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Residential Living Information for Parents

The Department of Residential Living is delighted that your son or daughter has chosen Western Carolina University for his or her academic pursuits!

Parents with Students on Campus


For many parents, sending a son or daughter off to college can be a traumatic experience. There will be times when you will want to know what you can do and what your role is in helping your student to have a positive college experience.

While every family is unique, there are certainly common events that students encounter. For this reason, we have attempted to outline some of these below to enable you to assist your student when situations arise. Hopefully, you will find some of our suggestions helpful. If, however, you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.

Because college is a period of transition for your student, he/she will benefit from your support and trust, while encouraging independence. You won't know every detail of your student's life like you did when they lived at home in a somewhat structured environment. Although your student may never have lived away from home before, going to college is an exciting and important step in his/her maturation process. The values and ethics you have instilled will help your student make good choices and decisions. It is extremely helpful for you to talk about this with your student throughout their first year at Western.

Although college will at first seem like a large place, very different from home, your student will actually be living in an environment where our staff members are trained to understand the transitional issues experienced by college students. They are readily available to assist students in the adjustment to life at Western. Our staff will depend on your student to come forward should he or she need assistance.

Learning to successfully manage one’s own concerns is an important part of becoming a responsible adult. If your student confides that he or she is experiencing difficulties associated with residence hall life, we would urge you to encourage him/her to take personal responsibility for seeking a resolution.  Although you have always been there to assist your son or daughter in making decisions and choices, as a college student, your young adult will need to be more independent and self-sufficient. Handling difficult situations for them only impedes their development. Since students can and do resolve most of their own concerns, and their Resident Assistant and other building staff members are readily available to assist your student, parental involvement is usually not necessary. Although they will still want to talk about their experiences, you need to empower your student to solve their own problems by offering guidance, encouraging independence, and trusting in his/her decisions. If, however, there is a time when you need to become involved, please feel free to contact our office by calling 828-227-7303. Our staff will direct you to the person best able to respond to your questions. If we are unable to accommodate a special request, we will provide an explanation of our policies and procedures.

One of the most important life skills your son or daughter will attain during his/her college career will be learning to live with a roommate. At some point during his/her residential experience, he or she may well experience a roommate conflict. Please be assured that roommate conflicts, although often unpleasant, are perfectly natural and actually quite healthy. Any experience with conflict will help your student to learn essential life skills such as effective communication and boundary setting. We have systems in place to help your student address roommate concerns. Your role in this process is to challenge your student to actively work through the issues, instead of avoiding them or looking for easy answers. Changing roommates is often not the best solution, so helping your student seek alternative solutions, will enhance the learning that can come from this experience. The Resident Assistant (RA) who lives on your son’s or daughter’s floor has been trained to handle roommate issues. If the conflict goes beyond the RA’s expertise, he/she can also ask for assistance from the Resident Director or the Assistant Director for Residence Life when necessary.

As a parent, homesickness is one of the hardest things to see your student experience. For your son or daughter, life has suddenly changed and will never be the same. During the first two weeks of the academic year, however, there will be many activities that help students get connected.   Taking advantage of those opportunities will assist your student in becoming a successful member of his or her new community. You can show your support and concern for your student throughout the year by writing letters, and sending food and care packages from home. You have no idea how excited students get when packages and letters arrive from home. Don't hover over the mailbox waiting for a letter in return, however. Although students are curious about what’s going on at home, they are far less inclined to let you know what they are doing. It is not unusual for your student to want to come home occasionally during their first year, but if they want to come home every weekend, try to find out why. They may be struggling with the social aspects of on-campus living. Encourage them to give it time and get out and meet people.

The primary means of communication at Western Carolina University is email.  Various campus constituents will utilize email to notify your student of important dates and events. In order to avoid missing critical announcements, please remind your student to pay special attention to emails sent to their Catamount email account.

Many parents and students come to Western with preconceived notions of campus conduct, university regulations, and the law. These preconceived notions are often based on media accounts, someone's memories, and assumptions. Every university must abide by federal regulations, as well as state and local laws. Additionally, each university has its own traditions, regulations, and institutional integrity. If parents know something about institutional and legal expectations, they can reinforce the positive teachings of Western and help their students avoid complications. Rules and regulations are designed to protect the rights of students and encourage individual and community responsibility. They exist to:

  • Support the requirements of local, state, or federal laws
  • Provide for the health, safety, and security needs of residents
  • Allow students the opportunity to sleep, study, and pursue their academic endeavors without undue interference from disruptive community members.

Your student has joined the ranks of the university where academic expectations are rigorous. While they were in high school, you were there to monitor how much time was spent on academic work. Because they are now responsible for their own schedule, talking with them about how they plan to balance this newfound freedom will help to ensure that they succeed academically. Let them know that you want them to be involved and enjoy their college experience and that you are there to help them succeed socially and academically. Make sure to ask very specific questions that demand a greater answer than "things are ok." Although your student may not tell you everything that is going on, if you continue to show interest, they will know that you are there and will come to you when the need arises.

It is quite normal for high-ranking high school students to see their grades drop a little once at college. This may come as a shock to both you and your student, given that they were always one of the best in their high school. Try to remember that your student is experiencing a life-transition from high school to a university, and for many students, a temporary drop in grades is typical. Don't let your student get depressed or discouraged; instead encourage them to get help. Tutoring, study skills workshops, and other academic support is readily available for first-year students. Students who seek assistance from the various campus resources typically get back on track and do well.

Be prepared for "the phone call." It often comes just after midterms or near the end of the first term, when work is piling up, or grades are lower than expected. Your student may feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as well as they did in the past. Your student may be upset, and chances are, he/she will call you. It's important not to panic; remember that this is normal, and as much as you'd like to alleviate the stress, you can not (and should not) "fix this" for him/her. Your student will rely on you to be calm and reassuring about their ability to successfully work through the challenges. Encourage your student to seek help from the campus resources that are available.

Because your student has become accustomed to life on his/her own for the last several months, and only having to consider his/her own daily routine, he/she may have difficulties returning home for holidays. Your student has not been living under your house rules for several months and may come home with new expectations for family members. Try to remember that this time of transition affects not only your student, but everyone in the household as well.

Familiarize yourself with the campus resources that are available to your student. Visit the WCU website often, read the materials that came to your home as your student was preparing to attend Western, check out the Events Calendar for upcoming events at Western, and browse this website.

We want you to know that we are dedicated to making the college experience an integral part of the growth and development of your son or daughter. Welcome to residence hall living at Western Carolina University.

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