Here are some great conversation starters for different times of the year of your student's academic journey.
What is it like living in the residence hall?
- Residence hall activities
Students come to college with expectations. After the first few weeks, encourage your student to reevaluate their goals and expectations to be challenging, yet obtainable.
Encourage your student to use the Roommate Agreement provided by University Housing staff to negotiate study hours, cleaning responsibilities, sleeping habits, visiting hours, etc. This resource will be useful should a conflict arise in the future.
Remind your student that their roommate does not always have to be their best friend and that this relationship is more successful when built on mutual respect and compromise.
Where do you spend your time outside the classroom?
- Study space and time
- Clubs and organizations
- Free time
Students should be actively engaged in academic pursuits outside of the classroom for two hours for each one hour in class per week.
For example, if your student is in a three-credit English course that meets three times a week, for one hour each day, they should be spending approximately six hours per week outside of class working on this course by way of studying, reading, writing, tutorials and/or group study sessions.
Are you connecting with new people?
- Wolfpack Welcome Week
- New students and professors in classes
- Meal times
Students do not have to be extroverted to connect with others at NC State. Encourage your student to find their niche. Whether it is through a club or organization during Wolfpack Welcome Week, a group study session or gathering with suitemates for meals. The NC State community can be as big, or as small, as one desires as there are many opportunities for students to create their own networks.
How are your classes going?
- Academic challenge/rigor
- Time management
The first semester of college is an exciting, yet challenging time. Students look forward to starting a new curriculum but can quickly feel overwhelmed by the amount of time and work needed to be successful in each, individual course.
Checking in after a few weeks to see how your student is feeling about the new structure and discussing options for how to either adjust and maximize time spent per class is an appropriate conversation to be had during this time.
How’s the food?
- Dining preference and frequency
- Meals with friends
Now’s the chance to ask, is the food as good as everyone said? Are there that many options? Get the inside scoop from your favorite student.
Engage your student with these initial questions and then let the conversation take its course to gain more insight on whether your student is enjoying meals on campus, dining with friends and/or keeping a healthy and well-balanced diet.
Would you like us to visit for Parents and Families Weekend?
- Weekened events
- Ticket purchase and registration
- Family of the Year
Parents and Families Weekend is a popular event among both parents and students. Discuss with your student the date and events going on and establish what your family and your student are interested in most, then make a plan for a memorable weekend.
Make sure to confirm dates and event times with your student. Then you can establish which events you and your family don’t want to miss and plan for a memorable weekend.
Family of the Year is an award intended to honor the supportive roles families play in the education of students by recognizing an outstanding family every year. Each fall, undergraduate students are invited to nominate their families through an essay or video contest.
Have you had your flu shot?
- Health services
- Clinic contact: 919.515.2563
IN the midst of students’ hectic schedules, they can easily forget to get their flu shot. What many don’t realize is how important getting a flu shot is at college as living in tight quarters and sharing close interactions can, unfortunately, lead to the quick spread of germs.
For this reason, NC State’s Student Health Center offers flu vaccinations every fall. Encourage your student to visit the Student Health Center for their vaccine or click here for a full schedule.
What are your plans for fall break?
- Campus activities
- Alternative Service Break
- Career Development Center
Fall Break is an exciting time for students as they begin to explore new social circles and expand their interests through a variety of student organizations and new activities.
One such organization, Student Leadership and Civic Engagement offers an Alternative Service Break (ASB). ASB is a unique learning experience in which students engage in direct service to the community while being immersed in the culture.
These are life-changing and memorable experiences that inspire students to continue and strengthen their devotion to service by participating in service-oriented opportunities on campus. Encourage your student to take advantage of these many opportunities.
Fall Break is an especially good time for students to explore their career directions by learning about majors, minors, internships, co-ops and career choices. The Career Development Center offers online, group and personal assistance to provide guidance in the decision-making process.
Have you talked to any of your friends from home?
- Old/new friends
- Social adjustment
Fall is a time where many high school relationships begin to experience distress. These losses, or perceived losses, can take a toll on students, both socially and academically.
Students experiencing such stressors should seek assistance so that they can maintain other relationships and talk about their feelings.
There are over 700+ student organizations at NC State! Encourage your student to seek new activities to get involved in and continue to make new connections and friends.
Do you have many midterms?
- Effective study methods
- Tutorial Center
- Work-life balance
Midterm exams at NC State tend to fall around the 8 week mark each semester. This is an excellent opportunity for students to gauge how effective their study habits have been thus far in the semester. This is also a time to assess where they might need to amend their time so they can be more successful.
Parents should seize this opportunity to discuss with their students how they are feeling about their coursework and whether or not they have established a balance between social and academic commitments.
Encourage your student to visit the University Tutorial Center for any additional assistance and remind them to utilize NC State support services and resources.
How are you taking care of yourself?
- Time management
As the halfway point of the semester approaches, students often have several midterm exams and/or paper deadlines. This is a busy part of the semester so you may notice your student struggling or feeling stressed. It is preeminent that you support your student through this challenging period.
How is (name of your student’s club/organization) going?
- Union Activities Board
- Stress management
November is a great time to check in with how your student is doing socially. If your student has mentioned a new club or activity, or even a new friend, take the time to ask them how things are going. Engage in conversations about these new interests. It is crucial that students feel supported both socially and academically.
Have your values or beliefs been challenged or changed at all?
- Social circles
- New changes
When your student comes home for breaks, you will recognize that your student has undergone a multitude of developmental changes. The college experience is intended to bring about positive change for intellectual, social, physical, emotional and cultural growth.
This development may also inspire change in your student’s values. It is helpful for parents to have an understanding of these changes.
How are you doing?
It’s important to check in with your student on personal, academic and social levels. Remember to actively listen to your student. You know your student best, so if they appear to be struggling, encourage them to visit the Student Health Center.
The University Counseling Center has walk-in appointments available daily. Please encourage your student to call 919.515.2423 or visit the Student Health Center.
Signs your student may be experiencing stress:
- Withdrawal from social activities and interaction
- Difficulty enjoying life
- Mention of loss of sleep or appetite
- Failure to enjoy even leisure activities
- Expressions of feeling worthless or thoughts of self-harm
For additional tips and talking points be sure to visit our Parent Ally blog for tips and strategies from our students.
We love you no matter what.
- Positive feedback
- Academic encouragement
Parents offer positive feedback and academic encouragement throughout the year. Many students will experience rejection or failures, that they have not before, so it is critical to learn how to effectively cope so they can grow from experiences.
If there are any indications of academic struggle, encourage your student to talk to their advisor and come up with a “game plan” for the Spring semester.
How do you feel about the exams?
- Stress and self-help resources
- Study skills
- Academic Success Center
- Take time to relax!
Final exams are always a stressful time for students. NC State’s Prevention Services offer a wide array of workshops and resources that address student needs.
Encourage your student to maintain a constant sleep schedule, nutritious diet and take time to learn what strategies work best for stress management.
It is critical to stress the importance of academic integrity with your student. Stress can lead students to feel the need for an “easy way out.” If your student is struggling, help them identify alternatives such as talking with professors about deadline extensions, taking an incomplete, etc.
Our office is happy to assist with identifying viable options. Please call the Parents’ Helpline at 919.515.2441.
What are your plans for Winter Break?
- Family time
- Connecting with old friends
- House rules/expectations
Parents look forward to seeing their students over winter break to relax and reflect on the year. However, the expectations are often divided. For students, this is a time to visit with family and friends from home, catch up on sleep; eat a home-cooked meal and maintain their freedom to come and go as they please without the stress of classes and homework. For parents, the expectations of time spent together, house rules, curfew and overall expectations of parents are different. Discuss with your student, in advance, their plans and goals for the break. This can help both parents and students avoid conflict and make for a more peaceful holiday visit.
What are your goals for this semester?
- Starting strong
- Course schedule
- Extracurricular activities
The new semester brings opportunities to make resolutions for growth and change. If last semester’s grades did not meet expectations, continue to support your student in a way that allows them to identify the possible problems, and discuss plans for improvement for the spring semester.
Perhaps, your student has adjusted well to the academic rigor of the university and is now eager to get more involved on campus. Ask your student about engaging in campus life or if they have an interest in study or service abroad. If your student is a first-year student, it’s vital to have these same conversations now to lay the foundation for activity planning and engagement in the future.
How are things going in your residence hall/apartment?
- Living arrangements (i.e., roommates, schedules, etc.)
Students living on-campus negotiate and sign a roommate agreement every fall that outlines expectations each may have for sharing a room, such as quiet hours, when to have visitors, etc. As each semester changes, so will the routine and expectations of roommates; using the beginning of the semester to renegotiate their “agreement” may ward off potential conflicts down the road.
If your student is living off-campus, they may run into many of the same issues. However, the autonomy of living off-campus also means not having a structured system in place to forge roommate agreements or conversations about such expectations.
Communication is the most important key to living with peers. Check-in with your student and follow up about any issues or concerns. Be supportive and encouraging but allow them to lead the conversation with both you and their roommates. Sometimes what sounds like a bad living arrangement is more the stress of a new schedule or a challenging class as students further develop coping mechanisms and problem resolution.
Financial planning for the fall
- Financial Aid
- Scholarship application(s)
- Bill review
- Loan repayment
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available each October 1. All students who wish to be considered for federal aid and state and institutional need-based financial aid must submit a FAFSA. Complete the FAFSA as soon after October 1 as possible; waiting for an official admission notice is not necessary. Students should submit the FAFSA and any possible additional documentation as early as possible as financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students who submit FAFSAs by the priority filing date (March 1) are given first consideration for need-based grant assistance offered by the university. The FAFSA is free; we recommend you avoid paying filing organizations and service sites such as studentaid.gov.
If your student is graduating in May, he or she will need to spend time meeting with someone in the Cashier’s Office to review their final bill to ensure that they do not have any outstanding or unknown charges that could keep them from receiving their diploma (i.e., library book or tech equipment). If your student borrowed any loans, they would need to begin looking at loan repayment options sooner rather than later. This can be a daunting task that often has many question marks, so have your student contact Financial Aid to get the ball rolling on this process.
Have you made your housing selection for the fall?
- Housing selection process/deadlines
- Students’ desires
- Student/Parent expectations
University Housing opens up the Housing Selection process for two weeks in February. Students receive materials on this soon after their return in January. Parents can refer to their PACK PARENT newsletter that was mailed home for a clear understanding of this process. It is imperative that students make a deliberate and astute decision about their fall housing because cancellations will incur a fee once the assignment is made and this fee does increase over time.
For off-campus housing options, your student should contact the leasing office of the specific complex for details. An off-campus housing fair is held on campus in April each year. In this case, be sure to have a conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of living off-campus. Ensuring students continue to use campus resources and remain involved in campus life is critical to the success of commuters.
Have you thought about what classes you might be taking in the fall?
- Meeting with their advisor
- Course selection / credit hours
Advising for fall-semester registration begins in March. It’s crucial for students to schedule an appointment with their advisors to review options for their fall class schedules before then; even more so if they are considering any summer classes. Encourage your student to call or e-mail their advisor to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Parents can learn more about course registration online on the Student Services website or encourage students to call their office with specific questions at 919.515.NCSU (6278).
Do you have plans for Spring Break?
NC State students have many options for Spring Break, whether it is going home and spending downtime with friends and family; a senior trip with friends before graduation; or a service trip around the world- students can select from an array of opportunities. None of which should they choose on a whim. It is essential to discuss with your student their wishes on how they would like to spend this time and also discuss your concerns and expectations.
In addition to knowing the plan, this is an excellent time to see how the semester is going and to warn your student of “spring break malaise.” For many students, spring break is a time to destress and unwind. This is OK, unless, their brains resist getting back into the school mentality upon return.
Students often struggle to get back into the swing of things after spring break. Suggest maintaining a to-do list or planner. This will help maintain some sense of structure and make re-entry to classes less bumpy.
Do you have many midterm exams?
- Exam prep
- Academic support resources
- Stress relief
The spring semester is interesting for students because there is an overall heightened awareness and sense of freedom. Students are excited to be back on campus after the holiday break and are ready to start a new set of academic courses.
The spring semester welcomes many new beginnings. With all of the fun and excitement, the semester tends to fly by. Many students feel that midterms sneak up by surprise and catch them off guard. Be sure to inquire with your student about their courses and serve as their helpful reminder so that they can be best prepared and successful on these tests.
Let’s talk Spring Break safety.
Spring Break at NC State is always an exciting time for students., there are many options to consider. Is your student interested in traveling the world? Or maybe you have a student who has enjoyed many clubs and organizations on campus, one of which could be offering an alternative or Service Spring Break.
If your student is venturing away from home with a friend, class, club or outside organization; consider the following talking points as you discuss their travel plans.
Communication – it is important that your student has a plan for communicating within the travel group and with you. Depending on where the student is, consider the options for calling, texting and internet access. Exchange contact information for hotel or other accommodations, emergency services at destination (911 doesn’t work in all countries), and contacts at the University.
Expectation – Have a thorough conversation with your student about their expectations for the upcoming trip as well as your expectations for the trip. While your student is legally an adult, they still turn to you for support and advice; so it is essential to have an open conversation about alcohol use and abuse; staying healthy; safe choices and a plan of action in case something goes off-plan. Student spending is also an important conversation. Talk to your student about setting and sticking to a budget, expectations for using or not using a credit card and how to get extra cash in an emergency.
Health and Safety – In addition to exchanging contact information, remind your student to prepare a safety kit. Remind your student about the importance of traveling safely, never walk or be alone in an unfamiliar place. It can be helpful to be familiar with the area to which your student is going and be aware of any food or health precautions or hazards. Students should stay hydrated and wear sunscreen in new locations and also be mindful of how to access local medical help if needed. Other safety precautions include; to know local traffic laws, how to access embassies when abroad, foreign travel customs and expectations.
Have you met with your advisor?
Students should make an appointment to meet with their advisor to discuss their upcoming class schedules and progress in their current classes. About 50% of students choose to change their major at some point. If this is the case for your student, encourage them to meet with their academic advisor to discuss possible options and relevant procedures.
Has your student mentioned graduate school?
If your student is interested in going to graduate school encourage them to spend time researching each program that they are interested in, so they are able to find the best program for them.
If your student is interested in pursuing Medical, PA, PT, OT, etc. Schools, have them visit an advisor in the Pre-Health. If your student is interested in State’s Veterinary program they should spend time with our Vet PAC, and for students interested in law school we encourage them to utilize our Pre-Law Services.
All three paths will help students prepare for the program selection, application, and graduate testing process. Whether or not your student has decided to further their studies after graduation, it may be worth a conversation to learn more about their options and future goals.
How was your meeting with your advisor?
- Academic planning
- Relationship building
Hopefully, your student has met with their academic advisor and enrolled in classes for the fall. If they have not this may be a red flag.
Ask your student about their upcoming courses. Ask about the dynamic of the meeting with their advisor. Does your student feel confident in their new schedule? What was the feedback, if any, from the academic advisor?
If your student is a first-year student, this relationship will continue to evolve, and your student hopefully feels supported and heard by their advisor. If your student has recently changed majors and is building a new relationship with their advisor, check in and see how things are going.
Have you thought about summer classes?
- Course options
- Summer schedule/commitments
Summer school is not a bad thing, though some might think it is. Lots of students take summer classes. Whether they might be behind, have to retake a class, want to get ahead, or lighten their academic load, it can be a good thing.
There are pros and cons to taking summer classes. Make sure your student consults with their academic advisor to see if summer classes would be beneficial. Discuss with your student whether or not they want to take summer classes.
What are your plans for the fall?
- Fall preperation
- Upcoming or past deadlines
- Fall planning
Before the fall semester begins, it is important to have conversations about submitting any applications for internships or co-ops, applying for housing, discussing health insurance, etc.
Having these conversations now can help reduce potential stressors that may arise once your student returns to campus.
It might help to make a checklist to include financial aid, housing, health insurance, dining, registration and anything else your student may need. Don’t forget to review it with them before they leave for the fall.
How do you think the semester went overall?
- Final exams
- Instructor feedback
When May rolls around, it seems intuitive to ask about a final grade or outcome in each class. It is important to be mindful that a simple letter grade may not reflect the time, effort and diligence invested.
Instead, try inquiring more about what was gained from the semester whether that be effective time management, routine establishment, getting involved or lessons learned and another layer of foundation for your students’ career laid.
Final grades will be a part of the discussion, but they should not be the focus. As with other conversation starters, it is encouraged that you allow your student to lead the discussion in expressing their experience.
What are your summer plans?
- Part-time or Full-time work
For some students, summer break can be a time to relax and unwind. For others, it is an opportunity to study abroad, complete an internship, or make some extra money for the upcoming academic year.
Be sure to sit down with your student and have a conversation with your student to discuss their plans well in advance, that way, everyone is in the know. This way, whether your student is home, working, or on vacation, you might be able to schedule quality family time before classes resume in August for the fall semester.
Establishing rules for being back home
- Family time
- Connecting with old friends
- House rules and expectations
Similar to Winter Break, parents and students may have different expectations for the summer. Discussing the “house rules” and expectations for going out at night, attendance at family events, household chores, family/friend balance, money management, and use of the car. This can help set expectations and avoid future conflict.
Having an open conversation with your student before their return home can help avoid conflict and make the summer months more enjoyable for all.