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As a student with an LD, my biggest fear in high school was raising my hand in class, and not knowing the answer. But now, especially when I meet with my PAL advisor, I have more confidence and I feel like I'm more prepared to participate in class.

Brandon Traina '11
Major: Criminal Justice

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For Parents of PAL students

Parents of First-Year PAL Students

We are delighted to have your sons and daughters as members of our class of entering new students. Over the years we have had the pleasure of working with thousands of bright, talented students who have come to recognize their academic potential as they develop and understand their strengths. Although many PAL students come to us with a history of academic difficulty, we are continually amazed by the brilliance that they can demonstrate.

Throughout the year, our focus in PAL will be on helping our students to discover their own best strategies for academic success based on an understanding of their strengths. In the learning process, PAL professors will be guiding their students through a series of conversations to identify and evaluate the strategies that are effective for them, based on their learning profiles. Depending on the students' needs, they may be working on developing strategies in listening, speaking, reading, writing, math, time management and/or organizational skills.

College is a major transition - and not just for your son or daughter! As a parent, you've been deeply involved in your student's every developmental stage, including the agonizing college application process. Many of you have been in the driver's seat until recently. Your role is changing now that your student is enrolled at Curry College. It is important to understand the role of the student, the parent, and the PAL professor now that we are all connected in the Curry Community.

Remember when you first had to slide into the passenger seat to let your son or daughter take the wheel and drive on their own? You still kept your eye on the road, sometimes more closely than ever. You still offered advice and counsel, even when it wasn't necessarily welcome. At that point, you were no longer in complete control. Your desire to protect your child had to start giving way to an acknowledgment that, for a child to grow into an adult, he or she has to learn to navigate independently and to ask for directions when appropriate.

At Curry College, we know how difficult this transition can be. We spend a lot of time and energy with your students, helping them to find their way through their college years. The growth and education of these students is our primary commitment. We'd like to share some small pieces of advice that have been passed along to us by parents and students who have preceded you. You can also read some questions parents have asked us, along with some helpful answers.

  • Maintain contact with your son or daughter. Students need to know that you are still there and that you believe in them.
  • But... not too much contact! It's hard, but try not to hover. Your student needs to learn independence. If you are too involved, he or she may take the message that you don't have confidence in them - or may lean on you too much.
  • Figure out the ground rules. Decide, with your son or daughter, how you would like to stay in contact. Will it be by cell phone? Email? Instant messaging? Some combination? You may want to set up an informal schedule for keeping in touch.
  • Don't panic. Your job is to encourage, support, and help guide your student. But don't panic! The first few weeks of college are often a roller coaster of emotions, for you and your student alike. Be prepared to receive the late-night phone call announcing that nothing seems to be going right. Have the confidence to help your student realize that many problems can seem far less challenging after a good night's sleep.
  • Provide counsel. Think of your role as that of a mentor. Listen, support, give advice if asked - but remember that most of the decisions are your student's to make.
  • Seek guidance and support. Many parents find that it is helpful to read books that describe the college transition process and offer helpful tips. We have some suggested readings on this website. Let us know as you come across others, so we can add them to this list!
  • Help your student locate needed resources. Learn about the support available on campus so you can help your daughter or son know where to turn if there is a problem.

Here is some important contact information:

Let us know how we can help. At Curry, our primary contact will be directly with your student. If you have significant concerns about a student's academic, emotional, or social development, we encourage you to make contact with an appropriate resource: an adviser, a member of the PAL faculty, or the Academic Dean's office. We will listen and try to help brainstorm solutions. You're not in this alone!

The Learning Process

The PAL course, entitled, "The Learning Process" is exactly that, a "PROCESS." We are committed to helping our students find the tools they need to be successful through open, supportive conversations on how they learn best. This involves working through the academic year in partnership with an ongoing honest dialogue about the strategies and approaches that can be effective and why. "Metacognition" or "thinking about thinking" is at the heart of this process. Each learner will be asked to identify how s/he most effectively gains knowledge and what must be done to achieve success. To achieve these goals, there are several partners in this process: the PAL professor, the parents, and most importantly, the student.

Student's Role

The student must make a commitment to attending PAL and reporting truthfully about his/her performance in class. Attendance in classes is critical. Students are asked to engage in thoughtful, meaningful reflection on their learning and be willing to work hard to improve their learning. Students should be willing to work with their PAL professor on developing their skills in academic areas, including improving organizational difficulties, reading, written language, etc. including follow through in using and evaluating the strategies that are discussed.

Parent's Role

The parents' role in supporting their son/daughter to achieve independence is to allow the student to take on responsibility for advocacy that they themselves might have done previously. This is sometimes a difficult transition for parents who have been strong successful advocates for their son/daughter. Parents can help by directing their son/daughter to the PAL professor and encouraging the student to use PAL for assistance and guidance. If a student has had difficulty communicating with their PAL professor, parents should encourage the student to contact Janis Peters, the Coordinator of PAL at 617-333-2035.

PAL Professor's Role

The PAL professor is available as a guide and mentor to students through the educational process. The PAL professor operates from a strength-based focus, guiding the student to identify strategies based on his/her strengths. She/he asks guided questions to focus the student on strategies that are likely to succeed. Together, they then assess possible obstacles to success and brainstorm strategies for dealing with the obstacles. Other such "learning conversations" might address goals on the issues of motivation, learned helplessness, and advocacy based on one's strengths. Throughout the year, the PAL professor will be working to develop your son/daughter's own advocacy skills and ability to generate successful strategies based on the goals that are set jointly between the student and the PAL professor.

Questions Commonly Asked by Parents

Will PAL professors regularly contact professors to check on how they're doing?

We rely heavily on student reporting of their needs. If we have reason to suspect that a student's report is untrue, we may seek additional information from the professor; however, it is the student's responsibility to report truthfully about their grades, attendance and performance. Our goal is to develop a student's ownership of his/her learning, and we seek to limit conversations about the student that don't involve him/her. Accurate reporting about attendance in class, and other matters is critical. The college's electronic Academic Alert System provides PAL and other professors with an immediate way to notify the Academic Dean's Office if a student is not attending class or performing poorly. PAL is then notified through this alert system and the issues are then explored carefully by the PAL professor and classroom instructor.

What kind of feedback do students get about their performance in classes?

In addition to grades on returned homework assignments, papers and exams, students will receive feedback on each class through their Midterm Progress Report. This midterm progress report will be sent to the student and his/her academic advisor. Students receive a "S", "U" or "F" indicating that their performance is "satisfactory", "unsatisfactory" or "failing" at the midpoint of the semester. "S" indicates that the student is earning a grade of "C" or higher; a "U" indicates a grade of "C-" or lower (through "D-"); and an "F" indicates a failing grade. This report is sent to parents, only if the student has signed the Information Disclosure Form with the Registrar (

My son/daughter often doesn't realize that she's in trouble, how will PAL support him/her if she genuinely believes that everything is fine?

By requiring that students attend PAL on a regular basis, students are faced with "reality checks" and asked to address issues that they may otherwise be trying to avoid. PAL professors lead students in discussions about their course work that are designed to uncover realistic reflections on their progress. This in and of itself might be a goal established for the semester if this has been a problem in the past. For example, the student might establish a plan with the PAL professor for keeping a record of how she/he is doing on homework assignments or exams.

Will I receive regular communication from the PAL professor about my son/daughter's academic performance?

It is central to our mission that we work with students as emerging adults as a way of developing their acceptance of responsibility. In making the transition to post-secondary education, students will need to serve as the point person for all conversations about them. We try to limit conversation "about" the student and instead have all contact about progress "with" the student. If you would like to speak with your son/daughter's PAL professor, you are invited to initiate such contact, but please note that the PAL professor may wait to return your call until your son/daughter is present when the call is made. At the end of the first three weeks of the semester, parents of first-year students receive an email from PAL indicating the students progress in PAL. Parents also receive an email from PAL at mid-term. Students must sign the Information Disclosure Form before parents can receive this information.

What should I do if my son/daughter tells me s/he is unhappy with PAL?

Please have your son/daughter first speak to their PAL professor about why they are dissatisfied. PAL professors are very open to adjusting the focus of their sessions based on the students' needs. The program is designed to be individualized based on student input, so we encourage feedback. If s/he has already tried this, then have him/her contact the Coordinator of PAL who serves as a liaison between PAL professors and students and can often help in cases where a student feels unhappy with PAL.

Can a student fail PAL?

Yes. Attendance in PAL is essential to success, thus, we warn students that failure to attend PAL on a consistent basis can result in a failing grade for PAL. Attendance is not optional because some students might believe that they "don't need" PAL and can have a false feeling of security about their performance in their classes. This is especially a problem since college courses provide less frequent feedback on performance than high school classes.

My son/daughter is very unmotivated by school. How can PAL help?

Many PAL students appear unmotivated because they have been faced with a series of academic failures in the past. They are fearful of making an effort due to "learned helplessness". We enter into "learning conversations" with our students to help them develop their goals, understand their strengths and feel respected. Often, success is itself a motivator. We believe strongly in the importance of the mentor - an individual who continually validates a students' strengths and makes success seem possible.

What are the common reasons why a student would struggle academically even with PAL support?

There are times when a student does not have a successful semester academically, despite their participation in PAL. There are several reasons why this might occur. The most common reason is if a student has failed to attend PAL on a consistent basis. PAL professors routinely call students to remind them of their scheduled appointments if attendance has been a concern. If despite this, a student does not attend regularly, there is little support that the PAL professor can provide. Another reason is if a student has attended PAL but misrepresented his/her performance and attendance in other classes. As noted above, we rely heavily on the student's report and expect truthful responses. Finally, a third reason is if a student is struggling with significant psychological issues, addiction, or personal crises that are not being addressed by appropriate professional sources outside of PAL. PAL is not designed to provide support in these areas and is unable to work effectively with a student if these are the primary issues affecting him/her.

Is course tutorial provided?

Course materials are used as the springboard for discussions about strategies. Rather than teaching note-taking strategies in isolation, the textbook in a student's course will be used. In helping a student to develop strategies and improve language skills (reading and writing), some course tutorial is folded into PAL. However, in depth tutorial of the content of most courses is not provided. Students should utilize the Academic Enrichment Center (617-333-2248) for both peer and professional tutorial support re: content tutorial.

How often do students meet with a PAL professor?

Students are scheduled to meet with their PAL professor at least twice per week. This time can be divided into a combination of one-to-one, small class, and/or time in pairs depending on the students' choice.

What if my son/daughter wants more time?

PAL professors all have office hours when students can schedule additional assistance on an occasional basis. If a student requires additional time on a regular basis, he/she should utilize the services of the Academic Enrichment Center (617-333-2248) or students can pay for additional private tutorial sessions on an hourly basis after consultation with the Coordinator of PAL.

Final thoughts...

We are always happy to address your concerns or provide any guidance that might be helpful. In addition to the PAL professor, the Coordinator of PAL, Janis Peters at 617-333-2035, or will gladly respond to your contact if you have been unable to reach your son/daughter's PAL professor.

Volunteer - PAL Parents

To volunteer your time helping in our Assistive Technology Center (AT Center), speaking with other parents, or sharing your own expertise with faculty, staff and/or students, either in person or online, please contact:


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