Supporting your College Student

As your student takes on adult responsibilities your role will change, but your student still needs you. Students need you to support their growth, development, and independence, and to be a stable force in their ever-changing world. On occasion, they even need your advice—but they may or may not ask for it!

Stay Connected

Support your student by staying connected. Communicate via phone, e-mail, IM, and ‘snail’ mail. If your student lives on campus, you can reach his/her residence hall room by dialing 651-696-XXXX or the assigned four-digit extension. The Macalester operator at 651-696-6000 can connect you with your student’s room during business hours. An automated telephone directory is accessible after hours. Many students have a personal cellular telephone; record your student’s number and possibly a roommate’s or friends’ number(s).

There is a fax machine available to students to both send and receive at the Info Desk in the Campus Center. The charge is $1/page to either send or receive (domestic). Faxes received internationally may cost more. The fax number is 651-696-6860. Be sure and include a cover sheet with the student’s name and phone number (if available).

The address for all U.S. Mail and UPS is the same for everyone at Mac.
Student’s Name
Macalester College
1600 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105

Students have an individual mailbox in the Campus Center. It is not necessary to write the student’s residence hall room number or individual post office box number on the item you are sending. Part of a college student’s daily ritual is the trip to the mailbox, affectionately known as the “SPO” – Student Post Office. Receiving mail is always welcome and a huge day brightener! Clippings from your hometown newspaper, an old favorite cartoon strip, a funny greeting card – whatever reminds your student of home and his or her relationships – send it! The message that you’re thinking of him or her outweighs the actual value of what you’ve sent.

All Macalester students, faculty and staff have an e-mail address. Faculty and staff addresses are available online through the directory at The nice thing about e-mail is that you can erase your words before you send them if you find you’ve given too much advice or are falling too far into old parenting patterns!

Lastly, never underestimate the power of a care package. Treats from home that your student can share with floor residents are an excellent way to make new friends. Bon Appetit, our on-campus catering provider, offers cakes, cookies or bars and care packages for any occasion. For pricing information and/or to place an order contact Leah Thomas at 651-696-6313 or e-mail her at Bon Appetit will have your order available at the “Grill” in the campus center where your student or a friend (for a surprise!) can pick it up. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. Preloaded gift cards from Caribou Coffee, Jamba Juice, Whole Foods, and Target are also favorites.

Expect that students will not respond to all of your contacts, but know that they appreciate hearing from you. Family Fest Weekend is an excellent way to reconnect with your student.

Give your student the opportunity to share feelings and ideas with you. Students are experiencing new viewpoints and perspectives that may challenge prior belief systems. Allow your student to explore ideas without being judgmental. Understand that changes in viewpoints, behavior, dress, eating and sleeping habits, and relationships with parents are all to be expected during the college years. However, if you suspect that some of these changes may be signs of bigger problems (alcohol or drug abuse, academic problems, etc.), refer your student to Counseling Services at the Health and Wellness Center. Trust your instincts. Your student may need you to refer him or her to the appropriate resources for help.

Be Knowledgeable about Campus Resources
Utilize this website and the larger Macalester website to become familiar with life at Mac. These resources provide a great deal of information about the college and its departments. Helping your
student navigate the college by referring him or her to the appropriate resources is one of the best ways for you to mentor your college student during this transition to adulthood. By acting as a referral source, you can demonstrate that you are interested in your student’s life at Macalester, and at the same time, you empower your student to solve his or her own problems.

Continue to Have Difficult Conversations
As a parent of a college student, you no longer have the same control that you once had over your student’s day-to-day life. However, you do still have a tremendous influence on your son or daughter’s behavior. In college, your son or daughter will have to make their own decisions about what time to get up in the morning, when to study, when to exercise, which organizations to participate in, what to eat, whether or not to drink alcohol, how much alcohol to drink if any, and whether or not to engage in sexual relationships. While you cannot force your student to behave exactly as you would want them to, parents can share their values and beliefs with their students on these topics. Studies show that parents influence their child’s behavior regarding drugs, alcohol, and risky sexual behavior even after their child leaves for college. Provide your student with the facts on these issues, and empower them to distinguish between good and bad decisions when it comes to their behavior, health, and safety. Create an atmosphere of open communication, and your student will not only appreciate that you respect him or her as an adult, but he or she will also be more likely to turn to you for guidance.

(Source: Brigham Young University (2008, February 11). “Sex, Drugs and Alcohol: Parents Still Influence College Kids’
Risky Behavior, Study Shows.” ScienceDaily. Read the news release.)

Here are a few suggestions for productive discussions:

• Be specific about what you expect them to do in college (abstain or drink moderately, make positive choices about sexuality and eating patterns, practice financial responsibility.)
• Ask questions, but be prepared for the answers. Listen in a non-judgmental manner. This will keep communication open.
• Do not romanticize your own experience with alcohol or other drugs. You may inadvertently encourage this behavior.

To help you get started, here are a few suggestions for questions to ask:

• “What are some decisions that you are facing right now?”
• “How do you cope when you feel stressed?”
• “What do you think helped you cope with stress before going to college that you could still rely on now?”
• “What do you do with friends in your free time?”
• “How will you deal with pressure to drink or drink too much?”
• “What kinds of activities are available besides parties with alcohol?”
• “How do you deal with someone who is pressuring you to increase physical intimacy in a relationship?”
• “How would you make sure that a partner gives consent for sexual activity?”
• “What are the positive/negative aspects of a sexual relationship?”
• “How do you protect yourself emotionally and physically in a sexual relationship?”
• “How do you talk about your sexual boundaries with a partner?”

*Courtesy of The University of Michigan University Health Service.

Ask Questions—But Not Too Many
Most first-year college students desire the security of knowing that someone from home is still interested in them. Parental curiosity can be alienating or supportive depending on the attitudes of the persons involved. Honest inquiries and other “between friends” communication and discussion will do much to further the parent-student relationship.

Expect Change
Your student will change. College and the experiences associated with it can effect changes in social, vocational, and personal behavior and choices. It’s natural, inevitable, and it can be inspiring. Often though, it’s challenging. You can’t stop change, you may never understand it, but it is within your power (and to you and your student’s advantage) to accept it. Remember that your son or daughter will be basically the same person that you sent away to school.

Do Not Tell Your Student That “These Are the Best Years of Your Life”
The first year of college can be full of indecision, insecurities, disappointments, and most of all, mistakes. It’s also full of discovery, inspiration, good times, and exciting people. It may take a while for students to realize that their Hollywood-created images of what college is about are all wrong. Hollywood doesn’t show that college includes being scared, confused, overwhelmed, and making mistakes. Students may feel these things and worry that they are not ‘normal’ because what they’re feeling is in contrast to what they’ve been led to believe while growing up. Parents can help by understanding that the highs and lows of college life are a critical part of your son or daughter’s development, and by providing the support and encouragement to help him or her understand this as well.

Trust Your Student
College is also a time for students to discover who they are. Finding oneself is a difficult enough process without feeling that the people whose opinions you respect most are second-guessing your own second-guessing.