Incoming! A Parent's Checklist for First-Year Students

by Deanie Kepler, SMU Parent Liaison

The start of school is an exciting time for new college students, but it can also be challenging as they make the transition. Here's a checklist of things to do and discuss this summer before your student heads out.


• At SMU we call orientation AARO, Academic Advising, Registration and Orientation, where students are excited about registering, but often anxious about making friends, choosing classes, living in a residence hall, and making the "right" choices. The information will come fast and furious. Parents are strongly encouraged to attend AARO with their student. The more you know about the resources available at SMU, the more you can help us help your student. At AARO your student also will receive a copy of this year's Common Reading, which will be discussed in small groups. 

• Now is the time to begin discussing finances, behavioral issues related to drugs and alcohol, academic expectations, class attendance and campus resources. Open and honest conversations will better equip your student to meet the challenges ahead. (AARO will provide you with a myriad of talking points to get the conversations flowing.)

• Speaking as a Boomer parent, take my advice and avoid the "These are the best years of your life" speech. SPECIAL NOTE: You may have forgotten the mistakes you made and the disappointments and insecurities that are a normal part of growing up. Your student will experience many good times and successes, but he or she also may make bad decisions and feel lonely or confused. Your student needs your support through highs and lows.

• Encourage your student to register for Mustang Corral, when registration becomes available in April.


• Encourage your student to contact his or her roommate when assignments are received in early August so they can discuss their room (refrigerators, study habits, stereo systems, televisions, etc.), which will fast become their home away from home.

• Research shows that students who get involved in at least one student organization during the first six weeks of class do better academically than students who do not get involved. Discuss which activities your student might be interested in - trust me, it works!

• Be prepared for Move-In Day, the day before Mustang Corral begins. Dallas is hot in August, so plan accordingly. There will be a Mustang Cookout that same evening for everyone on campus.

• Encourage your student to attend Rotunda Passage and Opening Convocation. This is the beginning of their college career.

• Students with cars must abide by SMU's parking regulations - tickets can add up quickly! Having a car carries certain responsibilities.

• Talk to your student about safety on campus and within the city of Dallas. Be sure your student knows the importance of locking cars and rooms, walking with friends or using Giddy-Up after dark and staying aware of campus alerts.

Question for Deanie? Ask Deanie at or 214-768-4797.