Fellow Parents: It’s official — you are now Bulldogs. That’s right, you don’t have to be graduates to be counted among the UGA family. We aren’t alumni, but we can tell you from experience: you may as well go ahead and stock up on red and black apparel now.

We didn’t know much about UGA until 2011, when we moved to Georgia from Chicago. It didn’t take long for our three children to buy into the widespread Bulldog fervor that defines this state.

When our oldest decided to attend UGA, we instantly fell in love with Athens. From the enrichment opportunities to the beauty of campus, we knew it was the right decision. Our two younger children must have agreed because by 2018, all three of our children were enrolled at UGA.

Our oldest is now putting his business degree to good use in New York City, our daughter studied abroad, and our youngest is double majoring.

This is the start of an incredible era for you and your student. Even as it begins in the midst of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, we have faith in campus leaders to foster a safe, yet fulfilling, student experience this year.

As you embark on this adventure, we offer our advice on how to remain connected with your student and the university.

Get to know UGA — Make what is important to your child important to you. It may not seem like they want you to do this, but they secretly do. That intentionality will help with those desired, yet fleeting conversations. Which leads us to …

Text often — Texts are much easier for busy and newly independent students to answer. They are also a great way to remain connected. Be sure to ask a question so your child has to respond.

Visit Athens —  It’s a unique town. Take them to dinner and invite their friends. It can be a great way to get to know the new people of influence in their world. If you are able, offer to pay for dinner. They can’t resist free food!

While you’re at it, get the phone number of at least one friend — Just in case you need it.

Buy them a parking pass — Passes are much cheaper than parking tickets. Trust us.

Set expectations for their academic performance before classes start —  Make these realistic. This helps when the semester ends so you are all on the same page.

Be positive —  Don’t forget—they are excited but nervous. How you act will be their guide.

Lastly, you can bet they will have fun in college, so use their time away from home to have some fun yourself. We’ve found a wonderful community at UGA. Getting involved on campus while our kids are students has been one of our greatest decisions. Be sure to lean into the UGA experience with your student as they forge their path in life.

Best of luck to you and your student. We hope to see you around campus!

Scott and Marybeth Steilen Chairs, UGA Parents Leadership Council