Advice to Parents from Fr. Rob

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Dear Mom or Dad,

Congratulations on your son or daughter’s decision to attend Arizona State University, Fr. Rob considers ASU to be the greatest university in our state, if not the entire country (more on his bias a little later in this letter).

We know this is a time of great excitement and anticipation, but it can also be a time of anxiety and uncertainty for both you and your ASU student. As a parent, you want to do everything you can to help them succeed in college, but you may not know where to start.

Fr. Rob has been the Director of the Catholic Newman Center since 2011, he has spoken to countless parents over the years about challenges that are facing students as they settle into campus.

In addition he is a proud ASU graduate, and a third generation ASU alum. Let’s just say, he’s seen it all, and he’s heard it all. Nothing shocks either of us and nothing is new.

So we thought we would give you our tips to help you and your ASU Sun Devil make the most of the 2023-24 academic year.

Talk to your student about their (and your) expectations. What do they hope to achieve academically, socially, personally, and spiritually? What are their concerns? By talking you get a better understanding of their goals and challenges, and you can then offer them support and guidance. Remember, help them to come to their own conclusions, don’t force yours on them. If you do, you are in for a battle.

Help your student develop a budget and a financial plan. College living can be expensive, so it's important they have a solid understanding of their money. This will help them stay on track financially, and help reduce their stress levels.

Pro Tip: Everything today is on an app.  Venmo, Zelle, Lyft, Uber, DoorDash. Students just don’t carry cash anymore.

Help your student pack for college, BUT don’t over do it! Make sure they have the things they need, but be realistic. Don’t send them with their winter clothes in August! They won’t need any of that until January. And if they do, you can always send a few things to them.

In the fall students wear the same things - sneakers or flip flops, shorts, t-shirt and maybe a ball cap. We might see a polo shirt or a dress at Sunday Mass. That’s it! It’s not complicated.

Pro Tip: Target and Tempe Marketplace are close to campus. And there’s always Amazon. Anything can be shipped, so don’t stress.

Stay connected with your student. Talk to them on the phone, FaceTime or text regularly. Let them know that you are there for them, no matter what, and with no judgment! Try not to be too overbearing. Let them find their way. Also, what you think is a normal amount of “staying connected” is going to be a lot more than they think. So don’t overdo it.

Pro Tip: Fight the urge to be a helicopter parent! Don’t swoop in! Let them solve their own problems. It’s part of growing up. 

Encourage your child to check out Newman. The ASU Catholic Newman Center offers a variety of socal events, programs, activities, and most importantly the Sacraments. We have two daily masses during the week and weekend Masses Saturday evening and all day on Sunday. Our adoration chapel is open 9AM to 5PM, Monday through Thursday.

Pro Tip: We offer confessions before the weekday 12:15pm Mass and at 3:00pm on Sundays.

Come visit for ASU Family Weekend, September 22-24, 2023. This is a great way to see how your student is adjusting to campus life and spend some time together. ASU puts on a fantastic weekend for everyone visiting. And definitely stop by the Newman Center when you are here.

Be there for your student when they need you. If he or she is struggling academically, socially, or personally, be there to listen and offer support. Remember, they are still learning how to navigate college life, and they may need your help from time to time. ASU has a range of tutoring, academic advising, and mental health resources if your student needs help.

Pro Tip: Your intuition is probably right. If your calls with your student are getting shorter, or they are slower than normal to respond to your texts, that could be a sign that something is not right or they are getting overwhelmed. So don’t wait -- start looking for help in week 5 instead of week 14 of the semester. 

Make sure your student meets their professors and instructors. The university wants your student to be successful and to thrive at ASU. We can’t tell you how many times a student has come to us to tell us that they are not doing well in a class and the first thing we ask is, “Have you met with your professor?” They hadn’t. They won’t bite their head off. If anything they’ll make an extra effort to help.

Encourage your student to get involved on campus. This is a great way to make friends and to get involved in activities that they enjoy. We can tell you there is a club or group on campus for every interest (some we didn’t even know were a thing).

Please just breathe. Be patient and understanding. The first few weeks of a new academic year can be a time of great change, so be patient and understanding as they adjust to the new year. Remember, they are just trying to find their way.

So those are our tips to help you help your student navigate the school year. We want to hear how your student, and you, are doing during this year, so keep us updated. You can email us and let us know how they are doing, or if they need special prayer intentions if things get challenging. 

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Fr. Rob Clements