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How to Get Your College Freshmen to Keep in Touch

Keep College Students in Touch with Hack Decks™

Times have changed, and so has the way we communicate with college students. When I went to college, my family had its weekly ritual of Sunday phone calls. Since my college had just two telephones per floor (can you imagine?), phone calls took place outside our dorm rooms. Other students heard every word of our conversations which were sometimes personal, sometimes not. Even a boyfriend or girlfriend would call on this public line. We had to have intimate conversations, again, in front of everyone. Once I saw a girl have a total meltdown on the telephone, the likes of which I have never seen. It was a learning experience, and one that made going to school during those days so much different from today.

Different Communication Styles

Communication Rules

As I said, our family had a mandatory Sunday telephone call. Typically, I would call collect (remember?) and everyone from home would get on the phone to say hello. This included parents, grandparents if they were over, and brothers and sisters. Maybe my aunt. People paid attention to the length of the conversation, too, because in those days, calling long distance was a big deal. It’s hard to believe that an increase in the cost of a telephone bill was a college expense.

Now, family members have personal numbers, and the days of calling once a week are gone. Today, if our kids have a question, they just send a text. Or, one second before class starts, they make a phone call about anything that’s on their mind. then they wait until class is over to read the text response or listen to the voicemail. Or some variation of this. In other words, communication between parent and college student is more fluid, and there is more parental understanding of the day-to-day activities and decisions that take place than there were when I was in college. Sunday phone calls were a summary. Today, communication is minute-by-minute and takes place all day long. It’s different. 

Is this Better or Worse for our Kids?

Lots of my friends discuss whether this is better or worse for our kids. Our parents had no clue where we were or what we were doing ninety-five percent of the time. How could they? In those days, kids left home, and distance immediately set in. There were no more daily phone calls and questions that needed our parents’ input. We were forced to fend for ourselves, make decisions on our own, and rely on those near us. We had no telephone lifeline tethered to us all day, every day. Our parents actually had to leave a message and hope we'd call back.

I have friends whose kids are grown up and still have a tethered phone, Although their children are very accomplished individuals, they call them twenty times a day to ask for advice. Their kids call for every little thing, input on every decision, and requests for things I would not have dared asked my parents. I liked the distance and the way my life felt independent when I left for college. I knew I had seven days in between telephone conversations. There’s a lot of information stored up in those seven days. How much I wanted to reveal about my life and my situation were my choice. My parents and siblings carried on with their lives as I did with mine. We all grew to know less and less about each other. It was just the way it was.

How Much Conversation Is the Right Amount of Conversation with a College Student?

When my daughter left for college, it was just as cell phones were dominating the world. Yes, she had had her flip phone in high school, but when she went to college her phone was operating at a whole new level. I can remember her calling when she had a question and we checked in regularly. She and I always had a tight connection, and talking a lot or texting was just part of the game. I didn’t worry about how often I talked to her, by text or by phone, because I didn’t feel like I was intruding in her life. It’s the same to this day. If I have a question, I never wonder if she’s busy. I send a text, and she can answer when she gets a minute. If it’s pressing, I call, but that’s rare. Our communication is fluid.

The Freshman Communication Quandary

But, what about a freshman student, an undergrad, that doesn’t want to communicate back home? How often should you call and are you asking too much of them to respond? Some college students think that going to college means that you shouldn’t ever rely on your parents, no matter how much help you need. I felt that way in the seventies, and maybe it has just stuck with me. I was in college, an adult, and so I needed to learn to handle things by myself. And I did just that. I believe my son has the same approach to life that I had. For that reason, our communication was much different from the communication I had with my daughter when she was in college. There is a happy medium between the two. There is a balance between having constant communication with a student who is navigating newfound independence and abandoning or failing to stay in touch with those back home.

Strike a Communication Balance

Staying in touch ultimately looks different to everyone. Hopefully, some of these tips can help with a strategy that works for both people to find balance in establishing a communication style that works. Parents worry. It’s just a fact of life.

If you haven’t heard from your student in an amount of time that makes you comfortable, try the following suggestions:

The easiest (and least involved) way to reach out is by texting. Texts are short, easy, and can continue throughout the day at the pace of both people involved. When you don’t have time for a longer conversation but want to make sure your student is in the land of the living, it’s best to send a text. Just “good morning” or “sleep well” can do the trick if he or she is busy and has little time to talk. Or doesn’t want to. Students can also text the same way and remind parents that they’d like a care package or miss a home cooked meal. It’s the easiest form of communication to build into a daily routine. It lets people know you’re thinking about them without a tremendous time commitment.

If that doesn’t work, try scheduling a time to talk rather than just calling out of the blue. Class schedules for college students are varied and sometimes students are busier than we are. Ask what time works for them, whether they would like a FaceTime or telephone call, and then put it on the schedule. Let them know you’re just checking in and inquire about how much time they will have available. Sometimes it’s better to do it this way so that they can clear the decks and pay attention to the caller.

Have a Communication Conversation with Your Student

If that doesn’t work, talk about what will work going forward if you’re feeling a little lost and worried that the communication is infrequent. Parents can typically sense when something is off and maybe a lack of communication signals that. Or maybe it’s nothing at all and your new college student is busy. It never hurts to check in so that they always know you’re there in case they’re really struggling.

It’s not the 1970’s anymore and Sunday night calls are a thing of the past. What’s not a thing of the past is the way a call or text can make us feel. It often reminds us that there is someone who loves us on the other end and just wants to say hi.

Dorm Decks

As part of our Dorm Decks, we suggest calling home or sending a text. It’s one of the hacks that makes college life easier. Dorm Deck is a deck of 52 card prompts that help ease the transition from living at home to living independently in a dorm.

The prompts help first year students get out ahead of the curve of college life by doing things such as setting up a calendar that makes remembering homework easier. Or putting their schedule as their lock screen at the beginning of the semester. Another idea is participating in intramural sports to both exercise and meet people.

Dorm Deck is full of unique and quality ideas that make the first year of college fun, more organized and successful. This gift helps college students succeed while making dorm room life feel a little more personal. Little life hacks can make all the difference in a college student's success. Give Dorm Decks as a gift to a new college freshman or as a graduation gift from high school.

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