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Intervening... When and How

Amy Quillin, Associate Director, Residence Services

As a parent, you will likely hear from your son/daughter about different concerns they have in regards to a wide variety of university-related issues (e.g., their roommates, their professors, the food, the parking, etc.), and it can be tricky to know exactly how to respond. Achieving a balance of being supportive but not too intrusive, consoling but not too enabling, giving good advice but not dictating away their independence can be tricky. And you thought it would be easy sending them to college! Below are some suggestions we offer regarding issues that may arise in conversation with your son/daughter and how to respond. These are obviously very general responses, and we trust that you as parents know how best to reply to your son/daughter’s individual concerns. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call the offices listed at the end of this document.

As a way of introduction to this section of “when and how to intervene as a parent,” it may be important for you to know the university’s stance on your son/daughter. The university views students as adults with the ability to make decisions and act responsibly as university community members, and expects them to positively contribute to the overall university community. We also understand that this is a time of transition to adulthood for most new students and for that reason we believe we provide significant support in assisting students with that transition.

With that said, if your son/daughter speaks to you about a specific concern, we suggest that you empower your son/daughter to seek resolution to that concern on their own, and to exhaust all their avenues of assistance before you, as a parent, get involved. We believe that in most cases students will, indeed, find satisfactory resolution to their concerns on their own.

Relationships

Roommates

If your son/daughter lives in one of the residence halls, they likely have a roommate, unless they’ve been assigned to a single room. And, if they have a roommate, they are also likely sharing space that, on average, has dimensions that approximate a 12’ x 17’ rectangle—a challenge for any of us who may be accustomed to having a larger living space and who maybe isn’t used to sharing space with another person. For many students, it may be the first time they’ve had to share a room, or the first time they’ve lived in close proximity to someone of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation. Although, the university firmly believes this environment is ultimately a very healthy one for all students, it also realizes that it presents challenges to some students who may not be accustomed to close-quarters-living and/or to living with a person who seems to be very different from them.

As a parent, you will want to balance the supporting/consoling role, that is, listening and empathizing with your son/daughter with the encouraging-their-independence role; in other words, encouraging them to talk with their roommate, get to know them, and complete the “Roommate Agreement” that should be provided to them by the Resident Assistant (RA). You may also encourage them to seek out the RA on their floor who will also be able to talk with them, and hopefully resolve any issues satisfactorily.

If talking with their roommate and the Resident Assistant and other hall staff (e.g. Residence Hall Director) doesn’t alleviate the roommate conflict, a room change may be in order (see “Living Environment”).

Not fitting in/fitting in “too well”

How well your son/daughter fits into this new college environment will likely be determined by their willingness to extend their comfort zone, make new friends, make healthy decisions about those friends and activities, and get involved in campus activities.

If your son/daughter says “there’s no one here to do anything with,” don’t believe them! The university admits approximately 5,300 freshmen every year, and about 3,400 of them live on campus. Overall, the university enrolls upwards of 23,000 students—the size of a small city— and approximately 6,100 of those reside in the residence halls; the rest either commute or live in off-campus apartments. So, there are PLENTY of people to do things with. Now, finding someone with your son/daughter’s particular interests may take some time and effort, but we can almost guarantee you that those folks are here!

On the flip side, if you start to hear/see a pattern where your son/daughter is always out with their friends, rarely at home or in their room, talks very little about their classes or homework assignments, and indicates a significant change (decline) in their study habits, that should send up a huge warning sign to you! If you are noting this pattern, we would encourage you to ask them directly if they are attending classes, how/where they’re studying, what kinds of discussions they are having in their classes, if they have attended their professors’ office hours, etc. A student’s first semester study habits often set the stage for how well they succeed that in that first full year of college life, as well as the next 3 to 4 years in the university. Establishing good study habits—going to class regularly, taking good notes, studying nightly, seeking out help (professors’ office hours, tutoring, study groups, etc.)—is critical to becoming a successful student!

Professor troubles

Most professors genuinely want students to learn and “get” the material they’re teaching. They have generally spent the summer, or preceding break, working hard and prepping for the classes they are scheduled to teach. Additionally, all professors/instructors are required to have office hours in which they are available to meet with students. When a student makes an appointment to meet with a professor/instructor during those office hours, it truly goes a long way in improving the instructor-student relationship! By showing up at office hours, or contacting the professor, students demonstrate that they are serious about the class and wanting to understand the course material. Additionally, that one-on-one time with the professor really can make the course material abundantly clear for the student.

If your son/daughter complains about Professor X, try to decipher what, exactly, their complaints are about. For instance, do they not like Professor X because the course material seems too difficult? Or because they don’t like Professor X’s teaching style? Or because they didn’t do well on the test?

One of the first questions to ask your son/daughter is if they have talked with Professor X about their concerns. Admittedly, it can sometimes be intimidating, particularly for new students, to approach a professor/instructor—and at that point, you’d probably want to play the empathic listening parent role, but still, we’d encourage you to strongly advise your son/daughter to expand their comfort zone and talk to the professor.

If, however, your son/daughter truly believes the professor is treating them unfairly, they can always talk to the Chairperson of the academic department in which the professor teaches, or they can contact the Ombuds/Dean of Students.

Homesickness

Not all new freshmen experience homesickness, but almost all will experience some kind of transition to the new learning and/or living environment of college. Most students handle this transition well with a few minor bumps along the way. They will, however, likely need your listening ear, and also need to hear your affirmation that although adjustment to college life can feel very difficult, you support them and believe in them.

If they live in a residence hall, you may want to encourage them to talk with their RA, and/or ask their roommate or floor mates to go to dinner. Another way to make the transition to university life a little easier is for your son/daughter to get involved in one of the 250 student organizations that are available through the Center for Student Involvement.

If you believe your son/daughter is homesick and you notice that it is beginning to interfere with their academics, their ability to eat/sleep, or their interpersonal relationships, you may want to suggest that they seek assistance from one of three places on campus that offer counseling:
  • The office of Psychological Services is staffed with licensed psychologists and is located in the Health Center
  • The Counseling & Human Development Center is staffed with masters and doctoral level counseling students pursuing their respective degrees; it is located in White Hall
  • The Psychological Clinic is staffed with masters and doctoral level psychology students also pursuing their respective degrees.
Living Environment

Residence Hall living

Studies have shown that students who reside on campus are more apt to:
  • Complete more credit hours and have higher grade point averages than their off-campus counterparts
  • Become more involved with the campus community
  • Make use of campus resources (library, staff, labs, support services) with greater frequency
  • Express greater satisfaction with their undergraduate experience
Furthermore, the university requires students to live on campus for the first two (2) years of their university career unless they meet certain exemption criteria.

Living in one of the 34 residence halls affords your son/daughter exceptional opportunities to meet friends, get involved with social activities, be exposed to leadership possibilities, and particularly in the case of living-learning communities, to bridge their academic and classroom learning with out-of-class experiences.

Additionally, if they live in the halls they will likely encounter other residents who are different from them—different in race, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, religious preference, or personality type. The university believes those differences reflect a microcosm of our general society, and provide opportunities for students to learn about, and engage with, the world beyond Kent’s campus. Our hope is that those differences challenge students in good and productive ways.

Challenges, however good and productive, are in fact challenging sometimes and students may need assistance in meeting and resolving those challenges. All university residence halls are staffed with student and professional staff who are trained to help residents in dealing with and resolving the challenges faced in their living environment. These include:
  • The Resident Assistant (RA), who is a student-staff member and is charged with the oversight of a particular floor or floors, in the residence hall.
  • The Residence Hall Director (RHD),  a professional staff member who generally has a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration or Counseling, and who has responsibility for the day-to-day operation of the entire residence hall (or group of residence halls).
  • In some cases, an Assistant Residence Hall Director (ARHD), who is a graduate student and assists the RHD in operating the residence hall(s).
All of these staff are available to your son/daughter for any issues they have with the challenges of on-campus living; and they are your son/daughter’s first line of inquiry for any residence hall related concerns.

Room Changes

Another item to note is that typically, around the third week of the semester, Residence Services offers residents the opportunity to submit requests for room and hall changes if their current assignment is not agreeable to them. This information is well-publicized in students’ respective halls as well as on the department’s website. Obviously, not all requests can be honored given space limitations, but the department does its best to honor those student requests. If at any time, a student believes his/her welfare is in jeopardy by virtue of their living situation, they need to contact the respective hall staff as soon as possible and inform them of that situation.

Social activities—good, bad, and otherwise

Alcohol
Contrary to media portrayals of campus life, alcohol is not a major food group, not the only social activity available on campus, and not anything that students can major—or minor—in as an academic pursuit! In fact, infrequent and moderate drinking (or, even, abstention) is truly the norm. Based on research done a few years ago, 59% of Kent State University students drink less than once a week, and 68% of all KSU students have 4 or fewer drinks when they party.

Because of the kinds of consequences their abuses have however, alcohol and particularly binge drinking do continue to be issues at Kent, as they are on many other university campuses. Consider some of the national statistics regarding alcohol and traditional-age college students (between the ages of 18-24):
  • Approximately 1,400 students die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries
  • More than 600,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking
  • More than 70,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
  • Approximately 25% of students reported that they missed class, did poorly on exams/papers, and/or received lower grades over all as a result of their drinking
We won’t lie to you … despite our attempts to the contrary there will be opportunities for your son/daughter to “party”. We strongly encourage you to have open, frank, and explicit discussions with your son/daughter about the choices that they will have to make regarding alcohol consumption on campus. The key here really is discussion with your son/daughter. In our experience, the “just say no” routine doesn’t typically have much effect in deterring students from drinking.

What we have found is that students often drink because of misperceptions surrounding alcohol. For instance, they think it’s expected (“isn’t that what all college students do?”), or that it’s a way to fit in (“if I have a beer, I’ll at least look cool”), or that it’s a way to ease a potentially awkward social situation (“if I have a drink, maybe I’ll have enough nerve to talk to that cute guy/girl”), or that it’s the only thing to do (“’everyone’ is going to this party”). Discussing these misperceptions and helping your son/daughter mentally and verbally combat them will go a long way in preparing them for the new adventure that is university life.

One final and probably obvious note, although you may have permitted your son/daughter to consume alcohol at home—and we certainly respect that decision—if he/she is found to be in possession of alcohol and they are underage, the university will take disciplinary action.

On-line communities
MySpace, FaceBook, and, Xanga are some of the more popular on-line community sites, where individuals can post personal information and photos, upload their favorite music, and engage in real-time digital conversation with a multitude of “friends”. These sites are the modern-day equivalent of hanging out at the mall with friends, and/or bonding with your buddies at a local hangout.

As often happens when you get together with friends you sometimes say—or do—things with those friends that you probably wouldn’t say/do in the presence of the general public.

As inviting as these sites seem—and they really do serve the function of being a modern day forum, and keeping others up-to-date on what’s going on in someone’s life—they also have the potential to cause harm. Students who place personal information on the site, e.g. phone numbers, birthdates, room numbers, etc. may be inviting exploitation by others. For instance, someone with access to a student’s birth date (month, day, year) could potentially use that information to steal other, more sensitive, information.

Additionally, some students, in an attempt to be humorous post pictures, sayings, and responses that are, in essence, visible to anyone with access to those sites. Students should be aware that those private attempts at humor, or random late-night journaling of one’s deepest emotional thoughts, may elicit a more public response if deemed necessary.

Cutting the cord

How often should I call, visit, or e-mail?
There really isn’t, obviously, a right or wrong answer, or even a good answer, to this question. The answer can truly only be answered by you and your son/daughter. One of the questions to ask yourself as you seek the answer, both in general terms and in specific situations, may be “is what I’m doing—calling, visiting, e-mailing—encouraging my son/daughter to become an independent, critically thinking, positively contributing member of society?” The answer to that question may dictate how frequently you call, visit, or e-mail.

We wish you all the best in that decision and in the venture of assisting your son/daughter to adulthood. And we appreciate your trust in allowing us to partner with you in that venture.

General Information

Money stuff

Jobs
Because money doesn’t grow on trees at the university—as we’re sure it didn’t at your house, either—you may want to encourage your son/daughter to look for an on-campus job if they are in need of cash. The Career Services Center posts on-campus jobs, many of which can assist students in getting experience in their major, and almost all of which will schedule students’ work responsibilities around their class days/times.

For first semester freshmen, we would encourage a very light work load (less than 15-20 hours a week) in order to allow students to establish those very critical study habits.

Offices associated with dollar signs $$$

Bursar’s Office – is the office generally responsible for collecting money from students for their tuition, room/board, fees, etc. If your son/daughter has any questions about their bill, they can call 672-2626, or go to room 131 Schwartz Center.

Financial Aid Office – is the office generally responsible for giving money—or facilitating the process of awarding money—to students in the form of loans/scholarships/grants. Students wishing to begin the financial aid process need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) form available on their website at http://www.sfa.kent.edu.  

Follett Bookstore – the university has contracted with Follett to run the bookstore that is located on the ground floor of the Kent Student Center. Textbooks and academic materials are big business, so expect to pay a chunk of change for books! There are other businesses around campus and on-line that sell textbooks, and sometimes you can get books cheaper at those businesses, but generally when a professor says that his/her books are “at the bookstore” they mean the one conveniently located in the Student Center.

Fines and “holds”

Students are assessed fines for a variety of reasons, some of which include parking illegally, not returning library materials on time, and/or as a result of judicial sanctioning. If a student has been assessed a fine, and/or has not completed certain responsibilities dictated by select offices (e.g. Dean of Students), a “hold” may be placed on their university record, which prohibits them for registering for classes, getting a copy of their transcripts, etc. Once the fine has been paid, or the responsibility taken care of, the “hold” will be removed and their record will be cleared.

Residence Services (for Resident Assistant, Residence Hall Director, housing assignment information, etc.) - 672-7000

Center for Student Involvement – 672-2480 

Dean of Students – 672-9494

Student Financial Aid – 672-2972

Bursar’s Office – 672-2626

Career Services Center – 672-2360

Psychological Services – 672-2487

Counseling & Human Development Center – 672-2208

Psychological Clinic – 672-2372

Student Accessibility Services – 672-3391

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