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Cynthia Sarver, Michigan State University

According to research conducted by Philip Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, many of today’s college students are the product of parents who have protected and sheltered their children from a dangerous world and have raised their children to see themselves as very special. These millennial students are confident and achievement-oriented, but feel pressured to succeed both academically and professionally (2003). As a result, many young adults enter college today with a sense of entitlement, a strong dependency on their parents, and the expectation that the university will hold their hand throughout their college career. What many of our academic advisers find during the Freshman Academic Orientation Program at Michigan State is that parents want to continue to hold the hand of their new college student and the student doesn’t necessarily want to let go.

Understandably, many parents would like to be involved in the academic decision-making that takes place during freshman orientation. After all, parents know their children the best. They are also accustomed to being the lead advocate for their children. However, as students make the transition from high school to college, they must learn to advocate for themselves and to take responsibility for making wise decisions with the help of academic advisers, faculty, and other campus professionals. The first step in this process occurs at orientation when academic advisers and students together create a freshman year program that meets the educational and career goals of the student.

To educate parents regarding the importance of the adviser-student relationship, the MSU Academic Orientation Program Office will distribute the following message to parents this summer:

The academic advisor/student relationship is critical to academic success. Students begin to develop this relationship at Orientation. Academic advising meetings and computer enrollment are, therefore, only for students. Note that while they are computer enrolling, students are not permitted to use cell phones to contact parents. We respectfully ask parents to wait until the entire orientation program is completed before meeting with their student.

However, the Academic Orientation Program Office recognizes the importance of keeping parents in the loop in a variety of ways. Parents are invited to attend a separate Parent’s Orientation Program that addresses the academic, social, emotional, and transitional issues their freshmen may face. They also hear from university and community speakers and have an opportunity to voice their concerns. And in the evening, academic advisers and faculty are invited to join parents for casual conversation during dinner. In addition, parents periodically receive newsletters that address freshman year issues.

Perhaps these measures will help parents to let up and let go—to trust their student with the freedom to make responsible decisions and to begin a journey of personal growth.

Cynthia Sarver
Academic Advisor
Michigan State University


Gardner, Philip, & Johnston, Kevin. “Why Don’t You Teach the Way I Want to Learn?” (2003). MSU Lilly Faculty Seminar Program.

Cite this article using APA style as: Sarver, C. (2003, June). Letting up and letting go. Academic Advising Today, 26(2). [insert url here]

Posted in: 2003 June 26:2


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