College students phone home

Nicole Stempak

Saying goodbye is a daily routine for freshman theater major Heather Helms.

She said she usually calls her parents every night “just to see how everything’s going.”

Helms isn’t alone, according to a study released earlier this year by the Pew Research Center. It stated that 82 percent of all 18- to 25-year-olds had talked to their parents in the past day.

Retainment academic adviser Matt Rollyson said that number is not surprising because many students are trying to find the best balance of support.

“Students definitely need support from their parents, but they also need to grow, mature and develop,” he said.

Helms said these past few weeks have been difficult.

“Not only am I getting used to college, I’m also getting used to being away from my parents,” she said. “At least by calling home, I’m still getting that support system.”

Freshman exploratory major Roger Nock said he calls every few days to check up. He’ll also call if he needs something or just wants to talk. Still, he doesn’t expect this pattern to be the norm.

“I’ll (probably) call them less, just because I’ll have gotten used to college and will need them less,” Nock said.

While many students are getting used to living on campus, Rizwan Malik, graduate computer science major, is coming to terms with leaving his home in India.

“We are very close to our parents,” he said. “We don’t have the concept of leaving home (like Americans do).”

Sagar Panchariya, graduate computer science major, said he calls his family in India “every fortnight or two.”

Karen Levin Coburn, author of “Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years,” said she doesn’t see any danger in students calling their parents every day to say how their day’s going, how a test went or if they met someone cute.

“(But) if students are asking for things that they should be doing at school or are leaning on their parents to do things for them or make their decisions, then they’re not taking charge of their own education,” said Coburn, also assistant vice chancellor for students at Washington University in St. Louis. “That’s not a good thing.”

Betsy Becker, sophomore visual communication design major, said she doesn’t call home.

“My mom calls me usually twice a day because she’s worried about me,” she said.

Rollyson said despite much research on students’ transition to college, little research has been conducted on parents. He said it’s undoubtedly a difficult transition for students, but they have information to help them and parents don’t have that.

Helms’ mother, Dawn, said the transition has been difficult. She said although she has already had one child leave for college, these past few weeks have been difficult.

“It was hard when Matt, (my oldest child), left for college, but I still had Heather and Mitchell,” Dawn said. “It seems like I’m starting over again.”

Contact news correspondent Nicole Stempak at [email protected]