Dear Warren Wilson College Parents and Family Members,
I’m sure that you and your new student have been preparing for the rapidly approaching academic semester. Soon, they will come to the Swannanoa Valley to begin an enriching educational experience that combines a liberal arts curriculum, meaningful work and service to the community. This new adventure will surely mark a transition for everyone.
Now is a great time to talk with your young adult about some of the elements of this transition and plan for the approaching year. While you can trust that your past years of parenting have prepared them to make good decisions, it is not too late to initiate some intentional conversations about especially challenging topics such as substance use, sexual health, personal safety and managing money. You may also want to express your own expectations about academic performance by opening doors of communication so that they feel that you are available for support and guidance when facing new freedoms and challenging choices for the upcoming years. While the College provides opportunity to talk with our students about these topics, parents and family remain an important influence and your opinions, advice and understanding will affect how they engage with these issues.
You have an important role to play in your child’s accomplishments. You know them very well and are likely to be in tune with their struggles and successes. To assist in providing strong support, we have compiled important resources and information on this website such as contact and scheduling information as well as questions covering topics in academics, residential life and student services. Also included is a poem written by a former Warren Wilson College parent to provide solace that you are not alone during this transitional time.
You are now part of the Warren Wilson community and we are delighted to have you join us!
Paul C. Perrine
What can I do when I feel concerned about my student?
You know your family member better than anyone, and you will likely become keenly aware of mood changes and notes of distress in your communications. Often students use families as a sounding board and safe place to vent emotions. This is an important support you can provide for your young adult. In most cases when students feel upset, it is part of a temporary setback or disappointment and the emotions pass fairly quickly. Your role may be to suggest that they take advantage of campus resources or just listen—and perhaps you can send an encouraging note or care package. However, sometimes students experience serious emotional problems and intervention is necessary.
Your past experience with your child is the best guide in helping you decide if the situation is a temporary one which will pass with time or if it is a situation which requires professional assistance. Some of our students come to campus with a history of psychiatric intervention and you, in consultation with a healthcare provider, can best assess how any current behavior fits in a context of past mental health patterns. If you have any concerns about your child based on past issues, it is helpful for you to alert the Counseling Center, to the situation. All contact with the Counseling Center is confidential. If the messages from your child express extended depression, aggressive feelings or some disconnection from reality, it is time to seek support. In addition, if you are concerned about unhealthy behaviors such as problematic eating patterns or use of alcohol or other drugs or engagement in risky activities, you may wish to seek intervention for your child. The first step is to advise your child to seek counseling.
If your young adult is not receptive to seeing a mental health professional, you may want to alert the Student Life staff about your concerns by calling the Student Life Office. The staff here can then actively attempt to engage the student in seeking appropriate support services. If the problems are acute, it may be time for a visit to campus to assess the situation or to have your child return home until an appropriate solution can be found to alleviate the emotional difficulties. If you feel unsure about what to do, you can always call Student Life or the Counseling Center and talk with an administrator or clinician about possible solutions. We are happy to help.
What might I expect on visits home with my child?
With new levels of independence established on campus, expectations of accountability to families on home visits may not match your old standards. It is important to sit down and discuss those expectations to make sure that you and your family member understand each other with regards to rules and practices. Don’t assume that you will just pick up exactly where you left off. Parents and families will need to respect the individuality and independence that students have worked so hard to achieve, but it is not unreasonable to expect students to understand that you have courtesies and rules that are part of participating in family home life. While transition times can be turbulent, use visits to enjoy the person your child is becoming. Talk about successes and disappointments, engage in discussions about emerging ideas and interests, and truly listen to the stories of the wonderful experience that is college.
How does the college approach substance use issues?
Warren Wilson College is committed to providing a safe and healthy campus for our students. We view the well-being of the environment as connected to individual well being. With regard to substance use, while there is a progressive system of sanctions with probation and suspension as the consequences for serious or continued violations of the law or College policy, our focus is on education and prevention. The College offers professional drug and alcohol screening, counseling, educational programs, and many alternative activities to drinking and illegal drug use. The drinking age in North Carolina is 21. Students under the legal age may not possess or consume alcohol on campus including in student rooms. Illegal drugs are not allowed anywhere, at any time, for any reason. The College has adopted a smoking policy with the goal of positively influencing students to help them remain or become tobacco free. Smoking is not allowed in campus buildings, in campus vehicles, on porches, decks or within 25 feet of buildings. On the main campus smoking is allowed only in designated areas.
Several of our residence halls are currently designated as wellness residence halls and house students who are committed to a holistic approach to living in an environment free of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Other halls or buildings may also be designated a wellness residence if there is sufficient student interest.
Campus climate is important, but ultimately it is up to your son or daughter to make responsible choices. Studies show that parents remain a key influence on college students. Your opinions and guidance can make a difference! A web site created by an organization called The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, provides an abundance of information for parents on how to talk to young adults about substance use. The following is advice taken from this valuable resource.
Talking to Young Adults about Substance Use
Listen. You won’t get far by lecturing. Ask your child to talk about alcohol and other drugs. Find out what concerns he or she has.
Make your expectations clear. College is a huge investment of time and money. Set clear expectations for your son or daughter to focus on academic work and personal development. Underage alcohol consumption and alcohol-impaired driving are illegal. Make it clear that you do not condone breaking the law.
Offer information. Alcohol is toxic. Far too many students die every year from alcohol poisoning. Discourage dangerous drinking such as drinking games. Encourage your son or daughter to have the courage to intervene when someone else is engaging in dangerous drinking.
Help them take a stand. Every student has the right to a safe academic and living environment. Discuss ways to handle situations ranging from interrupted study time to assault or unwanted sexual advances. Help your son or daughter think about whether to approach the offender directly or whether to notify residence hall staff or other college or law enforcement officials.
Get and share the facts. Students grossly overestimate the use of alcohol and other drugs by their peers. Young adults are highly influenced by peers and tend to drink in amounts they perceive to be the norm. You can play a vital role in providing accurate information.
Encourage community service. Students who volunteer are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Point out the benefits of volunteer work—forming friendships, developing job-related skills, and knowing the satisfaction of helping others.
Be a good role model. Evaluate your own use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription medicines, and even over-the-counter drugs. Consider how your attitudes and actions may be shaping your son or daughter’s choice about whether or not to use alcohol or other drugs.
How much spending money will my child need?
Ask any ten students and you will get ten different answers. It depends on the lifestyle with which each student is accustomed. Since food and housing expenses are typically covered through the College billing, day-to-day expenses are only for incidentals and entertainment. The exception is the expense for textbooks at the start of each semester, which can run $300-400. Science and language books can be especially costly. Almost all campus events are free, and there is active programming with music, speakers, poetry, comedy, athletic events or theater happening almost every weekend night. Many of our students like to take in what Asheville has to offer: movies can run $8-9, cover charges at music clubs can be $5-15 and dinner at a local restaurant can run $8-25 depending on your taste. An occasional pizza delivery can run about $10-15 for a large pizza.
We do discourage students from working additional hours off campus, especially in the first year. A full course load with our on-campus work requirement of 15 hours a week keeps them busy. To make some extra money, students in good standing may work on campus over breaks. Limited contracts are available and subsidized room and board is provided during most of those periods.
Does my child need a local bank account?
There is an ATM machine on campus operated by BB&T bank. A transaction fee is charged for non BB&T customers. Students are able to use the ATM for withdrawals, but it does not accept deposits. BB&T will be at orientation check-in to offer accounts to students. Other ATMs are available at many of the bus stops. Asheville is a tourist town so most businesses accept out-of-state checks, but a local bank account can be helpful. Many, in addition to BB&T, provide student account specials. The Campus bookstore will cash checks up to $20 and offer cash back with a debit card for up to $20.
Do I have any options other than paying tuition and fees in one lump sum?
Anyone interested in pursuing an educational loan should get in touch with the Financial Aid Office, for a Federal Direct Parent PLUS loan is available. There are forms that must be completed and the lender will perform a credit check.
There is another option for tuition and room and board payment through Tuition Management Systems (TMS). Loan options and a ten-month, interest free billing plan are available with the College but anyone interested in this payment plan should contact TMS directly.
Is theft insurance available for students?
The College is not responsible for theft or loss of property and student property is not covered by the College’s insurance policy. You may want to check your homeowners insurance for coverage of your child’s possessions.
Can students stay on campus over breaks?
The residence halls close during the fall, winter, spring and summer breaks. Please refer to the Academic Calendar for specific opening and closing dates and times. During these breaks only those students who have break work contracts may remain on campus. Work contracts are available on a limited basis to students in good standing. Students must apply specifically for an individual break by the deadline stated by the Work Program Office. A subsidized cost for room and board is charged for break housing. Break service trips are also available for interested students. Limited exceptions are made for students who do not obtain a work contract and are not accepted to a service trip but cannot leave campus. In order to apply for an exception, students should contact the Student Life office. Exceptions will only be made for students in good academic, work, and conduct standing
Residence halls remain open during the Thanksgiving break, but meals are not served. During winter break, our residence halls are used by our MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) program so students will be asked to move their belongings to one side of the room so that an MFA student may stay there. Since there will be MFA students using the rooms, we recommend that valuables be stored or taken home over winter break.
How are rooms and roommates assigned?
New students are assigned to rooms based on available space and the information on housing forms. Housing forms are also used to match roommates’ interests and lifestyles as best as possible to ensure compatibility. After the first year, students have the opportunity to select their roommate and room through the housing lottery.
New students will have roommates—what if they don’t get along?
How often should I be in touch? We do our best to match roommates based on preferences they express on their New Student Questionnaire, but successful relationships are difficult to predict. During orientation week we have time for new roommates to talk about issues relating to living together. We encourage them to talk about things like guests, cleaning, noise, etc. Reaching some agreements about the issues before there are problems can provide a good basis for negotiations and future discussions.
When conflicts do arise, the first resource is the resident advisor (RA). This is an undergraduate student living in the area, trained to assist students with residential issues. The RA will talk with students about disagreements, give suggestions on resolving the conflict, serve as mediator in the discussions and provide support for both parties. If the issues cannot be resolved at this level the RA may refer the students to the Resident Director (RD) responsible for the building or the Area Coordinator (AC) for further counsel. If there is no resolution of the conflict through mediation, and the students feel they can no longer live together, a room change is possible after the first two weeks of the semester. The timing and ease of a room change will depend on the availability of open space on campus. When housing is full, a change can only take place as part of a switch with another student seeking a change. Every effort will be made to accommodate students living in difficult situations as we realize that tension in a living space can interfere with other aspects of campus life. However, we do think that learning to work out differences with others is an important part of the education and development of our students, and we will grant room changes only after the possibilities of successful compromise have been fully explored.
Are pets allowed in residence halls?
Dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets and birds are not allowed in residence halls. Fish (10-gallon tank or less) and small caged animals are allowed with a pet contract. Arrangements for a pet must be made in advance with the housing office.
Should parents attend orientation with their students?
If you are able to come to campus to help with the move-in process and learn more about the College, we recommend you do so. If you cannot come due to time and/or distance, we do have an extensive orientation program that will help your child feel comfortable here on campus. While we welcome family members, we ask that pets be left at home.
How long do families typically stay for Orientation?
Families who attend Orientation typically stay for 1-2 days. If you decide to participate in the Parent and Family Orientation program, we provide an opportunity for you to say good-bye at the end of your visit. Regardless of whether you stay or not, it is important for you to plan a special time to say good-bye and depart from the College. Many students have difficulty adjusting to College life when families extend their visit on campus. Before you arrive on campus, you may want to talk with your family member about how long you would like to stay and discuss what will make the transition process easiest for both of you.
What should my child pack or bring to Orientation?
The College ethos is to underplay possessions and to live simply. Residence hall rooms are small, shared spaces. A list of suggested items is included in the Orientation page of the website. Be sure to periodically visit the New Student Welcome website as Orientation Week approaches.
How often should I be in touch?
This is a very individual issue. The level of contact may depend on the experience your family member has had in living away from home. If he or she is coming from a boarding school or extensive travel experience, limited contact from home might feel comfortable. However, if this is the first time away from home, more frequent opportunities to touch base might be appreciated. Take your cues from your young adult about phone calls, texts and emails. Anxious to assert new independence, some students may view the everyday phone call as intrusive, but an email note or card in the mail might be a nice reminder that home is still there. The contact with home may vary at different times of the academic cycle depending on stresses of the student workload. There is no right or wrong way to parent a college student, and the key is keeping the communication open so that you have a sense of the level of contact desired and comfortable for both of you. Of course, care packages are always appreciated!
What information will the school give me about my son or daughter?
It is important to distinguish between your access to information and the College’s obligation to inform. Consistent with our philosophy of working directly with students as independent adults, the College may notify parents in very limited situations when we have a serious concern about a student’s safety, or when there is a serious medical emergency. This means, for instance that your family member could have a disciplinary sanction, receive counseling, do poorly in an individual class, change residence halls, or be treated for a medical condition and you would not be notified by the College.
We encourage students to keep the lines of communication open with parents in all situations. We are also happy to speak with concerned parents when situations arise, and depending on the circumstances, we may be able to do that freely with permission from the student. Parents will not receive a copy of grades and should speak with their students about sharing the feedback. This is guided by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which is designed to protect the privacy of personal records.
Will there be an opportunity for visits to campus?
Families are welcome to visit anytime. You will need to work out the timing and frequency of these visits with your family member. For many parents the distance from home prohibits casual weekend visits, but seeing where your child is living can create an important connection. We do have one special time in the fall, Family Weekend, when we offer programs for family members, organized opportunities for you to interact with faculty and staff, and ample time to spend with your family member. Click here for information or to register to attend.
Is there shuttle service to campus from the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL)?
A shuttle is available by reservation to transport students to and from campus at the opening and closing of the academic year and during breaks. Shuttle information is available on the Transportation website (link). Students must reserve a seat in advance for the shuttle. Unfortunately, there is no reasonably priced, convenient public transportation from the Charlotte and Greenville airports and/or train stations. Asheville airport transportation will be available by reservation for all organized break periods and in emergency situations for individual students. Please visit the Transportation website (link) to learn more about the shuttle and alternative modes of transportation.
Does my child need a car on campus?
First year students are not allowed to keep cars on campus and due to very limited parking we discourage other students from bringing them as well. Returning and transfer students are permitted to keep one car, truck, or motorcycle on campus by paying a parking fee. Unless a student has an unusual need, we can satisfy most travel plans conveniently. The Health Center provides transportation for a limited number of scheduled medical appointments (including dentists, physical therapy and counseling). There is a “ride-offered/ride wanted” bulletin board in the student center. An Asheville city bus also provides a free ride into Asheville when students provide a Warren Wilson College ID. The bus runs throughout the day and evening, ending at midnight Monday-Saturday. The bus stop on campus is located in front of the library. The Service Learning Program provides transportation for several ongoing projects in the Asheville and Black Mountain areas. College vans are used for weekend camping, climbing, hiking, paddling and a variety of academic trips. Again, visit the Transportation website to learn more about the various forms of transportation.
We were standing in line with a couple of hundred other incoming freshmen from 38 states, seven foreign countries and, it looked like, one or two distant solar systems.
My daughter snickered when her mom executed a slack-jawed double-take at one young scholar. He wore what appeared to be a stainless steel anchor shackle through his nostrils. His eyes darted left and right, as if wary of moving his head too quickly. It might have hurt, or maybe unbalanced his load.
It was moving-in day at Swannanoa's Warren Wilson College for our youngest. She had prepared carefully that morning: an old t-shirt, baggy ragged jeans, sandals, navy blue toe polish and an old white felt hat she picked up from a yard sale.
But as she looked around at the interesting variety of tattoos, shorn heads, purple 'dos, tongue studs and nose rings, she said in a quiet little-girl voice: "Dad, I'm the most normal looking person here."
To which I replied, "That's not necessarily bad, is it?" I received a look of dark exasperation in reply.
So it goes as we once again renew our membership in the Ancient and Impoverished Order of Tuition-Payers. Over the next four years, if things go as planned, we will spend in the name of higher education about what it cost to buy our house all over again. Well, it's not that big a house.
The past few months have been an ordeal. We have dreaded the moment she would finally leave the home she grew up in, and counted the minutes until that day arrived.
Packing boxes, empty fruit crates and an old olive-drab footlocker littered the dining room, the upstairs hall and the guest room for weeks on end. Expensive shopping trips brought together the necessary trappings of academia: a new mouse for an old computer, a cordless phone, hiking boots, a coffee maker. Whatever happened to the days when a brand-new Webster's Seventh and a lava lamp were enough to launch successful cultivation of the groves academe?
We wondered momentarily if there might be a spell of homesickness. We learned better when she sweetly inquired, "So, what time do you guys think you'll head back home?"
I know a cue when I hear one. We walked back to the dorm. Exchanged final hugs. Dispensed last-minute advice. "Work hard," I admonished, while a silent voice somewhere inside me spoke words I never wanted to hear: It is time. Let her go.
We drove down the mountain, neither shedding tears nor high-fiving all the way back. Just as we had with our son seven years ago, we left our daughter of 18 years in a new environment, trusting that she could sort through right and wrong and find her way to her future.
It is a new experience for us, too. For the first time in 25 years, our nest is empty. We find ourselves as we were in the first years of our marriage, with new opportunities before us, not knowing exactly how it would go but looking forward to finding out.
A couple of years ago an old friend from home told me that one test of marriage is what happens after the youngest moves out. "You come home the first day and look at each other, and find out pretty quick whether you still like one another," he said.
Four days have passed. It's quieter. The place is neater. PTA meets next Tuesday night, but we're planning to take in a flick. So far so good.
Reprinted by permission
Ingram, Wanda & MacKay, Jacqueline. (2002). Let the journey begin: A parent’s monthly guide to the college experience. Houghton Mifflin.
Johnson, Helen E. & Schelhas-Miller, Christine. (2011). Don’t tell me what to do, just send money: The essential parenting guide to the college years. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Mooney, Jonathon & Cole, David. (2000). Learning outside the lines: two Ivy League students with learning disabilities and ADHD give you the tools for academic success and educational revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Savage, Marjorie. (2009). You’re on your own (but I’m here if you need me): Mentoring your child during the college years. New York: Simon & Schuster.