is a link to the University of Oregon’s), now required of colleges as part of the Clery Act. And here is a report from the University of Oregon on “Blackout drinking” and sexual abuse (on the rise at many college campuses). Below are suggested questions that will help to determine what schools are doing strengthen the culture of respect.

What prevention measures are in place on your campus?

Do you require all freshmen and new students to attend prevention programs?

Are faculty members trained to talk to students who might come to them with complaints of sexual misconduct?

Do you have student-run sexual assault organizations?

Is your school under investigation for Title IX violation?

Do you conduct confidential surveys on rape and sexual assault?  Are the results available?

Do you have a dedicated victim advocate to help survivors with medical/recovery and adjudication decisions?

Do you provide counseling for survivors?

What is your policy on sanctions for students found responsible for sexual assault and rape?

Do you have a method for anonymous reporting of sexual assault?

What is your policy in relation to involvement of local police?

Tips for Students:

Have a plan in place before you attend a party: Will you be drinking? What is your limit? How are you planning to get home? Do you have a buddy to look out for you? What if you get in trouble? Who will you call for help?

Don’t be a by-stander. If you see someone who might be in trouble, offer to help find them a safe ride home (call campus security or campus escort service).

It’s not just “No Means No” anymore. You must have consent. A lack of a “no” does not mean consent.

Students should explore non-drinking activities offered by the college (movie nights, bowling, speakers, plays, art shows, music performances, etc.) One great tip I love is for students to pledge to not drink for the first month on campus.


National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE

Another resource is the list of schools being investigated by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for possible violations of Title IX in their handling of sexual misconduct complaints. This list is not updated automatically online, but the public can contact OCR to request the list at any time. It recently included more than 100 schools.