Two years ago, Marcie Zajeski was dropping her youngest daughter Julie at college for her freshman year. She knew that her daughter was well-prepared for college because Julie had spent the summer months forming friendships and making connections with fellow incoming freshmen via Facebook and other social media networks. “When we got to orientation,” recalls Marcie, “Julie literally knew everybody there.”
As happy as Marcie was for her daughter, Marcie realized that she herself felt a disconnect. “Wouldn’t it be nice if parents had a way to build relationships before they get there too?” Marcie thought. That night, she dreamed of ways parents could stay connected with their children and to other parents in similar situations. So in 2012, Marcie launched the website ParentCampusConnect.com. ParentCampusConnect is a college-specific network designed to keep parents connected to what’s happening at their child’s school, as well as keep them connected to other families whose children attend the same college.
As it turns out, Marcie found many parents felt as she did. To date, Marcie’s website has 2,000 registered participants from all across the country. Marcie uses this as a way to stay connected with her two daughters, Claudia and Julie, by keeping up with current events at her daughters’ schools. “It’s a whole new way to converse with your child,” says Marcie.
Marcie also views the website as a way to meet new parents and trade information about colleges online. “It bridges distance,” explains Marcie. “I think that the biggest shock to me was how disconnected parents become when you send a kid to school. You literally drop them off, say good-bye, and you turn around and never have any contact with anybody again.”
The website offers an array of resources, everything from local weather to nearby hotels and restaurants. There is even a link entitled “Things-To-Do” in the local towns. There are direct links to the universities’ websites, as well as to school calendars, “Latest Buzz,” and housing and alumni information. “It’s just stuff you might want to know that you won’t make a phone call for or your child won’t tell you about,” explains Marcie. The website also offers a parent-to-parent chat space for parents to start ongoing discussions and ask questions. “Any parent can start a thread,” says Marcie.
Not every college or university is online yet, but it’s a work in progress. Marcie began geographically with the top five colleges in each state according to population and plans to build from there. All of the participating universities have their own pages with school-specific photos and logos; however, each page has the exact same format, links, and forums specifically designed for ease of use.
The common visual home page is great for families with children at different colleges like Marcie. Any parent can check out the “Latest Buzz” at both schools through the link to the schools’ newspapers. “It’s nice to know the same information,” says Marcie, who has one daughter attending Northwestern University and another at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Parents shouldn’t worry if they feel technologically challenged, either. The website is easy to navigate for adults who didn’t grow up using technology as frequently as the younger generations do.
Moreover, in the age of “helicopter parents,” Marcie doesn’t see her website as a way to hover over her children. “It was more about me and what I needed,” says Marcie. “It wasn’t that I needed to (physically) be with my child. I needed to figure out what other parents were thinking too. I thought, ‘Why not have a resource where parents can talk [to one another?]”
What makes this website different from the school websites, Marcie explains, is that this website is consistent between various colleges and universities, it creates a sense of community among parents with college-aged children, and it’s concise (no need to navigate the often lengthy school websites for specific information).
But most importantly, it keeps her relationship with her daughters strong. “Your parent-child relationship is lifelong,” explains Marcie. “How you handle that at each stage is key.”
For more information, visit ParentCampusConnect.com.
– Rosie Conway // Photography by Joel Lerner