Before sending their children off to college, the parents of West Virginia University students also have to take a class – complete with syllabus, textbook, homework, midterm and final exam.

While not about math or science, Parents University 101 is a lesson on transitions.

“We understand that this time is not just a change for students, but there is also a period of adjustment for parents,” WVU’s Parent Advocate Katie Utterback tells parents when teaching the course.

Utterback asks parents in attendance to raise their hands if they are their student’s “ATM, laundry mat or alarm clock” – the typical response is a room full of raised-hands.

“Start working on those now,” she advised parents. “While it may be hard for you to see your student as an adult, we look at them like adults.”

The entire course, which is similar to that of a typical college class, is rolled into an hour-and-15 minute block of New Student Orientation.

Click below to hear what some parents have to say about Parents University 101:

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Split up into the first few months of a student’s first semester, the course gives parents information on transitioning, settling in, getting acquainted and looking ahead. Parents are taught about the many resources available to them and their student, and they are encouraged to “pass the ball” to their student – and treat them like adults.

“We know that students rely on their parents for support and guidance. Thus, when the phone calls and texts come in with questions or concerns, they can bounce the ball back to their students by reminding them of the resources available to help,” Utterback said.

As one example, parents are encouraged to help their students understand the academic landscape of a college campus and how this might differ from the familiar high school setting.

“There are no principal’s offices here but rather an academic protocol which involves faculty, chairs, deans and provosts where students need to go with their academic concerns,” Utterback said.

Parents are taught about the many support services offered by the University from disability services to mental and physical health support. They are also told about dropping/adding class procedures, the time of the year when students might be the most stressed, student organizations and the Student Code of Conduct, among other things.

After evaluating the questions from parents, the WVU Mountaineer Parents Club and Parent Advocate began holding the course during the summer of 2008.

It has been well-received ever since.

“It is important for us to begin building a strong relationship with parents that will need us as a resource in the coming months and years to support their students,” said Sabrina Cave, executive director of the Mountaineer Parents Club.

The Education Advisory Board featured WVU’s Mountaineer Parents Club and the Parents University 101 course in its “Partnering with Parents for Student Success” report, published in June 2010.

Parent Alex Hamilton, of Warrington, Pa., described the course as “informative and refreshing.”

“With our oldest child we did not get exposed to this, he didn’t come to this university he went to another, and they didn’t have the depth that this program has. Our experiences with him and getting to hear this I think will be very helpful,” said Hamilton, whose son will attend WVU in the fall.

“I think this program gives a lot of information to parents, so that they know what to do. It sets the stage that the students are responsible for their education and gives you some approaches to make them grow up and take responsibility,” he added. “It also conveys to me that the University really cares about my son’s success, and they are not just in it for the tuition money.”

An online refresher course is also available for parents who want to revisit the information taught to them during New Student Orientation. That course is available at .

For more information on the WVU Parents Club, visit .

By Colleen DeHart
Communications Specialist
WVU News and Information



CONTACT: Katie Utterback, Parent Advocate

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