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Parents' Weekend at college: Why you might want to skip it

Oct. 11, 2013 at 10:50 AM ET

It seems as if you just packed your college freshman off, schlepping all those boxes to their dorm room, and paying that hefty first semester tuition bill.

And now they want you back?

Why Parents' Weekend at your kid's college might be worth skipping.
Sara D. Davis / AP

For the uninitiated, it’s that time of year at colleges across the country for Parents’ Weekend, the annual ritual where new parents visit new students Johnny or Suzy. There are receptions, usually a football game, cocktail gatherings if you are lucky, and various planned activities around campus.

But before you fantasize about a happy reunion with your barely-departed kid, here’s a few reasons why you just might want to contemplate skipping the whole deal.

First, do you really want to walk around campus AGAIN with a swarm of adults and their kids, who look as if they’d rather be doing anything (library, anyone?) than entertaining their parents? It’s only been two months, for crying out loud. The whole forced interaction is a recipe for a bad time.

Second, parents and students alike aren’t all that hot on the planned activities (not to mention the scores of poor teachers and other university staff forced into duty). I did do Parents’ Weekend, twice, at the University of Vermont, where my daughter is now a senior. And I loved visiting Burlington, but not on that weekend. We ended up passing on the historic walking tours of campus, and a hockey game, and the chance to listen to a professor give a lecture to current students. My daughter wasn’t interested—she was already going to class.

Third, be practical. If you are going to a school in a relatively small town, what do you think such a weekend (and it often coincides with homecoming festivities, heaven help us!) does to the limited hotel space, not to mention the restaurants? Lines, people. And jacked up rates. And unavailable reservations. And really, isn’t the only good thing about having your parents come to town to visit is they take you and your friends somewhere good to eat?

Your freshman won’t really know if they want you to come for the weekend or not, as they’ve not been there before. But just for a minute, be selfish and think about what going on another weekend would be like. Your kid may actually be happy to have you there, and not just for the good food you can get more easily. Best of all, you get to see the campus as it really is – swarming with students doing their thing, not awkwardly shepherding mom and dad around, wondering what to do next.

So think about making your own plans, and enjoy the special time you carved out just for you guys. But do it fairly quickly, before they figure out they don't ever want you to come visit!

This weekend, I’m off to see my other daughter, who is a freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans. And don’t think I didn’t plan it properly: Parents' Weekend has come and gone.

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