Parents and Families

Student in a classroom

Late November and early December can be very hectic for students. In addition to research papers, final exams, and co-curricular activities, students are also selecting their winter term courses.

It is not uncommon for students to first turn to parents for advice. LSA sophomore Gabby Dompierre remembers:

My second semester of freshman year, I couldn't decide if I should take calculus 2. I called my mom about it. She knows nothing about calculus and didn't have much of an opinion, but she really helped to relieve my stress over it.  

In the complex world of course requirements and prerequisites, parents often struggle to be of help. Rob Freidhoff, Director of the Engineering Advising Center cautions:

The most frequent mistake I've seen . . . is having parents pick out the courses in consultation with the student, with no input from a faculty or academic advisor. What can seem relatively easy, can often be surprisingly complex. We don't want students to miss an important prerequisite course, or enroll in three courses in the same semester that we know don't go well together. A thirty minute appointment can save quite a bit of frustration later on down the road.

The best course selection often depends upon whether or not the student has an intended major or career direction in mind or is still exploring options. Students with intended majors may need to make sure that appropriate prerequisite courses are completed, and students who are still undecided may need guidance in determining courses which meet graduation requirements but still allow for the need to explore. Michigan's academic advisors can help students on both ends of this spectrum. Freidhofff reminds parents: 

There are times in the semester that get pretty stressful. Sometimes a student just needs to vent for a bit, and be listened to. No need to always have a solution or suggestion to make things better. Being a parent myself, I understand how difficult this can be, but I hear from students frequently that they would like to call home without getting a lecture. 

What then is the role of parents in the course selection process?

We asked a few of Michigan's academic advisors to share their best advice for parents. "Parents can help students set goals about their course choices.  Shorter term goals allow students to have early successes and rewards.  We want students to believe they are capable of learning challenging material," explains Carmela Brown, Associate Director at the LSA Newnan Advising Center.

Freidhoff adds, "Ask them what courses they have enjoyed this past semester, and what courses they are most interested to take in the future." Parents can also encourage students to "explore all that the University has to offer, regardless of their major," and to "empower students to be able to problem-solve their own schedules, with the help of an advisor” recommends Chris Firlik, Academic Advisor with the School of Kinesiology.  


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