Parent Philosophy

Welcome to Dickinson! You've helped your student make the important choice to attend an excellent residential liberal-arts college, and we thank you for all you've done leading up to this transition.

We look forward to partnering with you and your student in preparation for the walk down the steps of Old West in four years, a tradition for every Dickinson graduate. Following in the vision of Dickinson’s founder, Benjamin Rush, more than 235 years ago, we know that when students leave this institution, they will be prepared to integrate into the wider world as:

  • Confident, thoughtful decision-makers
  • Responsible and civil citizens and community members
  • Creative problem-solvers
  • Engaged, lifelong learners
  • Adults who are responsible for their own academic and social choices

Dickinson Four

Higher education is a life-changing experience that we will help your student navigate. The college deans—in partnership with the offices of Academic Advising, Student Life and Career Services and the Center for Global Study & Engagement—have developed the Dickinson Four, a roadmap that makes your student’s experience unique among college graduates.

The path we’ve laid out will not only help students develop intellectually, socially and interculturally but will also provide them with the ability to articulate the choices they’ve made—to parents, future employers, graduate school admissions committees and even relatives around the Thanksgiving table. Using the Dickinson Four as a scaffold, students will be able to do the following:

  • Discover who they are
  • Articulate what's important to them
  • Decide how they want to focus their time and energy
  • Choose where they will go after Dickinson

While it is important that students follow their own paths, as parents you can guide them by asking the questions outlined in the Dickinson Four. College is a lifetime investment, and Dickinson’s professional staff has the educational and professional experience to provide them with the support and resources they need. You can encourage your student to visit any of the following offices:

Helping Your Student Thrive

We also recognize that for many of you, this is your first time navigating college as a parent or guardian. We suggest these resources for you to help your student get ready for Dickinson

  • Dr. Daniel J. Siegel wrote Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. Pick up a copy or listen to this interview, in which Dr. Siegel discusses how brain development up to age 24 affects young people.
  • Former Stanford dean and parent Julie Lythcott-Haims offers tips for how parents can prepare their child for success in college. Read the top three tips and an excerpt from her book How to Raise an Adult.
  • This video and article describe nine ways to be a good college parent, as suggested by an Emory University psychology professor.
  • Find out the “do’s and don’ts” for parents at college orientation. Don’t forget to visit Dickinson’s Orientation website to find out how we welcome your student to campus.
  • Looking for ways to communicate effectively with your student? Check out these strategies for discussing difficult topics.

The most important thing parents can do, however, is talk with their students. Ask them what they are doing. If they are doing well, ask them what they are learning. If they are struggling, ask with whom they are talking—and don’t hesitate to guide them to staff who can help, especially their resident advisors, college deans and the Wellness Center. We know you want to help your student succeed, and these resources can be an asset across students' four years at Dickinson.

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 student, we encourage you to make the college aware by contacting the Office of the Dean of Students(717-245-1639) or the Department of Public Safety (717-245-1349). In serious situations, the college is likely to engage you as an active partner in helping your student obtain needed support or intervention.

When you arrive on campus in August, make sure you attend the Helping Your Student to Thrive at Dickinson sessions, led by Student Life and Wellness Center staff. This session will cover the most important issues that most first-year students face during their first two semesters and will provide you with a chance to ask questions about your student’s experience.