Skip to main content
Switch to text-only version
Get accessibility information and assistance

Resources for Parents & Families of New Students


It is important to preface this page by knowing that each student and each family relationship experience will be different. There is also more information and topics than can be covered in a simple webpage, but hopefully this will provide some overview of the resources for new students. If you have feedback or other areas you would like to see on this page that might be helpful for parents and families of new students, please e-mail us at


Issues & Transition


This section will discuss some of the transition issues and what you might expect as your student begins a journey into higher education at Western Oregon University. Know that there are topics for parents and families as well as students during the transition period!


For parents and families, you may be making a transition with:


Time - Suddenly parents may find themselves with additional free time since they aren't involved with sports, piano or other school-related events for a high school student. This time may lead to changes in relationships with spouses/partners as you are able to spend more time together. Some parents find that they spend more time at work or take a job in the absence of a child at home. It can also be a great opportunity to explore hobbies, travel or even go back to school yourself.

Money - The financial piece will change for families and students. It will vary dramatically based upon amount and types of financial aid. Are the parents providing all, some or no money to the student's educational costs? Will there be student loans? Will the student be working while attending WOU? Talk with students about financial management and the dangers of credit card debt. Prepare them in advance with money management and budgets. Many students often learn how to live with less while at college and understand the value of money better.

Siblings - Once a child leaves home to go to school, it will have an effect on the other family dynamics as well. If you have other children, there may be a desire to switch rooms or different roles can be assumed by different children (pecking order). Relationships with the student at college will change as well since there will likely be a decrease in visibility as the student isn't around as much.

Curfews & Rules at Home - Students that return from college on the weekend may have a different perspective of the "rules of the house." They may require or want additional freedoms or negotiation of the rules that were present in high school. Be prepared to discuss things such as curfews, staying out late, communication or other topics that were not up for discussion before.

Relationships & Choices - Student-parent relationships may also change as a result of a student transitioning to college. Parents and students often both say that the relationship transitions from an "adult-child" relationship to an "adult-adult" relationship as the student gains independence and makes more choices on his/her own. One question parents should ask is, "How much direction or autonomy do I give my student with choices or decisions?" It is difficult to step back to allow students to make important decisions about majors, career paths, relationships, money or other issues. Stepping in to "rescue" a student who is struggling may be a natural choice, but sometimes a student's failure can be a great motivator to improve and succeed in the future.

Academic Expectations - Students who have done very well academically in high school may realize that they are amongst a number of high-performing students at college. At WOU, we have a large number of students who were in the top 25% of their graduating class. Half of these students may find themselves in the bottom half of their college class. This can be a shock to students or parents. Parents of high-academic achieving students may not stress about a student's performance, but in any case, a student's grades are only part of the education a student will receive while at WOU. Appreciate interest in a student's academic life and be supportive. Make your student feel special, even if they don't live up to your academic expectations. Grades can be an important peek into other issues a student has going on, especially during a transitional period.

Freedom! - Students will be in a place where they have unprecedented freedom to make good or bad choices on their own. WOU has specific guidelines regarding alcohol, drugs and conduct and we encourage students and parents to both be familiar with these guidelines. The guidelines can be found at this link (PDF): When a student does make choices you may not agree with, as a parent, how will you respond? It is ALWAYS a good idea to sit down and have a discussion about expectations while a student is at college. At some point you have to know that a student can make his/her own choices and you can be there to support as they transition with freedom and independence as well.

Communication - Family members should have different ways to communicate with their student. Students appreciate technology use for quick conversations, particularly texting, e-mail, IM (instant messages) or even facebook or myspace. Nothing beats actual voice conversations or even letters! Letters and care packages (food is a treat for students - homemade cookies, etc) will brighten a student's day by actually having something fun in his/her mailbox. Balance and talk about how often to call a student but know that a student's schedule can get very busy or hectic. If you don't hear from your student for a few days, don't panic! Students may be in the middle of exams or building relationships here at WOU. Oh, and don't call before 10 a.m. Students often go into the habit of becoming even more "night owls" than in high school!

Home Sweet Home - You may find yourself with a vacant room in the house - does that go to a sibling now? Does it become a work-out room, craft room or guest room? Communicate these to your student after a little bit of time has passed so that the student won't be shocked when returning back home and finding that everything has changed!

Vacations & Breaks - Students may or may not return for each "break" or holiday in the academic schedule. Students may also wish to spend some time during these weekends, holidays and vacation times catching up with high school friends or even visit college friends who live in the area. Prepare for a little period of re-adjustment as the student reinserts her/himself into the family dynamic. Things will have changed with the student, but things will have changed at home in ways that you may not be aware of as parents.


What to Expect - Orientation & Move-In Day


Western Oregon University has a very extensive orientation program for students. Our small campus size and our student demographics contribute to individualized attention and creating a sense of community here at WOU.


Move-In Day - Move in day to the residence halls is eight days before the start of classes (on a Sunday). It starts at 9 a.m. and you need to be prepared to know that over 80% of the students who live on campus will move in to their rooms on this day. Expect some traffic and expect a good number of people. Also know that WOU does a great job with traffic control and getting you to your residence hall area. You will be directed to a location near the residence hall and you should drop the belongings there and then move your car to park. There will be a number of orientation team (PLUS Team at WOU) leaders and other student volunteers running around, helping carry items to a student's room. There are a limited number of hand carts available, but on a first-come, first-served basis. There is an elevator in Heritage Hall, but it isn't very large. The other halls do not have elevators and this will mean some stairs. Bring your own hand cart if you would like. Check in at each hall is efficient and quick. Residence Hall staff are available to answer any questions you might have. By about 4:30 p.m., families are encouraged to depart and students will have a barbecue at about 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the residence hall area. This is a great opportunity for them to start meeting new people.


New Student Week - We have over 180 different sessions and events taking place during the week between move-in day and the start of classes. These sessions cover academic and social transition issues as well as giving resources about success at WOU. Encourage students to take advantage of these sessions. Some sessions are "mandatory" and the expectation is that each new freshman student attend these sessions - they are mandatory for a good reason. They have great information and advice for students about navigating WOU and college life. We also offer a variety of social/fun events to help students connect with each other make WOU their "home." We also offer sessions on success in math/science, writing papers, finding classes, time management and dozens of other topics. A full schedule is available in late summer linked at the main WOU homepage.


Links for Parents


What to bring to college checklist


Money management tips


FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)


Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention


Security and Crime Prevention on campus


Overall Resource Website


WOU Websites for Parents of New WOU Students:


WOU Academic Calendar:

Class Registration Dates:

Financial Aid:

WOU Emergency Alert System:

Campus Weather & Closures:

Health & Counseling Center:

Multicultural Services:

Family Weekend and Activities:


Resources & Books


Western Oregon University utilizes a book, "Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years" by Karen Coburn and Madge Treeger. We have no ties to the book, but have found it a great resource for parents wanting to know stories and information about changes that occur with today's college students.


Another good book is, "Let the Journey Begin: A Parent's Monthly Guide to the College Experience" by Jacqueline MacKay and Wanda Ingram.


There are four different ways to contact the Parents Association



Parents (503) 838-8814 | or e-mail: