5 Rules for Visiting Your College Student During Parents' Weekends

You may have questions about attending these events; here are some tips.

By + More

Parents' Weekend can be one of the more enjoyable events for parents of college students. These weekends, planned by administrators for the benefit of students and their parents (or parent figures), often take place in the fall and involve a mix of on- and off-campus activities.

For parents, however, these weekends can present some interesting questions. How much will you get to interact with your student? What are the "rules" for what you should or shouldn't do? What expectations can you have about what the weekend will mean for you and your college student?

1. Keep the goal in mind: The main goal for your participation in Parents' Weekend is to visit your student and learn more about their new college life. Do your best not to freak out about how messy their room is, worry about how late they stay out, bug them about their homework, ask them how many times they allow boys to hang out in their room, or question them about their plans after graduation.

Parents' Weekend is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hang out with your students as they grow into independent adults. Listen to them. Learn from them. Allow them to take the lead and show you all that they've done and accomplished during their time in school.

[Learn 4 steps to financially prepare your student for college.]

2. Be open to surprises: Many parents report being surprised—pleasantly surprised—at the person they suddenly see their student becoming. After all, your student is likely living a very independent life at their college. You may see new confidence in them or a new way of carrying themselves. You may be surprised that your student, who you always thought of as shy, seems to wave at and know the names of everyone walking by. Don't assume that the student you knew back home is the one you'll see on campus. Look forward to being surprised!

3. Be flexible with time and the agenda: The administrators on your campus have worked long and hard to plan Parents' Weekend. They are likely dealing with all kinds of special requests, logistical problems, and unexpected events during the weekend. Events may start and run a little late. Locations may change at the last minute. Things may be cancelled for reasons out of their control. Take a deep breath, go with the flow, and model for your student what it's like to focus on the important things—like spending time together.

[Read 10 reasons why parents should never contact professors.]

4. Stick to the agenda: While Parents' Weekend may be new for you and your student, it's likely a tradition at your student's school. Sticking to the agenda will help structure your time with your student and avoid the "So what do you want to do now?" question.

Additionally, things that may seem a little silly to you both may end up being ridiculously fun and one of your better memories during your student's time in school. Last but not least, many activities during Parents' Weekend are steeped in tradition, and missing out on those kinds of events can easily turn into something you'll both regret later.

5. Don't stick to the agenda: While it's important to stick to the agenda, remember, too, that it's OK to skip an event or two if you want to have some more personal time with your student. Consider grabbing a quiet breakfast with him or her at a nearby coffee shop. Take your student shopping for groceries or school supplies. Head to a baseball game like you did when he or she was in high school for a nice, nostalgic evening. Many of the events during Parents' Weekend are group activities, so know that it's perfectly OK to sneak in some individual time, too.

Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.