Parent Philosophy

A Dickinson education aims to prepare young people for a lifetime of leadership, service, and engagement with the world. Our faculty and staff serve as mentors and educators for our students as they grow intellectually, grapple with real-life difficulties and challenges, and consider options and opportunities. We believe we share a common goal with parents, that of supporting and challenging your sons and daughters as they become:

  • confident, thoughtful decision-makers;
  • responsible and civil citizens and community members;
  • creative problem-solvers;
  • engaged, lifelong learners; 
  • and adults who are responsible for their own academic and social choices.

As the college’s mission statement puts it, we help “prepare young people, by means of a useful education in liberal arts and sciences for engaged lives of citizenship and leadership in the service of society.” 

This journey of intellectual, social and personal development is rarely straight and smooth, and almost always marked by normal challenges and bumps in the road. To better assist your student along the way, we have developed the Dickinson Four (D4). This four-year roadmap to the Dickinson experience is really about helping students ask the right questions at the right time. In the first year, we want students to ask the “who” question—who am I and how do I make this place my own? In the sophomore year, we want students to explore the “what” questions and discover what matters. What decision points come this year; what are my plans for the future at Dickinson? By the Junior year we want your student to ask “how”—how can I deepen my focus, expand my horizons, and challenge myself by testing my assumptions? Finally, the question for the senior year is “where”—where in the world will I be making sense of my Dickinson experience and preparing to write the next chapter in my story? Each year, the college offers programs, events and opportunities designed specifically for each class to help them answer these questions. Have your student look for D4 programs throughout the year. 

Transitioning to college, moving away from home, and living independently—often for the first time—are big steps for young people. For most, this is an exciting time. But there may also be moments of confusion and uncertainty. New ideas, new experiences and new responsibilities can create feelings of bewilderment or concern. A good education, both in and beyond the classroom, gives students the tools to learn and profit from the challenges, the successes and even the occasional failures they will encounter.

We know that we all can play a significant role in encouraging students’ confidence and success in advocating for themselves, and learning to resolve the challenges that they will certainly encounter. There are many capable, well-trained and caring individuals at Dickinson who are prepared to assist your daughters and sons in developing the skills to overcome and resolve challenges and to address their own concerns, most of which are fairly typical for a college student. Past experience shows that students who achieve the greatest success:

  • become familiar with college resources;
  • take initiative to solve problems;
  • gather information and explore alternatives;
  • make connections with their faculty, their dean and college staff;
  • weigh the pros and cons of their decisions; 
  • and accept responsibility for their decisions.

When students come to us with concerns, we will encourage them to take the kinds of actions outlined above. As parents, you can nurture your son's or daughter’s problem-solving ability by encouraging the same behaviors.

The way in which students, the college, and parents communicate with each other plays a significant role in fostering students’ problem-solving ability, and developing their capacity as advocates for their own issues and concerns. The best way for us to accomplish this is through direct communications with your student. We understand that there may be times when you may contact an office hoping to directly resolve your student’s academic or social concern. However, we typically encourage you to first ask your student to make an appointment and meet with us to see the appropriate staff member.  By creating a direct line of communication between college and student we are affirming our mutual goal of helping students develop their problem-solving abilities. 

We also know there may be a time when a concern is important enough that it would be appropriate for parents to intervene. If you ever have a more serious or immediate concern about the mental, or physical well-being of your son or daughter, we encourage you to make the college aware of the situation by contacting the Dean of Students’ Office (717-245-1639) or the Department of Public Safety (717-245-1349). In a situation where a student’s mental or physical well-being is of serious concern, the college is likely to engage you as active partners in assisting your daughter or son in obtaining needed support or intervention.

Many of our students continue to count on their families for advice and encouragement during the college years, and we value and respect that relationship. Please consider us resources to assist you in helping your student through moments of indecision or times when poor choices may have been made. 

Thank you for encouraging your son or daughter to work with us to seek solutions to the challenges that may arise during the course of their time with us. During Orientation, we encourage you to seek out the parent programs where you can learn more about campus resources, or pick up a copy of the Parent’s Handbook when you drop off your student. We look forward to working with your daughters and sons over the next four years as they engage and connect with the college, with its staff and faculty, and with their fellow students.