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We realize that the first year is one of great transition, not only for your student, but for you as a family member as well. It's only natural for you to worry about your student's adjustment to college life.
Our hope is that your student adjusts well, achieves much, and enjoys his or her college experience. However, your student may experience some stressors in the first year, and beyond. Know that he or she is not alone: there are common sources of stress that are a normal part of the first-year experience. Your student may be anxious about leaving home, over academic performance and meeting professor's expectations, or the social pressure of developing new relationships with roommates and classmates, fitting in and finding friends. To us, these stressors are consistent and predictable in the first-year experience. They are also very, very real and personal to your student.
Family members of first-year students can employ a number of strategies in minimizing their student's stress. From providing support from afar to encouraging campus involvement, you can help your student successfully navigate the important interactions that have such a great impact on satisfaction and success during the first-year. Persuade your student to take advantage of all the academic resources, clubs and activities and student services on campus. If your student lives on campus, encourage him to get to know his Resident Director, a live-in professional administrator whose full-time presence in your student's hall provides support and engagement opportunities. If your student is a commuter, she can make use of all the amenities and activities offered in the Student Center.
Getting Ready for Your College Student's Transition to the First Year
The college visits are done, the applications submitted, the acceptances received, the decision is made and the deposit is paid. Your student is headed here to Curry in the fall. It's a wonderful - and a stressful - time for everyone. The time between high school graduation in the spring and arrival at college in the fall goes by quickly and yet may seem at times interminable. There is a lot going on.
There are some things that you, and your college student, can do during the summer to make the transition to college go much more smoothly in the fall. This is the beginning of your new role as a college parent - that of a coach or mentor. Summer is a great time to try out the new role:
Understand that this is a stressful time for your student...
Although the stress of the application process and waiting for admission is over, the prospect of heading off to college now seems very real to your student. This will be a summer of tensions and emotions as your student wonders about the unknown, worries about her path, says goodbye to her close friends, and tries out her new independence. Be patient and expect a tough summer. Expect meltdowns. Expect testing of limits. Expect the temper, or the tears, or the silence, or the anger. She may take her conflicting emotions out on you. This is a necessary part of the separation process. Be patient.
Read all of the material we send from Curry...
Start early in the summer to read all of the material that you and your student will be receiving. You probably felt the need to be organized around the application process and you will continue to need that sense of organization this summer. Make lists of paperwork your student will need. Make necessary appointments early in the summer. Fill out required forms. Start lists of things to pack. Take note of what is or is not allowed in the residence hall rooms. Of course, your student may, and should, take care of much of this, but he may need your help to keep on top of everything. Help him get started on the right foot.
Help your student prepare what she can early in the summer...
Will your student need a health check-up? Has she made the appointment? Does she need to visit the dentist? Does she have copies of any necessary prescriptions? Does she have a bank account? Does she know how to balance her checkbook? Will she get a credit or debit card? Have you discussed with her the best way to use the card and who will be paying the bill?
Have some important conversations with your student about expectations...
The transition to college may be easier if you and your student are clear about expectations. Are you both clear about expenses? Who will pay for textbooks? Will you be giving him spending money? Have you and he agreed on spending limits? Credit card limits? Will he be taking a car to campus? Are there any restrictions about using or loaning the car? Do you have any expectations about grades? Will you expect to see them? Are there consequences if grades are poor? Should he call home each week? Will he be coming home often? Have you discussed the tough subjects: alcohol, drugs, sex? The more clear you and your college student can be before he heads off, the fewer issues may come up later.
Attend a summer orientation session...
Your student will be expected to attend a two-day, overnight orientation program for all new students. This will be an ideal opportunity for your student to connect with other new students, learn important information, get a feel for the college, and begin to feel like part of the community. Your student will schedule fall courses and participate in fun and informative workshops.
You will also be invited to attend a parent orientation session. Try to attend. You will learn about expectations, meet other parents, meet key administrators and faculty members, and have a sense of the place where your student will be spending the next several years.
Encourage your student to begin to connect with his new colleagues...
In this age of social media, students are more connected than ever. Summer is an ideal opportunity for students to get to know other new first-year students via these tools. By the time students go to campus in the fall, they may have an entire circle of friends. Students will probably receive roommate information by mid-summer. Your student can contact her roommate and begin to decide who will bring what and to make some plans for their room.
Be patient with your student - and with yourself...
Don't be surprised if your student procrastinates about getting things done such as planning and packing. Things may feel overwhelming. Actually tackling the physical act of packing makes it all seem very real. Many students wait until the very last minute. Try to be patient and understand. Be patient with your student's emotions - and with your own. Remember that this is a transition time for you as well. With some patience, and some planning, and a sense of adventure for a new chapter in both of your lives, you can both enjoy this summer.
College Parents Can Help First-Year Students Overcome Challenges
As your college student heads off for the first year, you know that there will be challenges ahead - both for him and for you. This is a year of transition for everyone. The challenges facing your student will exist in many areas, and you may feel that you will be unable to help him face his challenges if you are not there with him. It is true that your student must do the work of college, but you will provide an important and necessary support system for him as he copes with his new life.
Some students will find reasonable challenges in many areas of their new life, and some students will find smooth sailing in several areas and massive challenges in other areas. In this post, we'll consider nine major areas in which many college students encounter challenges during their first semester transition to college. Parents can consider how they can best help their student gain mastery and independence in these areas:
As college parents, it is easy to feel overwhelmed as we consider the challenges that our students will be facing during their first year of transition. It is important that we arm our students with skills and a positive attitude so that they will be able to overcome challenges as they anticipate them and make some thoughtful decisions. The path may not be easy; there will be rocky times throughout the first year, but we can be especially proud of our students as they move forward to face these challenges.
Academic challenges are anticipated by many, but not all, entering college students. Most students understand that college will be different - and harder - than high school, but many do not realize exactly what those differences will be. College is significantly different from high school. Help your student look at his course syllabi, talk to his teachers, and look carefully at the types of assignments and amount of coursework required. Some of the students who have the most academic difficulty are those students who are taken off guard by the academic differences.
Your college student enters a new social world as he enters college. He begins his college career with a clean slate and will need to recreate his social world. He will need to make new friends, negotiate life with a roommate, and once again be at the bottom of the school hierarchy as a first-year student. Your student will likely feel social pressure to make friends, join groups (official or unofficial), find forms of entertainment, and make decisions about alcohol, drugs, sex, and other social activities. Helping your student anticipate the changes and decisions he will face will help him think carefully about what is important to him.
Challenges of Responsibility
Your college student will be held accountable for herself and her actions in college. She is more likely to be expected to be responsible than she may have been in high school. Students are responsible for their choices and their actions. They are responsible for making decisions about studying, eating, socializing, finances, health, and managing their time. It may be a new experience for your student to be held accountable and not be able to turn to parents to fend for her. You will still be an important source of support and advice to your student, but she will need to assume ultimate responsibility for herself and her actions.
Challenges of Independence
As your first-year student enters college, he takes important steps in independence. He may be living a long distance from home. He may have difficulty adjusting to the many changes of being away. He will make decisions that you, as parents, will not know about. He will need to manage his money, his health, his day to day existence. For many students, who come from close families, this is a major transition. The more that you can do, as parents, to encourage his independence, the sooner your student will become comfortable with his independent status.
College students face several physical challenges because their lifestyle changes so dramatically. Your student may face the dreaded "freshman 15" - the weight gain that so many new college students face from college dining and increased snacking and junk food. Many students who were athletes in high school are no longer playing sports and so are not getting exercise. Students are notorious for their lack of sleep. Students who become ill at school must take care of themselves and/or visit Health Services for care.
Students face decisions about alcohol and drugs. Once again, helping your student anticipate the physical changes he may encounter will help. Encourage him to think about what he eats, to know how to contact health services, to continue to get exercise and try to get sleep. Physical challenges are inevitable, but prepared students are better able to confront them.
One of the biggest keys to success in college is time management. College students spend much less time in class and are expected to do much more coursework outside of the classroom. Coursework is often given in larger chunks rather than smaller daily assignments. Students spend less time in structured activities than they did in high school. Many students have on campus or off campus jobs. Help your student think about how she will keep track of her obligations and assignments, how to break large assignments into meaningful pieces, how to say "no" to activities when she needs to study or sleep. Help her find a good planner or calendar and use it to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and appointments.
Many students who head off to college have not had to cope with general life skills prior to their first year away. Help your student understand how to use a credit card responsibly, how to do laundry, how to balance a checkbook, how to budget and shop for food. Buy him a good alarm clock. Let him practice cooking and doing his own laundry before he leaves home.
Attending college requires an important financial investment - we all know that. Tuition and Room and Board comprise the bulk of the costs, but there are also costs associated with daily college life. In addition to costs each semester for textbooks, students also wish to furnish dorm rooms, snack, eat out, go to movies, shows, concerts, participate in on-campus activities, etc. Help your student think about how he - and you - will handle money. Will you send money? If so, how often? Will your student be responsible for his expenses? Help him learn how to budget. What will happen if he overdraws his bank account or can't pay his credit card? Talk to your student about a plan, and try to make his financial independence a goal toward which you are both working.
The Challenge of Balance
Perhaps by adding up all of the other challenges which entering students face, we realize that success during the first year (or any other year) of college relies on achieving a sense of balance. Help your student realize that he will constantly be juggling. He will need to be flexible. He will need to be aware. He must balance his academics with his social life, his need for sleep with his need for study and/or fun, his desires and his budget, his desire for independence with his need for the security of home, his freedom and his responsibility.
Why You Should Encourage Your College Student to Get Involved?
Most students go to college to learn. Most know, or at least soon discover, that their academic work at college will be different than the work that they did in high school. They are expected to spend more time studying and there is a higher level of thinking demanded. But the college years are also about other kinds of learning. Often much of this other learning happens outside of the classroom. College offers students opportunities to pursue old interests and to discover new interests. Unfortunately, too many college students pass up some of the opportunities that they have in college because they are too focused on either their academic life or their social life. Many worry that getting involved in activities or organizations on campus will distract them from their academic pursuits rather than enhance their academics.
Your college student is learning to find her own path during college. She will need to make her own choices. But as a college parent, you can encourage your student to take advantage of the many opportunities available on campus. Help her think about the benefits of getting involved in groups and activities that the college offers. Here are a few things to suggest that she consider.
Being involved in the things happening at Curry can bring tremendous benefits to your college student. However, as with so many things during these college years, it is important that your student find balance. Participating in some groups at school, and attending activities on campus are important for your student's well-being. But being involved in everything, allowing activities to distract from studies or interfere with a focus on what he wants from life, can be dangerous. Your student will need to ask - "How much is enough?" and "How much is too much?" Your student will need to find the appropriate and comfortable level of involvement.
A hallmark of a Curry College education is our commitment to the individual student. Curry's commitment to its students extends to you as parents and family members.
Your awareness about our academic and co-curricular programs will help you help your student find the challenge or support that can enable and/or enhance a successful college experience. We encourage you to talk with your student about taking advantage of all the academic resources available on campus. Talking with a professor or advisor, using Levin Library, or trying some of Curry's support areas such as the Speaking Center or Academic Enrichment Center are all good ways for your student to find the right guidance and assistance. Learning more about Honors Programs, Internships, and Study Abroad opportunities are good ways for your student to consider enhancing the learning experience.
Visit this section of our website to also stay knowledgeable about new information posted each semester, such as final exam schedules and Dean's List announcements, so you can make plans with your student for end of semester transportation and travel or celebrating milestone achievements!
Parents of current students with academic questions are encouraged to contact an Academic Success Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As parents and family members of a prospective or current student, we encourage you to visit Curry often. Whether you are accompanying your student on the college search process, or joining your student on campus for an event, you are always welcome as an important member of our campus community. We look forward to seeing you on campus soon!