“Parent's Guide to College Life”- Essential reading for parents of college-bound kids

You hold in your hands the coveted thick envelope with the name of your child's top college choice printed on the front top left corner. Yes! You let out a collective sigh of successful relief and feel you're finally done with the stressful college admissions process. After sending in the signed acceptance letter and financial aid documents, you sit, exhausted and spent, and wonder, now what? The next step is probably the most difficult for many parents: preparing your child, as well as yourself, to move him or her out of the home and into college housing. Fortunately, The Princeton Review's bible-like tomes you relied on for information about college admissions, also offers books to help parents with a child at the college doorstep cope with the gamut of emotions, and learn the new rules of the college game. 

As the parent of a high school junior, I was thrilled when Random House asked me to review an insightful book by Robin Raskin, “Parent's Guide to College Life: 181 Straight Answers on Everything you Can Expect Over the Next Four Years” (Random House, 2006). In her book, Raskin tells us mortified parents what the real deal is with college life these days, and she gives it to us straight; from communicating with our home-free child, to packing, selecting dorms, nutrition, illness, emergencies, theft, depression, roommates, grades, insurance, fires, etc. The author conducted extensive interviews with so many college and admissions staff, that it's likely she mentions something about your child's future (or present) college too. More importantly, she asked college students and parents themselves about the college experience, not only the academic and social aspects of life on campus, but how they handled the separation from home and parents. Not surprising, the parents are the ones to suffer most — and break more rules than their freshman college student!

“Hi, My Name is Control Freak…”

As soon as I started reading the first chapter about communicating with your college student, I knew the author was speaking directly to me; a parent with knowledge about how to use all the available instant messaging technology, and thinking of using it as a substitution for being there. Robin found out that's a big NO, NO! (Darn it! How's my son going to know when it's time to change his socks?) In the chapter titled Long Distance Parenting, Raskin establishes the pros and cons of not letting go of our college-offspring in one fell swoop. Though disappointed, I quickly digested the reasons for the few-and-far-between texts, IMs and email exchanges parents should sustain with their kids while at college.

From the outset the author admits, “This generation of parents is America's best educated ever”. With this in mind, Robin advises tuition-paying parents about what is appropriate parental behavior and lays out the rights parents actually have while their kids are at college, and also helps us “tame the parent monster”. Yes, you read correctly, rights. Had you heard of Family Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) before today? I hadn't, and thanks to this information in Robin's book, I am more empowered to take on any university administrative nightmare that might come my way like problems with a roommate, campus security encounters, or even being able to find out my still-dependent student's grades. College-student confidentiality is a complicated matter bordering on CIA level security — believe it or not, we do not have the right to know everything about our students!

The other nine chapters are equally gut-wrenching for parents. Take illness for example. Does your kid even know how to use a thermometer, let alone recognize symptoms? Would he or she know when it's appropriate to go see the campus nurse? With the swine flu hysteria we lived through recently, how does campus staff deal with these types of situations?

Robin Raskin holds nothing back, and reveals much more beyond the partying, drug use, sex, fraternity life, and other much publicized aspects of the college experience parents usually hear about on national news. The topics the author analyzes go deeper than the usual nutrition, washing, cooking, drinking parents want to know about. Will they be safe during a fire? Should we get personal insurance for those expensive items they'll leave in plain view in their dorm? Should we get involved if there's a problem with the roommate? Answers to these questions plus the practical advise, tips and information Robin got from speaking with university deans, staff, financial advisers, parents and students is shared in this guide with a heartwarming tone and sensitivity for parents embarking on the road to college for the first time.

I received this book at a crucial moment in the planning stages of our son's future college life; we are in the throes of analyzing a lot of information from a variety of colleges trying to select where he would like to apply. Adding this book to our collection of materials shed light on other factors we should look into when considering colleges too!

“Parent's Guide to College Life” gave us a no-nonsence peek at what our son might experience once he's there, where ever that maybe.


  1. Anonymous says:

    There is no doubt that this book comes with useful tips on helping parents cope with their kids college life. Maybe they need to be more aware on how are their kids doing because college doesn't always bring good news. Some youngsters misunderstand their independent life. College life is beautiful, too bad college education doesn't open too many ways anymore, I am disappointed by the system… Parents should understand that too from the beginning, college doesn't buy us any financial safety anymore.

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    I totally agree with you on this one.
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