Be cool, Mom and Dad: Read these tips for a great family weekend on campus

November 1, 2023 College Life
Mother and daughter sitting next to each other on sofa planning college campus tour.

It has the makings of a cringey comedy movie: An ordinary college student is going about her routine when suddenly her parents show up on campus, eager to partake in college life. They’ve geared up at the campus store, and they’re ready to hit the quad, maps and checklists in hand. What could go wrong?

Welcome to family weekend, a fall tradition at most colleges. If you’re a student or parent preparing for the big event, we’ve got tips to alleviate stress and make sure you don’t feel like you’re on the set of a bad movie.

Parents, take your cues from your kid

“We as parents are so excited to see our student who has gone off to college, and we’ve got all these plans,” said Karen Collins, a senior education and career counselor at Granite Edvance. “Then you get there and they may not want to do any of those things. They may just want you to take them shopping at Target.”

Avoid the clash of wills and disappointment by deciding in advance to let your young person take the lead. Think of it this way: “They’re gaining that independence, and it’s cool to see that firsthand,” Karen said.

Students, seize the opportunity

Colleges tend to pull out all the stops for family weekend. “There are all these great things to do. Students and families should really take advantage of it,” said Shawn Kithcart, an education and career counselor at Granite Edvance. “Maybe go and do some of the activities you’ve never done before. It’s a great time to explore campus in a safe setting because you have that comfort from home.”

Plan ahead

It may go without saying, but the campus – and the surrounding community – are going to be crowded during family weekend. Get schedules ahead, make dinner reservations, build in some down time – anything that will help the more high-strung family members (you know who you are) stay calm.

Expand your itinerary

Many colleges stack other events such as open houses and alumni games onto family weekend. Check the school’s social media pages to see what else is going on that might be fun for your family. Also, check out events in the surrounding community. There’s often a lot going on off campus too.

Expand your “family”

Don’t forget that not everyone will have their parents in tow for family weekend, said Eric Lofstedt, an education and career counselor at Granite Edvance. “If you have a roommate or buddy whose family couldn’t make it, invite them to come along,” he said.

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