Read Everything and What Is My Student Learning?

At the start of every semester, we ask parents and families to help us reinforce a message we want new students to hear (read everything) and a question we want families to ask themselves before acting (“If I do X, what is my student learning?”)

For the reading part: read the syllabus for class. All the pages. All the details.

Read every email you get from a faculty member or an administrator, because that is how administrative and academic processes will be communicated to you.

Read all the requirements listed on study abroad or other applications. Especially read the deadlines and due dates.

Read the fine print. Even (or maybe especially) when the email or document is long. And if something does not make sense or is unclear, ask the sender for clarification right then and there, because you will be held accountable for the contents – whether you have read them or not.

This sounds elementary, I know, but we have so many situations where a student misses a deadline, doesn’t fulfill a requirement, loses out on an opportunity, or runs afoul of a policy because they did not read the fine print or just didn’t read carefully enough. And then they are upset about the consequences.

Sometimes the consequences are relatively harmless, and sometimes they are not. Over the years, I have seen students not read emails saying they had an unpaid tuition bill or financial hold, and then they could not register for classes on time (and had to watch all their classes get picked up by other students until they could pay the fee the next morning). I have seen students not read the fact that applications for study abroad programs or other things were being accepted on a rolling basis, and then it’s closed by the time the student submits theirs.

Reading everything is a good habit to get in. It’s not a good look to be unaware of details that have been sent to you. One day, your students will have to make good impressions on potential (or actual) bosses, and you don’t want to be the person who is caught unawares and makes a bad impression.

And here’s the second part of this: families need to give their students the space to figure things out on their own, without your intervention or direction. This is the old Stop, Drop, and Roll that I preach so often. If family members – in a loving and well-intended way, meant to be helpful – are reading everything that is coming to their students and pinging or reminding them they need to do X or Y, ask yourself “What is my student learning?” They are learning that mom, dad, or a loved one will tell them what to do. Or that the responsibility isn’t totally theirs, because my family member will remind me at some point of what I need to do.

Let’s play this out a little more. If I…

Call an administrative office on campus to ask how my student can accomplish a particular action, What Is My Student Learning? Is my student learning to navigate our web site or research the answer in the appropriate policies or handbooks? Is my student building relationships with administrators or offices they need to know? (Conversely, if I am the one calling, does that disadvantage my student in terms of the kind of relationship he might have with that office? Hint: it might. Offices generally prefer working with the students themselves.)

If I voice a complaint about something my student is experiencing, WIMSL? Is my student learning to advocate for himself? Is he learning to respectfully disagree with someone? Is he learning how to write a strongly worded email or deal with someone on the phone? Is he learning how to escalate a concern to the next level if needed? And, importantly, is he learning that sometimes a policy or decision is not going to change – or that the answer he wants is No – so how will he learn to adapt to that?

If I do the legwork: whether that is to buy books, find a local dentist, or try to engineer an outing to help them make friends, WIMSL? Is he learning how to provide for his own needs? Is he using good reasoning and logic to find a reputable vendor? Is he learning how to initiate social activity and build relationships?

Parents and families are not Google and we are not 24/7 ATMs. We don’t have to give answers or provide solutions as soon as our kids say they have an issue – or even at all. As a matter of fact, it is frequently better if we don’t give the answers, or take the actions. It is completely OK for you to say in moments where your student is griping about something “Gosh, honey, I am so sorry. How are you going to handle that?” This is how students learn to be self-sufficient. They were smart enough to get to Wake; they will be smart enough to figure most things out. And not every complaint or vent is a request for help.

We gotta play the long game as parents and family members – and let your students find their path, rather than guide them in every step. The goal here is to help them build independence, and that comes when they do their own work, make their own mistakes, and find their own path. Pro tip: self confidence comes from figuring it out on their own, too.


To contact the Office of Family Engagement, please visit our contact page.

If Your Student Has a Problem

One of the best ways parents/families can help their students is to let them solve their own problems. Use the Stop, Drop, and Roll method when your student contacts you with a problem.  The flyer also lists contact information for serious concerns where family intervention might be appropriate.

Orientation 2020 slide shows

Parent and family Orientation sessions are available online.