September 20, 2012

How University of South Carolina's parents weekend has changed

University of South Carolina annual weekend to host parents is offering more opportunities to learn about campus life than just a Gamecocks football game.

University of South Carolina students better be on their best behavior this weekend: the parents are in town.

Nearly 2,300 families will attend USC’s three-day parents weekend that kicks off Friday.

And there’s more of them -- registration is up 20 percent from last year, the school said.

Parents weekend has transformed in the past five years from a chance to visit students, perhaps meet the president and seeing a football game to learning more about the entire campus experience.

“Parents just really are engaged in their kids’ college these days,” said Jerry Brewer, USC's associate vice president for student affairs.

A one-page schedule with five events has become a nine-page brochure with more than 75 events, said Melissa Gentry, who has led parents weekend planning since 2007.

This weekend, parents can attend: European civilization, calculus and ocean environment classes; educational sessions on avoiding the sophomore slump, living off campus and learning about the South; and receptions featuring gourmet food made by students and a beach with Southern food and music.

They also can run in a 5K, watch a fashion show, tour the career center, learn about study abroad programs -- and still go to a football game. The tailgate before the game against Missouri is expected to draw more than 5,000 parents and students.

“I felt like parents were spending the time to travel here and should be able to experience as much as the university has to offer them,” Gentry said.

New for this year is a class on helping students cut down on stress, a service project where parents can help with a community garden and a smartphone app for a campus scavenger hunt that offers prizes.

The weekend is drawing parents from 38 states and England. More than 75 percent of the parents are coming from out of state, the school said.

“We’re a hot market," Brewer said. "People love to visit us. It’s a lot of fun visiting campus.”

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