Skip to main content


Parents & Guardians

Gannett Health Services
110 Ho Plaza
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-3101

Tel: 607 255-5155
Fax: 607 255-0269

There’s no doubt about it: the college experience changes every student, and it is likely to alter your family dynamics as well. Whether this is the first or last of your children to attend college, there are bound to be times when you feel anxious, frustrated, or challenged by a situation that is taking place in your student’s life. Sometimes these situations will involve the health or wellness of your child. We hope that you will help your student find his or her way to us during these times and that you will come to think of us as a partner in your student’s development.

What Can I Do To Help My Student?

Communicate regularly. Even though students are becoming more independent and making adult decisions, they still need to know you are available for support. They need you to discuss both difficult issues and normal life occurrences. The phone and e-mail are great ways to stay connected.

Let your son or daughter structure some of your conversations. If your student needs help or support, it is more likely to come up if you are not always asking questions about grades, sleep schedules, social life, etc.

Be specific about the plan for paying for tuition, fees, books, room, board, travel, recreation, and other expenses. If you are clear at the outset you may be able to avoid future misunderstandings. Watch out for credit card debt. Inexperienced users of credit cards can get into deep trouble quickly.

Set realistic expectations about academic achievement and grades. Adjusting to university life is a difficult transition, and this may be reflected in a student's academic performance. Not every "A" student in high school will be an "A" student at Cornell. Be supportive and focus on your student's development rather than performance, as long as s/he is meeting the basic academic requirements.

If your student does experience difficulties, encourage him or her to take advantage of the many resources available to Cornell students. Cornell has a wealth of resources on campus to help your student make the most of this important stage of life. Gannett's CAPS is here to help your student cope with psychological and emotional concerns, as well as more serious mental illness. Talking to a counselor can help—we see that every day.

Advice for Supportive Parents

Cornell's parent web site – This is the best place to start, whether you are the parent of a prospective student, a first-year student, a transfer, an upper-classman, graduate or professional student. Parents of new undergrads will find additional useful information in the Family Guide.

"What Can Parents Do To Best Support A Child’s College Experience" This is a very helpful list of tips, adapted from College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What To Do About It, by Richard Kadison and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, 2004.

"Transitions: What You Should Tell Your Child Before College" As students prepare to leave home and take a next step toward independence, they need your help with more than just the packing list. These tips from The Menninger Clinic might help you think through the "serious conversations" that could be very you and to them.

The JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and The Jordan Porco Foundation released the results of a national "First-Year College Experience" survey, exploring the challenges associated with young adults' transition from high school to college.

Help reduce their stress

Familiarize yourself with the content in our Stress Management section. Consider sending items to help your student laugh and feel supported. Suggestions include: cartoon clippings, care packages with favorite snacks, photos of the family, etc. Think about sending a gift certificate for a therapeutic massage that your son or daughter can use through Cornell Massage Therapy. You may bursar the expense or bill to a credit card. Call 607 255-5985 for more information.

See Also
Parents can stay current

Sign up for Cornell parent emails by sending a message to