Hispanic family outside with daughter in middle of parents with arms around them

Top 4 Questions to Ask About Parent College Orientation

Did you know there isn’t just a freshman orientation? Parents can get in on it too! Here are answers to four common questions about parent college orientation.

The end of senior year is an exciting time for the whole family. It’s not only a time of transition from high school to college, but it’ll most likely also be your teen’s first time away from home. This means a transition period for parents as well. For some, it’s their first having kids leaving home for college. For others, it might mean an empty nest. Many parents need some guidance and encouragement on dealing with this life-changing next step. That’s why many colleges offer a parent orientation to provide some of that guidance as well as insight into what college life will be like for your student. For first-generation parents, this opportunity will certainly be eye-opening. For parents who formerly attended college, you’ll learn that much has changed. If you’ve been invited to one of these family-oriented events, here are some answers to questions you may have.

1. What is parent orientation?

Colleges have recognized the need for parent orientation as parents are taking a more active role in their students’ college lives. These orientation sessions are geared toward learning the rules for students on campus, understanding guidelines and measures put into place for student safety, having discussions about the academic calendar, learning what resources are offered on campus, and more. Special events often range from Dean meet-and-greets to classes and seminars on letting go. Parent sessions offer an in-depth understanding of the college experience that can’t be had from a distance or by reading the college website.

2. Why does parent orientation matter?

First and foremost, orientation helps parents visualize where their student will be living for the next four years and how that college will shape their student’s life. Knowing what to expect can help put your mind at ease. You’ll meet other parents, which will give you a sense of community as well as offer the potential for long-lasting friendships. Parents will also get the chance to meet members of the administration and staff of the college, giving you the opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns.

Related: 4 Ways to Help Your High School Senior Prepare for College

3. How should parents prepare?

Attending parent orientation means you’ll not only be attending as a parent but also as a student. Be prepared to take notes and ask questions when appropriate. Download any apps you might need to collect contact information from parents of other students like your student’s dorm mate and other staff contacts like housing or campus police. Whatever you do, don’t sit in the corner and be silent. This is your opportunity to get to know other parents, communicate with staff and faculty, and find comfort in your student heading off to college. Just as students need support while in college, you’ll need parental support during the next four years. What better opportunity to make connections, exchange emails and phone numbers, and compare notes than at parent orientation?

4. What questions should parents ask?

During the Q&A sessions, listen to other parents’ questions—a lot of them will be the same questions you have. If you have a question that hasn’t been asked, make sure to speak up. Otherwise, take notes and listen to the questions and responses. Here are some questions I suggest you ask if no one else does:

  • What types of services does the health center provide? You need to find out if your health insurance is accepted by them and what the process is for copayments, filing a claim, etc.
  • What type of emergency action is taken in the event of a school shooting or other dangerous situation? Most colleges have steps in place to contact students and parents when an emergency arises.
  • What is the parental notification policy? Ask how the college notifies you if your student is caught drinking or commits another serious offense, or if there’s a health emergency.
  • Do you have a parent association? If so, how many parents participate? Are they active on campus? What specifically does the group do? A parent association can be great but only if there is active participation.
  • Who’s the point of contact for parents? Ask if there is a parent relations office and who you’d call if you have questions or concerns.

Related: Your Student Is in College: A Parent's Guide to Letting Go

I’m a strong advocate for attending parent orientation. It’s a college’s way of helping parents make the transition from high school parent to college parent. Their focus is on helping you let go, informing you about available resources, and providing a forum to ask questions. At my son and daughter’s orientation, I learned things about the college I didn’t know and left feeling calm and assured they had chosen the right school. I saw where they would be living, studying, and eating, and it helped me visualize college life at their respective schools. Enjoy these sessions if they’re available to you and make the most of every opportunity to create positive connections.

While you’re preparing for the transition yourself, help your student get ready for college with articles like How to Prepare for College Over the Summer.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

college orientation college prep freshman orientation freshman year parents parents and students

About Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels students and families about college preparation through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been featured online in the Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report Education, Smart College Visit, and more. She is also a freelance writer featured on CollegiateParent, UniversityParent, TeenLife Media, and Road2College. In the past, she has written for Zinch/Chegg, Classes & Careers, Winterline Study Abroad, and GalTime online magazine.

Suzanne's advice has also been featured on podcasts like Prepped and Polished, How to Pay for College HQ, The College Bound Chronicles, and The College Checklist. Her articles have been featured in print publications created by UniversityParent, CollegiateParent, and TeenLife Media as well as in the book College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind by Nancy Berk.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Caitlin Eaton

Caitlin Eaton

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021

I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search.

This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson

High School Student

CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

Josiah Kegg

Josiah Kegg

High School Class of 2021

I want to sincerely thank you all for this amazing website that's legitimately helped me find so many different scholarship opportunities. I've been stressing out for the longest time about paying for college since I would rather stay out of debt and have been working days trying to find any scholarship opportunity. When I found CollegeXpress, I discovered many easy scholarships that have given me hope for the future. Thank you and God bless!

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

High School Class of 2022

I am a deaf student, and I had always dreamed of going to Gallaudet University. CollegeXpress helped me search though other qualified universities. They helped me know for sure that Gallaudet University was the right choice for me!

Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

College Student

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services. I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Moody Bible Institute

Chicago, IL

Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ