College Tips for Parents of International Students

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By Shorelight Team
Last updated on August 3, 2023

Calling all parents of international students: A few off-to-college tips can make the transition easier for you and your college student.

Mother and father with daughter in her graduation attire.

It seems like only yesterday they were just a baby – and now they are off to college! If you are parents of a college freshman, your new reality is bittersweet. Of course, you will miss your student while they are going to college, but watching them grow and take advantage of the amazing opportunity to study in the US makes it all worth it. 

As parents of an international student, you will have many things to consider as you prepare your child for college in the USA. Read on for our college tips for parents. 

Know the Important Documents for International Students and Parents

When preparing your student to go abroad, there are three documents they need to study in the US: passport, F-1 student visa, and Form I-20. Even if you will not be traveling with your student to their college or university, make sure your own passport is valid in case of emergency. Parents of international students can travel on standard visitor B-2 visas

Put Your Mind at Ease

Many parents are concerned about the safety of their student once they arrive in the US. One way to feel comfortable about your student’s new home is to visit the campus yourself, but this is not always possible for parents of international students. So, doing research on the location and campus can be reassuring. 

Remember, many types of environments can create a safe and nurturing place for students to learn. Do not assume that one type of university is safer than another. In fact, schools set in an urban environment can be among the safest for students. 

At Dayton, we are family away from family for international students. Our goal is to ensure a smooth transition into their new life, from the moment they land at Dayton until they arrive at their campus accommodations and beyond.” – Divya Blakemore, UDayton Global student success manager

“The safety and security of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors is a top priority,” says Kali Heifetz, managing director of UIC Global at the University of Illinois Chicago. “Our campus is overseen by two police departments and has an emergency response time of less than three minutes.”

Trust that Your College Students Are in Good Hands

Rest assured, if your student is going to college at a Shorelight university, they may be far from home, but they will not be alone. They will be a part of a vibrant and diverse community of college freshmen who are all experiencing a similar transition.

We want to reassure parents that our job is to help all of our students find success, both academically and in their personal lives.” – Kali Heifetz, UIC Global managing director 

Each school has an expertly designed program to support the unique needs of international students during freshman year of college and beyond. 

“UIC Global provides many services to ease the transition of studying at a university in the US,” says Heifetz. “We have a dedicated international student services team, free tutoring and academic support, signature student events throughout Chicago, and an orientation program to introduce college students to the resources on campus and help them make friends right away.” 

Get Your College Students Set Up

Because your international student will be traveling to college from abroad, it is often not practical to shop in advance for essentials before college move-in day. Luckily, Shorelight advisors prepare for each student’s arrival with all the things college students need to be comfortable. 

“Auburn Global provides holistic services to support student success,” says Yi Wang, Auburn Global student services director. “The team assists students throughout their journey from pre-arrival to graduation. We provide pre-arrival guidance, airport pickup, regular and personalized advising sessions, specialized academic support, and more. Our students’ success is our main goal and focus!”

Some parents fly with their child to help them with the transition of going to college. But if this is not possible, their advisor will be available to help them get adjusted to campus life.

Let Your College Students Get Settled

With any parent-child relationship, it is normal to worry about your child and think of them often – but giving them space is very important to help them adapt and grow. 

“When I came to the US as an international student, it was important for me to have my family’s trust in the decisions I made,” says Divya Blakemore, UDayton Global student success manager. “When parents show faith in their children, it boosts their confidence and helps them to perform better in their academics. A parent’s concern is completely understandable, but it should not affect the students focus. Moreover, the campus teams are always here to provide additional support as needed. We welcome parents and students to share their concerns with us so we can provide guidance and support.”

One way parents can stay involved is by regularly scheduled check-ins. Plan a weekly call or Skype that works with the time difference, as your student will be busy making new friends, focusing on coursework, and getting involved on campus. Invite your student to call you whenever they need to and make sure they have an international cell phone plan. 

Be There for Your College Students When They Need It

Stress in college students is completely normal. When your child shares their challenges and experiences, resist the urge to reach out and solve their problems for them. College is a time for them to find their own way and to handle all types of situations. 

Of course, if a problem seems more serious, encourage them to connect with their international student office for guidance and support. 

It is vital to encourage students to get involved on campus. We found campus involvement elevates the student’s sense of belonging, as well as academic performance.” – Yi Wang, Auburn Global student services director

Parenting college students is a delicate balance. One way to help with homesickness is to send a care package of their favorite treats, books, or other thoughtful things from home. They will appreciate getting mail, and will know that you are thinking of them and are always there for them. If your student seems lonely, encourage them to get involved with campus activities.

Remember to follow your own advice. If you are missing your child, take time to focus on yourself and try a new hobby. By staying busy and enjoying life, you will be setting a good example.

Track Your College Student’s Progress

Between your international student’s potential homesickness and how much you miss them, sometimes it will feel particularly difficult having them so far from home. But once you notice the progress they are making, both personally and academically, it will all be worth it. 

Parental support and encouragement goes a very long way, especially if a student could benefit from academic tutoring services or a little extra help.

“I had one student who really struggled with math and was so sure they could do it on their own. I asked if this was the approach last semester - turns out it was!” says Jessica Justmann, associate academic director at UIC Global. “I encouraged them to make at least one appointment with a tutoring service. Turns out a new perspective is all that was needed this semester. I can proudly say he still checks in with me every semester - even well beyond his UIC Global program. I couldn’t be any prouder of his accomplishments and willingness to try something different.”

When you are parenting college students, the right decisions are not always the easy ones. While you will miss being close to your child, you will also be helping them create a great future full of possibility and growth. So, when you support your international student as they study in the USA, you are setting them up for long-term success. 

Have questions about what to expect for your international student? Check out Shorelight Student Services for answers >