Important Information for Parents Whose Children Are Studying in the United States

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Important Information for Parents Whose Children Are Studying in the United States

Finding the right school for your child’s higher education involves weighing a lot of factors. On top of the educational merits of each school, you also need to consider the opportunities it can unlock through professional networking and other opportunities for students. You also need to consider basic quality-of-life issues like the school’s housing and on-campus dining options, so you can adequately consider the safety of any members of your family who study abroad. There are a number of considerations to make when thinking about security, including the choice between on-campus and off-campus living options, transportation costs related to that choice, and available secure housing in the city or town where the college is located. Before you start to review the options at each school your family is considering, you should understand what common measures you should expect, and which ones are most effective. Apart from considerations of campus and housing safety, parents with children studying in the US need to know about available academic supports and resources for communication with the school.

  • 1. Housing Basics

    There’s no one way that American colleges and universities handle housing. Some schools feature commuter campuses with little on-site housing, but they do have nearby apartments and local landlords who cater to their students. Other campuses have most of their student bodies living on-campus, offering a range of housing options that range from residence halls to private apartments. Each school has its own policies regarding housing, and generally students can count on support from school officials when applying for special considerations due to disability or international travel.

  • 2. Security

    Living off-campus has the benefit of allowing you to choose facilities that match the needs of your family. American apartment rentals often include door service and keycard entry. Other options include buzzer entry, controlled parking, single-entry buildings, and units with alarm systems. On-campus options tend to be more limited, but also more universally applied campus-wide. Common security measures in use at American universities include: Keycard Entry: Student identification cards often double as access keys for dormitory rooms, computer labs, and other areas with restricted access, providing a secure way to track who comes and goes from shared facilities and private rooms alike.Secure Entry: Most American university dorms have secure entry, which means it takes a building resident to move past the lobby and into the residential areas. It is quite commonplace for this security to be augmented during busy times and at night by a check-in desk that takes the names of all guests and assures they are accompanied by residents.Campus Policing: On-campus police departments are frequently a feature of major universities with pastoral campuses. They are frequently deputized to the municipality the college or university resides in as well, making it possible for them to act in larger policing actions as the local sheriff or city police need support. The reverse is also true. In these situations, the agreement also ensures local police will work with campus police as equals.Campus Security: In addition to police forces, colleges also employ unarmed guards and observers to monitor facilities and report suspicious activity to the police. For smaller schools, this is an alternative to a stand-alone police force. For larger schools, it augments it, providing a wider range of security services than that which can be provided by the police alone.Transportation: Transportation availability and type is important. While global transportation services like Uber are available in most areas in the US now, they can be expensive. Access to public transportation, the ability to have an on-campus vehicle, and the availability of transport options all help reduce nighttime foot traffic, helping to keep students safe as they move around after dark. Make sure you investigate the on and off-campus options available at each school.

  • 3. Support from School Officials

    Most colleges and universities have on- and off-campus living offices, as well as student affairs departments dedicated to helping international students find the resources they need. These officials provide students information and help accessing local resources while they are in-country. They can not only be useful when deciding where to live, but also when resolving difficulties like roommate conflicts or class schedules. Some larger schools will have specialized international housing offices in addition to student affairs support for international students, too. It takes research to understand the resources offered at each location. International Student Affairs offices typically engage with the students’ needs for socialization and professional networking while in the US This includes providing cultural programming, helping students with paperwork related to continuing enrollment, travel, or internship opportunities, referral to English language acquisition resources and tutoring, and academic advising specific to the needs of international students.Student Advisers work with individuals within each degree program, including both US residents and international students. They help students work through their degree programs, making sure they make progress toward the completion of the degree in a timely manner and answering questions as students plan their way through the curricular requirements. Advisers also connect students to professional opportunities, including study abroad programs at other universities, summer travel programs, internship opportunities, and on-campus work-study opportunities.Campus Housing Offices provide students with on-campus and off-campus living options. For off-campus students, they often provide lists of recommended or preferred landlords who are known to work leases around the school’s terms and to provide help with roommate matching as needed. On-campus housing offices help students find the residence option that fits their needs and level of study. It’s important to remember that many American universities restrict private apartments to students above the age of 21, graduate students, and students with families, but both private apartments and residence halls are usually available on-campus.Academic Support Offices include tutoring resources available to all students. Most have specific resources for international students as well, and they include conversational English support, study groups for students who speak English as a foreign language, writing center support and tutoring, and referrals to outside providers as needed.

  • 4. Communication

    Universities in the United States are government by US education law as implemented and enforced by the Department of Education. One of the fundamental laws governing communication between students and educators is FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. This law states that university officials cannot speak to any person about the educational progress and academic standing of a student except that student, unless authorized by the student. Over the years, this has been interpreted to mean that students must authorize their parents to discuss matters like their grades on their behalf, and most universities only make provisions for this kind of communication in the event of medical emergencies. Otherwise, grade reporting is private. Other than grade reporting, student welfare reporting and conduct reports may be made to the family. The courts have repeatedly ruled that parents have a right to be notified if children under 21 break the law while away at school, and schools go out of their way to establish contact information for students in the event of an emergency, to ensure families are notified promptly if someone is injured in an accident. Students and parents who wish to send communications from the university directly home to provide access to the parents can do so, although the time delays introduced by international postal services make this inefficient in many situations. Schools will work with families through the international student affairs office to help facilitate communication, though, including providing channels for inquiry in the event a student stops communicating with family back home for any reason.

  • 5. Looking After Your Child from Afar

    When looking for a campus experience that allows your child to enjoy studying abroad at an American university, it’s important to weigh all the facilities and features of a campus. That includes not only the degree programs themselves, but also the available housing options, security precautions taken on and off-campus, transportation in the area, and a variety of local factors. You also need to know that the school will be there to help support clear communications between your family, your child, and the institution. When you are looking to balance safety and superb education, looking into the local crime rates and population density can give you insight into the need for security measures. On-campus security is often discussed at length on university websites and in their application materials and other support documents. Do your research, look into options, and remember, rural universities and pastoral campuses in the United States are among the safest and most secure educational facilities in the country. SchoolApply is happy to help you find everything you need when you are planning out a study abroad experience. From information about getting support from school officials to a rundown of the popular programs at each major university, you can find what you need on the site. The best part is, you can apply for any of the universities who work with us using a single SchoolApply application. This lets you manage your choices efficiently, so you can focus on finding quality schools that fit your student’s needs. Get started today.

Levels Explained

  • Bachelor's

    A bachelor's degree (also called a first degree or undergraduate degree) is attained after receiving a post-secondary (high school) education and generally spans four years. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as bachelor or undergraduate students. A bachelor's degree is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university.

  • Master's

    A master’s degree (or postgraduate or graduate education) involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees. This degree is preceded by a bachelor’s degree and generally takes two years to complete. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as master's, or grad students.

  • Pathway

    Bachelor’s and master’s pathway programs are designed for international students who need additional English language and academic preparation before continuing to a degree program at a university. The purpose of these programs are to give students the confidence and skills needed to succeed in college.