Parents’ Weekend is the perfect opportunity to show off your campus—without all the added stress of moving in. You’ll be all settled into your dorm and ready to spend quality time with your family, as well as enjoy some delicious (non-dining hall) food. Of course, Parents’ Weekend can also come with a lot of pressure. As a new student, you’re still navigating college life. Your family will have a lot of questions and more than a few expectations. If you’re nervous about Parents’ Weekend and you want to handle it like a pro, then listen up. Her Campus is here to help: We’ve outlined 7 situations that are likely to occur during Parents’ Weekend, and broken down how to deal.
1. Dealing with awkward or messy roommates
In a perfect world, your freshman year roommate is the sister you’ve never had. The two of you have tons in common, she’s clean (but not too clean!) and you coexist harmoniously. In reality, though, you and your roommate are bound to have a few disagreements. Worst-case scenario, she’s totally awful and you’re worried about inviting your family into your shared space.
Talk to your roommate and ask if her family is coming to visit for Parents’ Weekend. If not, it might be a hard time for her, so be considerate. Definitely show off your room, but after a tour, you and the fam can spend some time off campus and give her a bit of space. If her family is coming too, discuss your plans beforehand! Do your best to coordinate schedules so that each of you is able to have personal time with your family. Plus, you can only fit so many people in your dorm room!
If you feel it’s necessary, give your family members a heads up about your roommate’s habits. You can’t clean up her mess or even make her talk to you, but you can (politely) let your family know that the two of you don’t exactly see eye to eye. Most likely you’ll be out and about enjoying family activities or chilling in their hotel room, so it shouldn’t even be too big of an issue.
2. Balancing the visit and your weekend social life
Parents’ Weekend is early in the semester, and you may be anxious to spend time with your new friends or go to that party after a long day with your parents. Remember that this visit is special, and you may not see your family again for a while. While it can be tempting to make other plans, your fellow students will understand if you choose to put your family first.
If there’s an event you absolutely cannot miss, don’t try to make up excuses to push your parents out. Tell them that you would love to spend the afternoon and evening together, but after dinner you would really like to attend said event. Chances are they’ll be exhausted and won’t mind turning in early. They just don’t want to feel neglected when they made the effort to come out and see you.
You may have to make some difficult choices regarding your social calendar, but remember that for these few days your family is your priority. It’s one weekend out of many and there will always be another party—trust us.
3. Fielding personal questions
Prepare yourself for a ton of questions from your parents. They’ll want to know everything: have you met any cute guys or girls, who are your friends, how’s the food, do you like your classes, are you doing your homework… and on and on. Be patient with them; they’re only asking because they care about you, and they are genuinely interested. Hopefully you’ve called to update them every once in a while, so they already have a good idea of what’s going on. If not, answer their questions as best you can. Introduce them to your friends, take them to the dining hall and show them around campus. They’ll feel a sense of relief knowing what you’re up to.
Natalie, a sophomore at Adrian College, got support from a friend during her Parents’ Weekend freshman year. “My best friend and I (from the same home town) arranged to get dinner with our families together, so as to ease the flow of personal questions. That way we had each other there for moral support,” says Natalie. “Our families are already friends, since we went to high school together, which made it easier to arrange, but you could even go so far as to plan on being at the same restaurant at the same time, and then catch sight of each other (coincidentally, of course) and say, ‘Mom, Dad, this is my best friend and her parents, let's all eat together!’”
Sometimes, you don’t need to be 100 percent honest. If you’re involved with someone but the relationship is in its early stages, you don’t have to meet their parents (and vice versa). You don’t need to tell your parents that you tried a beer or slept through your 8 AM once. Part of college is having your own life, separate from your parents. If you’re super close and want to share everything, that’s great! But don’t feel pressured to give them every detail of your college experience thus far. Obviously be open with your family and tell them if there’s something to be concerned about. Just remember that you’re establishing your independence and are totally allowed to set boundaries. You can always say, “Hey, I’d rather not talk about that right now,” and hopefully they won’t push it.
4. Planning activities (and downtime!)
Obviously you want to keep your family engaged and have a good time with them while they’re visiting. In order to ensure the best possible experience, you need think about what you want to do in advance—say a week or two before Parents’ Weekend. You may have to order tickets or make reservations (especially since your college town will be full of families), so you definitely don’t want to wait until the last minute.
Malone, a junior at John Carroll University, emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. “Before Parents’ Weekend, see what your school has to offer. While most schools will have fun family activities during the day, many will also offer shuttle services to nearby touristy or fun parts of a city; discounted tickets for a baseball game or even just a list of attractions or restaurants for you all to try out when campus is a little slow,” says Malone. “Taking advantage of opportunities like these will keep Parents’ Weekend fun-filled and will give you lasting memories.”
Whether you’re planning on spending the majority of your time on campus, doing touristy activities or showing your family the lesser-known parts of the surrounding town, be sure to factor in some downtime. Parents’ Weekend gets hectic, so you’ll want to rest in your dorm or at the hotel at some point. While it’s important to have fun, you don’t have to be doing something exciting every minute. It’s all about spending time with your family and catching up with them—so don’t forget to relax.
5. Getting dinner reservations
Eating meals out is arguably the most exciting part of Parents’ Weekend. By now, you’re probably already sick of on-campus food and your parents may be inclined to splurge on dinner while you’re all together. After living on a college budget for weeks, you’ll feel spoiled. It doesn’t matter if you want to show your family your favorite restaurant or if you’d rather try out somewhere new—you need to make a reservation. Parents’ Weekend means that all the local places will be booked in advance, so be sure to call a few days ahead.
“I would definitely recommend getting dinner reservations beforehand,” says Rachel Petty, a junior at James Madison University. “Parents’ Weekend can make restaurants really busy and hectic, so it's nice to know you won’t have to wait or drive around just to find somewhere to eat dinner!”
You don’t have to have every detail figured out, but the more you do, the less you’ll have to stress about. When it comes to Parents’ Weekend, it’s important to be proactive. Plan ahead and communicate with your family before they arrive on campus, but also remember that plans can change. Being flexible will ensure that the weekend goes as smoothly as possible.
6. Sharing time with siblings
If your sibling or siblings are joining you and your parents for the weekend, things can get even more complicated. There may be more arguments over what to do or you might feel like your parents aren’t paying you an equal amount of attention. Try your best to remain calm and remember that you’re only together for a couple of days.
Even more problematic is if you have a sister or brother at a different school and your parents are splitting their time between the two of you. As with the rest of Parents’ Weekend, planning ahead and communicating with your family should ease any tension.
7. Having to say goodbye
Hopefully you use this guide and your weekend goes off without a hitch. Even if there are problems (and when are there not during family gatherings?) you’re sure to get through them and laugh about it later.
Unfortunately, seeing your family again for such a short time can bring up feelings of homesickness. You may not want to say goodbye and you might have trouble readjusting after they leave. Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your friends at school and focus on your schoolwork. The great thing about college is that there’s always something going on if you need a distraction.
Call your family on the phone, Skype or FaceTime them and look forward to the next time you’ll see them in person. Remember that this goodbye is only temporary. You’ll be back to your normal, college-loving self in no time!
Your freshman Parents’ Weekend only happens once, so be patient with your family and enjoy your time together. Above all, be sure to have fun!