Tips for Families

Graduating students often decorate their mortar boards during graduation with messages of thanks to family members.
Graduating students often decorate their mortar boards during graduation with messages of thanks to family members.
Staff and faculty involved with Stanford parents or guardians and their students offer the following tips for new Stanford parents or guardians to help them help students succeed at Stanford.
Let go.
Let them make their own decisions, solve their own problems, pick their own courses and, eventually, choose their own major. When they do choose a major, let the choice be based on intellectual passion, not perceptions of which major is safest or most pragmatic.
Listen and reassure.
At some point in their first year, many students feel overwhelmed. They may call or text home, fearing their admission was a mistake. We hear this often. Listen, encourage and reassure. Suggest they talk to their academic advisor, the academic advisor in their residence or their resident fellow. Remind them of the support resources at Stanford, such as tutoring, help with study skills and counseling.
Have conversations about lifestyle choices, especially alcohol use, before they come to campus and encourage them to be cognizant of their well being.
Nationwide problems like binge drinking are challenges at Stanford, too. Talk to your children in advance about the choices they are likely to confront and help them determine what they value in their own behavior and that of others.
Encourage them to get to know faculty members.
The academic program at Stanford is designed to encourage close interaction between students and faculty. From small freshman seminars to faculty nights in the dining halls, Stanford offers opportunities for students to get to know faculty. Surveys show that students who develop close relationships with faculty get more out of their Stanford education than students who do not.
Encourage them to learn for the sake of learning.
Stanford’s general education requirements are designed to encourage intellectual exploration. Suggest they study a subject they have never studied before. Many students are accustomed to collecting credentials needed for college admission. Encourage them, instead, to learn for the sake of learning.
Stay in touch, but perhaps not too much.
Between their busy schedules and changes in their sleeping patterns, it may be hard to reach them. Help foster their growing independence by, perhaps, being in touch less frequently than you are used to.
Don’t focus on grades.
When you do talk to your students, try not to focus on grades. Ask which faculty members they have met, which classes they enjoy, what they are learning and what they are doing for fun. Stanford students put plenty of pressure on themselves. What they need to know from you is that you believe in them.
Help them learn the difference between disappointment and failure.
Many Stanford students are used to being the smartest kid in their class. At some point, they will experience something they will choose to label as failure-perhaps a “C” in a course–even if it is not. Not everyone can be first in his or her class. Assure them that their best effort is all you expect.
Send them a cake on their birthday.
The Parents’ Club has been helping to make Stanford a home-away-from-home for more than 80 years. Birthday cakes are delivered right to dorm rooms by members of the club.
Call us if you are concerned or need reassurance.
Colleges and universities are limited by federal law about what information about students they can share with parents and guardians. Nevertheless, if you are concerned about a student or need some reassurance, contact the Parent Help Line at (650) 725-0649.