A student’s progression from high school to college is a major transition that affects every individual student in unique ways.  While your student will be taking the lead in these academic pursuits, you still play an important role, especially when it comes to showing support.

Parents as Coaches

One of the hallmarks of your student’s transition to college is increased responsibility and independence and decision-making in terms of courses, majors, involvement, and career path. Dr. Ed de St. Aubin, father, and associate professor and assistant chair in the department of psychology, encourages parents to inquire about their students’ progress and performance, applaud good effort and good performance, and encourage students to seek help from the support resources offered at Marquette.

Continue to listen to him or her with an open mind.  Be reassuring and let them know that you are confident in their ability to succeed at Marquette.  With final exams and papers looming, de St. Aubin shares that this time of the semester can be particularly anxiety inducing for students. “Parents should inquire about grades but should also simply support their student – send a care package with those favorite cookies, or a play list of fun music, or a letter that allows the student to escape campus pressures for a while.”

Setting is Important

When talking to your student about grades and their academics at Marquette, the setting for these conversations is important.  Dr. de St. Aubin encourages parents and family members to have these discussions when things are going well, or your student is in a good frame of mind to reflect on his or her semester.” Dave Denomie, father, and director of student services/instructor in the College of Communication, echoes this sentiment. He encourages parents to “avoid any settings that feel like an interrogation, including by asking otherwise seemingly innocent questions in rapid succession” as this will help your student open up and take the lead. 

Advising and Academic Support

Now may be a good time to remind your student that there are many people at Marquette who are here to help them succeed, de St. Aubin shares.  Encourage your student to maintain contact with his or her advisor(s) in order to be adequately prepared for mapping out their degree, career planning, etc.  “The most difficult aspect of navigating these conversations is setting up the appointment.” 

Additionally, professors are eager to talk with students who are interested in their own academic success.  If your student has questions regarding his or her grades, encourage them to meet with their professors and/or teaching assistants in person during office hours.  “No one will judge you for being behind in class or for struggling with course material.  [Professors] see this all the time,” says de St. Aubin.

Beyond your conversations with your student about their grades and study skills, it can also help to have knowledge of on-campus resources and support services.  Marquette has a number of programs and services that support students’ learning and academic success.  The Tutoring Program, housed in the Office of Student Educational Services, and the Writing Center are both free quality campus resources.  Though, ultimately, students must make the move to visit or call one of these resources, parents and family members can be of help by making referrals and having an awareness of campus resources.

Considering New Options

For some students, the end of the semester marks a time when they may consider new majors or career options. Denomie encourages parents to remember what its like enter a period of life that is fraught with uncertainty. “Students often feel stressed and come to believe that one wrong move will devastate the rest of their college career and, possibly, their lives. This often leads to a ‘deer in the headlights’ situation.”  Decisions like choice of major are important, of course.  “But there is room to change later if it ends up being the wrong choice. Encourage your student to consider and research their choices but let them know you support them if they have to make adjustments,” he suggests.

Denomie also encourages parents to keep an open mind and communicate support, especially when students are making tough choices.  “As parents, we are always thinking about our children’s security and well-being which is, of course, tied to their financial security.  However, our desire to be practical may sometimes mean we are quick to question the practicality of a certain degree or career path.  Sometimes our student will surprise us and succeed in something we never thought about. Or they may find out for themselves a different path would be a better way to go. By making them close it off without ever finding out for themselves, we may lead them to later regret never having tried.”

In every year of college, students face challenges in their personal and/or academic life.  Assure your student that it is okay to ask questions and seek support.  The pressures of college can seem daunting at times, but having a strong support system of family, friends, and campus partners can make all the difference.

Questions to Begin the Dialogue

By Sami Boynton, practicum student in the Marquette University Parent Program; contributions by Dr. Ed de St. Aubin, associate professor and assistant chair in the department of psychology and David Denomie, director for student services, college of communication


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