College Confidential Part II: 

This is the second post in an ongoing series I'm writing in the hopes that it will start productive discussions between college students and their parents. I launched this from my perch in the trenches of college students' lives. Here, I'll offer true, unvarnished accounts of college life from the students who are living it, in their own voices. 

I've had many parents ask me how I somehow got the secret code into the otherwise locked internal world of a mythical, unknowable creature called the college student. In other words, why do they talk to me? I think part of it is the Mt. Everest theory: They talk to me because I am there. Or because I ask. Or maybe it's because I sometimes share stories of my woeful failings as a parent. And as a college student. Not too many stories, but maybe just enough to seem like a person who lives in a glass house from which she won't throw stones.

Whatever it is, whatever the reasons, they talk. I listen. And now I'm inviting you  into the conversation.

No students have been harmed (or graded) in the making of this blog

I want to assure readers that yes, my students who write these compelling notes and essays are fully aware their words may appear publicly in my blog. I am clear about that from the beginning. And no, they don't get grades for this, nor do I critique these.

I accept this writing as a gift, because it is.

In our first installment we heard from a young woman who wrote a frank and thoughtful letter to her mother that included the fact that in her college world: 'Sex is casual, and I have lots of it.'

Here I share different dilemmas faced by the students. I chose two for today. The first from a sharp, inquisitive female student, the second from a diligent, big-hearted male student.

Don't hover. Don't ask. Do trust

       "Firstly, calling parents while you're walking to class would definitely be number one. It gives you a chance to call parents every few days so you can check in, tell them about the class you're going to and what's going on in your life. And it's amazing because it gives you about 5 minutes and then you have a reason to have to get on the phone so it doesn't drag on forever.

Also for the most part I would tell parents to not really ask too much about classes, a general interest is fine but just not about grades. No one wants to feel like their parents are hovering over them or that they are working for their parents rather than for themselves.

 As someone who hasn't always had a great relationship with my parents, I think the biggest thing is not making drinking such a taboo thing. It happens on college campuses and the more students feel like it's an unacceptable thing the more they do it to rebel. Sometimes kids get so overwhelmed by the freedom college provides that they take it too far, drink in excess and either get in trouble or get sick. I think it's nice to be able to tell my mom about what I'm doing at night as well as during the day. I tell her when i have a sorority event or am going to a bar. I don't need to give her details but the fact that we can speak openly and that she knows I'm responsible is really nice.

 I've always been independent, my parents are always the type to tell me to not worry about grades and not freak out about a B when I'm always freaking out that I need to get A's. The fact that I've been able to develop a work ethic on my own without feeling pressured to get good grades has been really beneficial. 

No one wants to feel like they are being pushed or pressured, me and my mom used to fight a lot because I felt like she didn't trust me. So in college that's not as much of an issue but just for parents to stay connected to their kids but leave things really open, allowing their kids to tell them whatever they want and call them on their own schedule." 

Here's a perspective from a male student:

Ask anything. Keep in touch. Remember the details – tell me what I'm missing from home!

"Ask anything – If you want to know something, ask. Chances are that I'd be happy to talk about it, and if not, I'll explain why. The more questions, the better – so much happens at school that it's often hard to remember everything without being prompted.

But be specific – Vaguely-worded questions like "How's school?" or "What's new?" will either trigger an exasperated "I don't know" or a rambling, stream-of-consciousness monologue about anything that happened recently. Instead, ask about specific things: classes, activities, events, people.

Keep in touch – Definitely send e-mails, Facebook messages, or even letters. They're extremely convenient – I can respond when I have time – and reading them gets my day off to a great start. Where live conversations are concerned, I'll always call or Skype when I have some time to chat.

Remember the details – While I like being told the stories of big events that I missed, it's the small things that I enjoy hearing about the most: what everybody watched on TV last night, the latest high school drama, how everything has been going at work. It might sound mundane, but it's those everyday details that remind me of home.

Don't worry – If you don't hear from me for a while, it shouldn't be a cause for concern. I'm probably just busy keeping up with work and spending whatever free time I have with friends. In fact, everything is most likely going well, since I haven't needed to call and vent."

Now, to all the parents of college students out there: Take good notes. There will be a quiz.

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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