Book by : Harlan Cohen
Review by: Tiffany Shaleen Reardon
Academic Advisor, Engineering Student Services
University of California at Berkeley

There are many books available that give college freshman tips on surviving their first semester. However, few are written specifically for the new college parent.  Packaged as a lighthearted “how to” guide for parents The Naked Roommate does a good job in preparing parents for their first year as a college parent. Whether the student is going across the country or attending the local community college, parents will find the first hand testimonies from college freshman throughout the book useful.

One of the book’s highlights is its chapter on the role that technology plays in family communication.  Weekly long distance phone calls to mom and dad have been replaced by Skype sessions. Letters home are now sent via text message or emailed through Facebook.  If parents choose to “friend” their kids on Facebook they are encouraged to use the site as a means of catching up with their kids, not catching them in wrongdoings. Having one’s kid add them as a friend on Facebook is a privilege not a right. Therefore, parents who chose to add their freshman kids on the social media site should do so sans judgments even if they are curious about what’s inside those red plastic cups in all those photos…  This is where college advisors and career counselors can intervene by reminding college students about the importance of managing their online personas.

The book emphasizes the important role that parents play in ensuring that students fully engage themselves in the college experience.  First generation parents are encouraged to investigate resources available to their first generation college students as research has shown that these students are less likely to participate in enrichment activities such as internships or study abroad.  However, once the semester begins, parents should detach with love and resist the temptation to try and instantly fix everything. For instance, each time the freshman is checking in with their parents to vent about their roommate, express homesickness, or ask for help, the less time they’re communicating with campus resources such as counselors or academic advisors.   Helicopter parents are gently reminded that it’s never ever ok to contact their kid’s professors and how FERPA laws change once your child turns eighteen.  

I would recommend this book to advisors because of the range of topics that the book addresses.  This book leaves no stone unturned when it comes to addressing serious topics, including topics such as what to do if your child is arrested and coming out in college.  Advisors will appreciate the author’s willingness to bring up real life situations and not simply rely on surface talking points such as how to do laundry or how to use a credit card.  The Naked Roomate is a good resource for those designing parent orientations.  If advisors use this in their orientations a superlative message that they may want to borrow from the book can be a quote from Gracie, a college freshman from UC San Diego whose parents wrote the following in a note to her when dropping her off at school. “No matter what happens, remember that we are proud.” (p. 1) 

The Naked Roomate: For Parents Only (2012) Book by Harlan Cohen. Review by Tiffany Shaleen Reardon. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks EDU (Sourcebooks, Inc).  478 pp., $14.99 (paperback), ISBN # 13:978-1-4022-6756-7

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