Family Philosophy

Welcome to Dickinson! You've helped your student make the important choice to attend an excellent 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 strong liberal arts tradition that began over 200 years ago, we know 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


Higher education is a life-changing experience that we will help your student navigate. At Dickinson, we are committed to helping students identify, confirm and then pursue their authentic interests. Our integrated model of academic and career advising support is individualized and focused on helping students build on their experiences in and outside of the classroom, on campus and off, and during and after they graduate. 

The path your student will create will not only help them 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. The student experience is scaffolded and should unfold at the students' own pace.  We work across Divisions at the College to help your student achieve the following outcomes:

  • 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 good questions about their experience to encourage reflection. 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:


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.
  • Drs. Janet Hibbs and Anthony Rostain, authors of “The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years” describe ways in which parents can help students develop the social/emotional readiness needed for college and young adulthood.
  • 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.

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 Residence Life, or even 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.