Skip Navigation

Family Handbook

Family walking on campus

We are very pleased that your daughter has made the decision to attend Smith College. We believe that Smith offers a wonderful opportunity for learning and engagement. We hope this handbook can help you find answers to your questions as you embark on the journey of being the parent of a college student.

Family Support for Students

In your daughter’s first year of college, she will pursue new interests, begin to evaluate ideas and beliefs and question or challenge the values you hold dear. Often, the changes experienced by first-year students occur quickly as new relationships are made, competence in new areas is gained and independence grows. Your understanding and availability are vital to this process. Maintaining a supportive relationship with her can be critical to success in college, particularly during the first year.

Your daughter should learn who to contact when questions or concerns arise about her college experience, including class deans, academic advisers, financial aid officers and residence life staff. Please review the referral guide below. With your help, your daughter will learn how to handle difficult decisions—one of the most critical skills learned during the college years.

Family Referral Guide


Daughter Should Contact: Professor, Class Dean, Academic Adviser
Try to determine the extent of the problem. Is it one class or several? Encourage your daughter to be honest about her current situation.

Academic Problems

Daughter Should ContactClass Dean, Academic Adviser
Class deans and advisers are committed to helping students succeed. Either one will be able to guide her in the right direction.

Excessive Alcohol Use

Daughter Should ContactWellness Education DirectorHealth Services
Try to determine the extent of abuse. Encourage her to seek professional help. This problem can be a tough one for parents to handle alone.

Cars on Campus and Parking Tickets

Daughter Should ContactCampus Police
First-year students must not bring a car to Smith expecting to be able to park legally on campus or on city streets. If your daughter does bring her car, you should have a clear understanding at the beginning of the semester about how parking tickets will be handled.

Death or Serious Illness in the Family

Family or Daughter Should ContactDean of StudentsClass DeanDean of Religious Life
We can help you in many ways, including locating your daughter in class if need be, helping to make arrangements for travel home, etc.

Financial Aid and Billing Issues

Daughter Should ContactStudent Financial Services


Daughter Should ContactAssociate Dean of StudentsResidence Life StaffCounseling Services
Everybody gets homesick. At the beginning of the semester, determine when visits home will be scheduled and when you might be able to visit campus (Family Weekend is a good time). Encourage your daughter to get involved. Keep in mind that the busier she is, the less time she has to feel homesick.

Illness of Student

Daughter Should ContactHealth ServicesClass Dean
Encourage your daughter to go to Health Services for treatment.

Leave of Absence

Daughter Should ContactClass Dean, Academic Adviser
If your daughter is thinking of taking a leave of absence or might require a medical leave of absence, her class dean will guide her on how best to complete this process.

Deciding on a Major

Daughter Should ContactClass Dean, Academic Adviser, Faculty
Students are required to declare a major in the second semester of their sophomore year, but the first year of college is not too early to begin exploring interests, skills and values.

Registration Issues

Daughter Should ContactRegistrarClass Dean

Roommate Conflicts

Daughter Should ContactArea DirectorHead Resident
Encourage your daughter to take time to work through conflicts. Discuss the educational value of learning to get along with people who are different from her.


Daughter Should ContactCampus PoliceResidence Life Staff
Smith College is a safe place, but students need to be reminded that they are not invincible. The Residential Life Staff offers tips on personal safety and security of property.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can families participate in the advising and registration process?
Families should not attend advising sessions with their daughter, as she may be more likely to express family expectations rather than personal interests regarding classes and majors. College is often one of the first steps in becoming more independent, and Smith College hopes to foster that in many ways, including through individualized advising.

What resources are available for struggling students?
The instructor of the course your daughter is struggling in and her class dean are the best sources of help. Students can talk with instructors before or after class, visit them in their office, contact them via email, or leave a note in their office mailbox. Class deans are available either by making an appointment or attending their walk-in hours.

Where is assistance available for students with disabilities?
The Office of Disability Services coordinates programming for people with disabilities, as mandated by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The office provides free and appropriate academic aids and services, including the use of assistive equipment, reader and sign interpreter services, special test proctoring services, academic support and counseling assistance specific to disability issues, and more. Disabilities Services also serves the campus community as an advocate and resource on all disability-related issues.

Is it advisable for students to be employed while taking classes?
Studies show that most students who work a modest amount each week perform better in school. Many students receive a work-study award as part of their financial aid at Smith. Students work in positions both on and off campus that not only give them the opportunity to earn some money for expenses but also help them to engage more fully in their college experience. In most cases we recommended that students not work more than 12 hours per week.

Where can information be found on loans, grants and scholarships?
If you are concerned about how to finance your daughter’s education, the Student Financial Services Office will assist you. Smith College uses grants and scholarships, loans and part-time campus employment, either singly or in combination, as the means to provide financial aid.

Why are parents and other family members not informed of a student’s grades?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) mandates that once a student is 18 years old, information from the student record cannot be shared with others, not even parents, without written consent from the student. The only exception is directory information (telephone extension, box number).

Most students want to discuss their academic progress with their families. Families are encouraged to consult with their daughter regarding courses and grades.

Source: Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Is health insurance available for students?
All Smith College students are required to have health insurance, either through your family policy or through the Smith College plan.

What is the First-Year Experience?
The First-Year Experience begins with orientation and continues through the year with first-year seminars, lectures, workshops and special outings with faculty and staff. This program helps to ensure that new students become academically engaged, connect early with other students, faculty and staff, make friends and learn about campus life.

Common Smith Acronyms

AASC: Alumnae Association of Smith College

AC: Area Coordinator

CCC: Center for Community Collaboration

CDO: Career Development Office (The Lazarus Center)

CIEC: Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center

CSO: Community Service Office

FLEX: Global Faculty-Led Experiences

GSC: Global Studies Center

HCA: House Community Adviser

HONS: Head of New Students

HP: House President

HR: Head Resident

ITS: Information Technology Services

ITT: Indoor Track and Tennis Facility

JB: Judicial Board

JMG: John M. Greene Hall

JYA: Junior Year Abroad

HB: Honor Board

LOA: Leave of Absence

NEWMAC: New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference

PVTA: Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (bus line)

SAA: Student Academic Adviser

SGA: Student Government Association

SSW: Smith College School for Social Work

WCL: Wurtele Center for Leadership