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.


  • Encourage your student to fill out the Parent Information Form if they have not done so already. This will get you “linked” to your student in the SMU student information system and will help ensure that you receive important SMU communications. 


  • 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.
  • 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 Stampede, when registration becomes available.
  • Students can provide their consent for access to their records by using the “Release of Education Records” feature under the Profile tile in my.SMU.  I encourage you to discuss this feature with your student to establish authorization for you to view and receive information from your student’s education records.  If release authorization is granted, some records are available online through your own confidential access to my.SMU.
  • If you are going to be involved in paying for your student’s education, encourage your student to set you up as an “Authorized Payer” (via SMU Pay under the Financial Account Tile in my.SMU).  It is easy to do and will allow you to view statements and make a payment.  Don’t incur a late fee because your student forgot to tell you there was a bill!


  • 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 Stampede begins.  Dallas is hot in August, so plan accordingly.  There will be a Mustang Cookout that same evening for everyone on campus.
  • 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.