First Year Guide for Parents & Families

Before Classes Begin

Complete the New Student Checklist

There are a variety of requirements that every new student must complete. Learn more about the New Student Checklist.

Develop A Budget With Your Student

Have a frank conversation about your student’s budget for the year. Setting a plan will better direct smart financial practices. If this is not one of your strong points, encourage your student to take the Transit Financial Wellness Program through RamWeb. Things to consider:

  • Determine how much your student will contribute to their education.
  • Decide on how the bills are going to get paid (tuition, health insurance, rent, phone, etc). Your student’s university bill will appear on their RAMweb account. If you are assisting with payment, make sure they keep you up-to-date on due dates.
  • Encourage your student to check their RAMweb account and email frequently for important information (at least twice a week). The RAMweb and email are the main venue of communication for the university.
  • Encourage your student to establish a checking account, if they do not have one already. Does your student know how to write a check or use their online banking function? Do they know how to monitor their account?
  • Talk with your student about credit cards. They will most likely receive offers for credit cards with very high interest rates. Consider setting limits if your student is using a card that you provide and spell out your expectations about using it. Excessive credit card debt can be a large stressor for students.

Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle

At Colorado State, your student’s well-being is of our utmost concern. Staying healthy can sometimes be challenging for busy college students. It is known that stress is the number one health factor impacting academic success. Knowing stress will likely be something your student will deal with, you can:

  • Discuss the importance of sleep, healthy eating and physical activity in managing their stress level in college. Knowing and applying sound health habits positively impacts mental and physical health and our ability to ward off illness.
  • Express the importance of time management and planning in managing stress, to include financial planning.
  • Encourage your student to take time out of their busy schedules to de-stress and relax. This can actually help with productivity and make the college experience more enjoyable.
  • Let them know that there are resources, like the CSU Health Services Health Education and Prevention Services, CSU Health Network Counseling Services and Campus Recreation available to help, if they need some guidance. Online stress management resources are also available to share.

Discuss Boundaries and Fitting In

New students often feel an amazing amount of independence during their first semester. You may find your student testing boundaries and exploring new beliefs and behaviors. Sometimes, however, they are unaware of the consequences of their decisions. Talk openly with your student about attending parties, alcohol and drug use, sexual decisions, safety and peer pressure. Although these conversations can be tough, they are extremely important. Families have more influence than they realize when it comes to students making positive decisions about such life issues. Research shows that the impact of such discussions, just prior to starting college, leads to lower alcohol consumption during college students’ first year. Further, these talks lower the risk that students will experience Check out the following resources:

Feeling Under The Weather

Unfortunately, there may be times when your student is not feeling well or needs assistance. Know that Colorado State has medical, counseling and health education and prevention services on campus through the CSU Health Network.

  • Student Health Access Fee  Students taking fewer than six credits who access the CSU Health Network will be charged the part time health access fee.) The fee subsidizes medical services so they can be provided to students at or below market rates. Health Education and Prevention Services are included in this fee. The counseling fee, which is also paid by students taking six or more credit hours, covers an initial consultation, assessment, individual and group counseling, and emergency services. Some specialty programs (DAY and learning assistance) have additional fees for services, and extended counseling services (more than five sessions per semester) cost a nominal fee.
  • Commercial Health Insurance CSU Health Network will bill your insurance for all medical services and is in-network with most major health insurance plans. We highly recommend you confirm that your insurance plan is in network with CSU Health Network to ensure services are paid at an in-network benefit.  You can use our Tax ID of 846000545 or our NPI number of 1528156437 to verify this information. Students must present a copy of their insurance card at each visit. Cost shares (deductible/co-pay/co-insurance) will be billed to the student account after insurance has made their determination.
  • Student Health Insurance  Personal health insurance is a requirement of attendance for full time students at CSU. The CSU Student Health Insurance Plan is provided to CSU students who do not provide proof of other health insurance via the annual insurance waiver process. This plan works in conjunction with student fee-funded services by offering additional coverage for services in the Health Network, as well as providing insurance for care received away from campus. Call the CSU Health Network Insurance office at (970) 491-5118 if you would like to compare benefits or get additional information.
  • Note about medical records In order to provide the best continuity of care, it is recommended that students enter information about their health history in the CSU Health Network Portal. This will allow providers to give the best care to students starting with their very first visits. This is especially important if your student has a chronic or recurrent condition, treatment in process for an illness or injury, or any other need for continuity and communication between medical providers and counselors, copies of records should be brought to their first visit.
  • Note about independence and confidentiality issues Medical consent and confidentiality are areas that can cause concern and friction between parents and family members of adult students (18 and older) and healthcare providers. For effective counseling, medical and health education and prevention support to occur, CSU Health Network offers students a safe and confidential atmosphere. It is against the law to break this code of confidentiality. The only exceptions are when there is a situation of imminent, life-threatening harm to self or others, or if the student signs a release of information.

CSU Health Network encourages parents and families to consult with the CSU Health Network staff regarding concerns they may have about their student. Although our staff cannot disclose whether your student is using our services, we can receive information and utilize it as appropriate. Although this may be hard to accept at times, confidentiality improves communications with providers and supports students as they develop into interdependent adults.

Getting Key Immunizations

For information about CSU’s immunization requirement and other recommendations, see the New Student Checklist.

Attend Ram Orientation with Your Student

You will learn about many of the resources that Colorado State offers its students. This information will prove useful in supporting your student throughout their first year. Advise your student to check their RamWeb and email accounts frequently for important information. RamWeb is the main venue of communication for CSU.

If you missed the Ram Orientation session “Keeping Your Student Healthy,” view it now:

Keeping Your Student Healthy: The CSU Health Network

During Their First Month

They May Be Overwhelmed

Understand that in their conversations with you, they may talk about their adjustment to their academic load, expectations of college professors, living with a roommate and new freedoms. Work to listen before passing judgment or trying to “fix” their problems. Ask them open-ended questions and encourage them to seek support on campus. If college classes overwhelm them, mention the need to talk with their professor during their office hours and with their academic advisor. If they are struggling to find a common bond with their roommate, make sure they are sharing those concerns with their roommate. Encourage talking with their Resident Assistant, Assistant Resident Director, or their Resident Director about their concerns.

Let Them Know You Care

With all of the newness, many students feel homesick, even if they are still living at home. Make sure to stay in communication with your student; send e-mails, call, send care packages and show your interest. Even if they do not always respond, they enjoy knowing that you care.

Respect Their Privacy

Call ahead before showing up to their new residence. Make sure to continue sharing news of events occurring in the family so they still feel connected. If your student is commuting, have a family dinner night or a message board where they can stay in touch with you. Counseling is available on campus; encourage your student to visit with a counselor if they are having a tough time adjusting to the campus environment.

Campus Involvement Is Key

Encourage your student to get involved. This is an excellent way for them to feel connected. During the first few weeks on campus, they will have opportunities to learn about involvement opportunities through multiple venues. Ask them about which clubs and organizations they are thinking of joining. Research shows that students who get involved graduate at a higher rate and often do better academically.


The YOU@CSU portal has been developed for students to explore their strengths and areas for growth across three domains:

  • SUCCEED = Academics / Career

  • THRIVE = Physical / Mental Health

  • MATTER = Purpose / Community / Social

The portal serves up relevant educational information and campus resources to support a student’s success at CSU. The content becomes personalized if and when students complete brief assessments, complete a profile or search for something specific. There is also a built in function for students to set goals and check them off as they go.

The portal nurtures self-awareness and is organized to help instill responsibility for well-being. It provides options for the students to take action before issues progress to more serious problems or crises depending on their needs. There is an important feature integrated into the portal and search function connecting students in distress to campus resources.

Log In and Student Anonymity
Click the sign up button at: and follow the directions. Use your email to create an account.

A student’s e-mail is encrypted when accessing You@CSU. There is no way of tracking student use or responses, creating an environment where students can feel they can be honest and safe exploring sensitive topics.

You@CSU mostly likely will have a home on Ram Web in the future. The configuration will allow students to log in through CSU’s student portal system, alleviating the need to remember a separate password, but still allow for student anonymity.

Ask Them About Their Classes

In each class, students will receive a syllabus which outlines the expectations, assignments and test dates for the semester. Encourage your student to keep a calendar/planner and map out how and when they are going to complete assignments, find time to study, be involved in various activities. Make sure they weave in some down time to stay balanced. Discuss the importance of becoming part of class study groups and chatting with upperclassmen about strategies for success. Students should plan ahead – procrastination will stress them out and negatively affect their academic performance.

Encourage Them to Visit Their Professors

Each professor has set office hours. This is a great time for your student to ask questions. If your student has another commitment during scheduled office hours, encourage him or her to contact the professor for an appointment.

Encourage Them to Meet with Their Academic Advisor

Students need to connect regularly with their academic advisor. Your student should find out where their office is and what their office hours are, and should visit early in the semester to begin to build a relationship. This person will be instrumental in keeping them on track towards graduation.

Revisit Time Management Strategies

Many students will try to balance a full load of classes with work, family commitments, involvement opportunities and a social life. There are always a plethora of other things to do besides study. Again, encourage your student to keep a calendar/planner and map out time for classes, studying, involvement and de-stressing time for themselves.

Discuss FERPA

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (also known as the Buckley Amendment) is a federal law that limits the amount of information that can be released about students to people outside the University without students’ specific written permission. To comply with FERPA, follow the guidelines that are practiced at Colorado State University. There are release forms students can fill out to give family members partial or full access to their records. Many families find that they do not need to sign a release statement because they are able to talk with each other about grades, finances, etc. Deciding whether or not to sign the release forms will be something you and your student will need to discuss.


By now your student has experienced their first tests/papers for each of their classes. Did they feel prepared? Have they balanced their time and been able to study? If they feel they did not do well, this is a good time to recommend that they seek help. There are many resources on our campus to help students academically. The Center for Advising and Student Achievement is an excellent resource to help students succeed in the classroom. Encourage your student to make an appointment. Your student should also be setting into the semester and beginning to feel more at home. Again, if you get a sense that they may be struggling or need someone to talk to, encourage them to visit CSU Health Network Counseling Services.

End of Semester

Understand Your Student's Changing Relationships

Your student may find it challenging to connect with high school friends who are attending another college or have gone on to the work force. They may not find the same things in common anymore. Allow your student to voice their frustrations and understand this is part of the transition.

Financial Aid

Students will be re-applying for financial aid in the spring for the following academic year. Make sure they stay on top of the deadlines. Students should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after March 1. Student Financial Services can help, if you have questions.

Discuss Their Future Plans and Options

Discuss their future plans and options. Many students are still not aware of what they want to major in. Encourage them to meet with their academic advisor again and to stop by the Career Center to discuss career exploration. It is completely normal for students to still be undeclared at the end of their first-year, but it is important that they are using campus resources to focus on finding a major.

Throughout the First Year

Your student needs you. Encourage them to communicate with you about their new life. You have been important and will continue to be important to them. Keep the door open. Sometimes the conversations may be hard to hear, as they are further exploring their values and beliefs. Use Students as Emerging Adults: A Transitions Guide for Parents & Families to ask open-ended questions to support your student and refrain from judgment. Access the resources offered to you at orientation and encourage your student to seek the resources they need to be successful.

High School vs. College

Student/Teacher Contact

High School – Students have multiple opportunities to ask their teacher’s questions outside of class. Teachers are more diligent about keeping students up-to-date on assignments. College – Professors set up a few office hours per week. They do not remind students of work, but distribute a course syllabus at the beginning of the semester to inform students of important dates and expectations.

Family Access to Student Grades

High School – Families can access grades and progress reports on-line or schedule meetings with teachers. College – FERPA regulations will not allow faculty members to discuss a student’s progress with a family member unless a student has given that family member access to their records.

Attendance in Class

High School – Attendance is mandatory and there are strict penalties for missing class. College – There will be classes where attendance is taken and others where the professor does not take attendance. It is the student’s responsibility to attend class and stay on top of assignments.


High School – Students have limited freedom. Family members have much more control over the decisions a student makes. College – Students have much more freedom and the decisions they make can have serious consequences.


High School – Students have a much more controlled schedule and their family environment can help them stay on track. College – There are many opportunities to be distracted. Time management and learning to balance one’s commitments becomes even more important.

Value Judgments

High School – Students tend to follow their families’ values. College – Students have the opportunity to interact with others from different backgrounds and value bases. Their value system may change.


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Source: University of Nevada-Reno Family Handbook

Suggested Reading List for Parents & Families

The following is a list of a few of the plethora of books written on the college student/family transition process. For a more comprehensive list, research your local library, bookstore or look on-line. Colorado State does not recommend or endorse any of the following books or any of their contents.

  • Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money: The Essential Parenting Guide to the College Years Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller (2000)
  • Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from Late Teens through the Twenties Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (2004)
  • Empty Nest…Full Heart: The Journey from Home to College Andrea Van Steenhouse (2002)
  • The Healthy Student-A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Teens for the College Years Dr. Lawrence Neinstein and Helen Johnson (2008)
  • Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed: A Guide for Parents Richard H. Mullendore (2000, out of print, limited availability)
  • Let the Journey Begin: A Parent’s Monthly Guide to the College Experience Jacqueline MacKay and Wanda Ingram (2001)
  • Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years, 4 th Ed. Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger (2003)
  • You’re on Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me): Mentoring your Child During the College Years Marjorie Savage (2003)