Today we hear from Lori Bathurst, a Rowan mom from Gloucester County, NJ. Lori’s daughter Paige will enter her senior year this fall as a supply chain and logistics major through the Rohrer College of Business, and holds the distinction of being a past president of Student Government Association (SGA).
As an experienced Rowan parent, Lori shares her thoughts and insight to help new Rowan University parents as they navigate the transition from parenting a child at home to parenting a young adult embarking on their college experience.
What are some first year essentials parents should know about what to bring, if their student is living on campus?
As a result of the pandemic, Paige moved on to campus as a sophomore and lived in an apartment her first year. Some items she utilized that were helpful was a foam mattress topper to help make her bed extra comfortable, along with a variety of pillows since dorm beds are beds and sofas depending on the time of the day. I think clever storage containers to help stay organized are extremely helpful. A drying rack for extra space for towels was something she needed once she was used to living on campus. Ikea was a great place for shopping. Target and Amazon were both very useful. If a student is staying in an apartment, it would be wise to start with basic kitchen items before shopping, instead of shopping as if the students will be cooking gourmet meals. Once they are settled in their apartment, they’ll discover if they need additional kitchen items depending on how much they actually cook.
How involved were you in facilitating a relationship between your student and their roommate, if at all? How involved were you in the decorating process?
I was not involved in facilitating identifying a roommate or determining a decorating process. That’s best left to the Rowan student as they discover themself.
How did you adjust to an ’empty nest’? How did you manage the emotions of drop off/move in?
Paige has younger twin brothers so we didn’t have to adjust to an ’empty nest’. Rowan was the perfect fit for Paige because she is close to her brothers and us, along with our extended family who all live in Gloucester County. She was able to live on campus and do her college thing, while connecting with her family when there was a special occasion or holiday. Her brothers were freshmen when she was a senior in high school so they experienced Spring 2020 together. She supported them through their high school careers and always made it a point to attend a marching band competition, fall play or spring musical performance, or tennis match at some point during the year to cheer them on like they had cheered her on during high school. As Paige’s parents, we are grateful that Rowan allows her to explore so many different avenues while still being able to easily connect with home when she was able. We also loved that we could attend events on campus when asked because she was nearby.
What is your stance on home visits? Do you limit them, to nudge your student toward making the most of the on campus experience?
We didn’t need to limit them because Paige wasn’t interest in staying at our house for entire weekends when she moved onto campus. She makes the most of her on campus experience by getting involved in a variety of activities so her schedule is always pretty filled outside of her class meetings. I think if my child was leaning toward coming home for entire weekends frequently in the beginning, I would encourage my child to try to commit to staying on campus during the weekends. The way I would do this would be to support them in finding out which activities are sponsored for the weekend. The first way a parent can do this is by encouraging them to check out Rowan After Hours (RAH) which sponsors activities at the Student Center on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 pm-1 am. The activities are student-centered, change daily, and are designed to be no pressure and fun. Your student could invite another student they met in a class, in their dorm, or in a club to go to a RAH event and see how they like it. There are also special events at Wilson Hall, plenty of athletic programs, the Recreation Center, and annual events like Homecoming and Hollybash. These are all good reasons to stay on campus more often during the school year. There are so many ways to get involved and make connections. If a student goes home too often, they might not get to fully experience these events, which will really help them balance their challenging coursework with a the reward of developing relationships with others and getting involved with their community.
How did you support your student through homesickness?
Our family lives close enough to campus that it was probably hard to imagine our student feeling “homesick.” If that did happen, however, I would probably use some of the following strategies – send encouraging texts at different times during the day, have a set time or times to check in during the week with different formats – maybe a phone call, FaceTime, or Zoom. I would do this a couple times a week if needed, but I would work with my student to set a schedule ahead of time that meets his or her needs. It would be beneficial to not be having check-ins every day, but instead to help them be able to stretch them out. Maybe once a day, if they are struggling at first, and then move to every other day, then to every three days , and so on to help them become more independent. If they are living on Rowan’s campus, approaching their Community Assistant would be a great step because the Community Assistant can share some strategies for coping with homesickness and share some activity ideas to help them get more involved and feel more connected with campus activities. There are a lot of volunteer opportunities on campus and that’s always a great way to meet new people and to do something that helps you feel good and stay busy resulting in less homesickness.
How did you support your student through illness and/or mental health needs?
Teach your child that the Health Center and Counseling Center are their resources that are there to help them. When they are ill, they can visit the Health Center before urgent care or the emergency room depending on the severity of their illness and the hour of the day. The counseling center provides a variety of services and the counselors are interacting with many other students who are experiencing similar challenges. The counselors are specially trained to help them. Students should follow their gut, and reach out for help when that’s needed – to a friend, professor, community assistant, doctor at the health center or counselor at the counseling center, etc. Let them know that you will always be there to support them and that you always hope for open, transparent communication so they don’t have to be afraid of letting you know if they are struggling. Make sure they know about the 988 Crisis & Suicide Hotline that operates nationally. Additionally, there is a pet therapy facility on campus. There are spirituality and religious services available on campus. There are multiple religious affiliations in Glassboro and surrounding towns eager to support Rowan students. No matter the physical illness or mental health need, there are services available. Always reach out when help is needed.
How do you balance fostering independence vs. safety concerns – aka, do you require check-ins with parents? What’s your stance on Life360?
We don’t have Life360 on our phones. We can track through our phones to see where a phone is, but we recognize it’s possible for young people to disable that feature. We have talked to our daughter via text, phone, or FaceTime a couple times a week throughout her time at Rowan. She also attends special events with us because we live so near to the campus. I personally think it’s healthy to give more freedom and independence to our young people. Thinking back to when we were kids, our parents couldn’t track us, check our grades online, etc. They trusted us to be responsible and tell the truth. For the most part, young people do that. It’s natural that they might be leaving “a small part” out of the story as they grow and mature. Parents know their students best and should follow the students lead to a certain degree. Determine where the happy place is for your relationship between safety and independence. Have the conversations early and often and make sure you are on the same page. Regular, clear communication early and often can help prevent a feeling of being caught off guard later on.
How do you approach spending money – is your student 100% on their own for ‘fun money’? Did you nudge your student to get a job locally or on campus? Did you prepare your student for budgeting?
Our student has a job on campus for spending money. That money is her budget to use for things that she wants or thinks she needs. She has worked really hard obtaining scholarships and works as a community assistant to cover her room and board. My husband and I gave her a car, pay for its insurance, and maintenance. We pay for medical insurance and cover all medical costs. We help toward the cost of travel, some purchases, and some things that are unexpected. When she is with us meals are covered, tickets to events, etc. If she is going out with friends to events, she typically covers those costs herself. Occasionally, I look over her spending to make sure it’s reasonable. She has a savings account and an account for her bank card. It’s good to obtain a credit card in the latter half of college to begin to establish credit.
What is your stance on grades – do you ask your student to show you their grades, or do you log into their Canvas yourself for updates? Why does your approach work for you?
We verbally check in with our student about grades a couple times a semester. She usually shows her grades to us after semesters, but we haven’t always been formal about that step. We have never logged onto Canvas ourselves to check her grades. Again, when I was a student at Rowan, our grades came in the mail. I would open the envelope and share my grades with my parents because I was proud of my hard work not because I had to. My parents gave me a thousand dollars toward college, but other than that I paid for my college education by working throughout the four years and choosing to commute. I never could have done it by myself if my parents didn’t allow me to live at home rent free and help me out if I had an emergency with an unexpected cost. Our goal for our children is that they will do the right thing due to their internal motivation, not fully as a result of their external motivation centered on me.
What conversations did you have around safety and socializing before your student started college?
We have talked about our hopes and expectations surrounding drugs and alcohol. We discuss sexual relationships and safety on campus. Sadly, gun violence prevention and response is a conversation that parents have to have with their young person. Students should review the safety resources with their community assistants and ask additional questions when they have them. Parents can sign up for a texting service to let you know if a safety or security concern has occurred on campus. Mental health discussions should also be part of the conversations you have this summer before arriving on campus. If your child responds that they are fine and don’t need the information when you bring it up this summer, tell them it’s okay, you still want to talk because it might be something they remember in the future when they need some help and might be a conversation they can refer back to when they are trying to help another person.
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