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The First Six Weeks: What to Expect (From the Division of Student Affairs)

08/01/2011


The First Six Weeks: What to Expect (From the Division of Student Affairs)

Transitioning to college can be difficult - not just for the student, but the entire family as well. Your student will go through many ups and downs during the first semester, and we want to help you be prepared for the phone calls, emails, and text messages you will undoubtedly receive over the next few months.

It takes the typical student about six weeks to get into the groove of college, and to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Throughout those six weeks, we see students struggle with the following situations most frequently:

  • Homesickness and Fitting In
  • Classroom and Roommate Issues
  • Boundary Issues
  • Exploring Independence

Homesickness and Fitting In

No matter what your student may be saying to you right now, they will certainly feel homesick when they first arrive at college. Your student will be surrounded by people and situations that are new and, for the first time for many of them, they will be "in charge" of navigating their own experience. Our advice: allow your student to find themselves. At the height of their discomfort, they may call you and want to come home. If it is early in the semester, we encourage you to have your student stay here, especially if it is the first weekend. All of the new students will be in the same boat. They will all be awkward and unsure, and it is the only time over the next four years that they will all be that way together. The College has planned activities specifically to help them connect with other students over the first weekend to help them get through it.

What do you do if your student continues to be homesick or feels like they don't fit in? Ask them about what they are doing out of class. If they aren't participating, suggest that they check out the Campus Life website and visit "The Nest" to see what is offered on campus. Students who live on campus can partake in a variety of activities and programs scheduled by the residence hall staff. Additionally, students may have the opportunity to participate in academic experiences with their faculty outside of the classroom.

If you are still concerned about your student's transition, or if they seem to be significantly out of character, suggest that they meet with one of our counselors in the Wellness Center. Many students seek and receive help with their transition while they are here. Your student can also talk to their PA (Peer Advisor), RA (Resident Assistant, a peer) or RD (Residence Director, a professional staff member).

Classroom and Roommate Issues

Your student may contact you with stories about life in their room or in their classes; take heart, we find many of the issues have reasonable solutions. The difficulty may be that it's the first time your student has to advocate for themselves and be involved in finding the solution.

Communicating clearly with a roommate upfront helps eliminate problems and misunderstandings as the semester progresses. We concentrate our work with residential students on establishing roommate relationships from the first day the students arrive. Your student will be required to fill out a roommate agreement when they first get here. Later in the semester, roommates will review the agreement to make sure it is still relevant, or if changes need to be made now that they have lived together.

What do you do if your student is having roommate issues? Ask your student if they have talked to the RA. If not, that is the first step. If they aren't comfortable for any reason talking to the RA, the student needs to talk with the RD of the building who can help the student make a plan. Typically, room changes aren't granted without making an effort to solve the issue with a roommate contract review, room meeting, roommate mediation, or some form of communication between the roommates first. This is why it is so important for your student to speak up at the beginning of the problem.

What do you do if your student is having a classroom issue? Encourage your student to talk to the instructor directly. Each academic department has a department head. If your student needs more help, the second step is to make an appointment to see the department head. Your student can also contact the Writing or Math Center or contact the Office of Academic Affairs to inquire about tutoring.

Boundary Issues

Your student is coming from a place where people know them. They are surrounded by people who have come to understand their boundaries. Their friends know what is ok and what is not ok when dealing with anything from what they borrow from one another, to what words they use with each other, to how they treat each other physically, and to how they look out for one another. Students don't always understand that coming into a new community means having to reestablish boundaries, and that being "friends" on Facebook does not always mean those people have an understanding of how they will want to be treated. Your student will need to be clear about what is acceptable and what isn't for all facets of their experience here. They need to be comfortable saying, "No, that's not ok," when they are in an uncomfortable situation.

How do you support your student's development of boundaries? Talk to your student about the need to establish those boundaries once they come to campus. Talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Encourage your student to think about how they expect to be treated and how they will treat others. Being fearful of the reaction to saying "that's not ok with me" often stops students from expressing what they want. Help your student understand that it is about their comfort and safety first. Leave yourself open to hearing about boundary exploration with advice, and not judgment. If your student is involved in an uncomfortable situation and they would like to discuss it, there are a variety of campus resources they could use:

For concerns of a personal nature or to discuss boundary concerns:

  • The Wellness Center (585) 385-8280
  • Residential Life Office (585) 385-8281
  • Assistant Dean of Students Office (585) 385-8281
  • Safety and Security (585) 385-8025/(585) 385-8111 (emergency)
  • Campus Ministry (585) 385-8368

For safety or security issues:

  • Safety and Security (585) 385-8025/585-385-8111 (emergency)
  • Student Conduct (585) 385-8007
  • Assistant Dean of Students Office (585) 385-8281

Exploring Independence

For many of our students, this is the first time they are living away from home. They will regularly face decisions and situations that are new to them and negotiating these situations isn't always easy. Students need to make choices and have experiences that are new and can allow them to grow. Exploration helps them figure out who they are, what they stand for, and what they can't stand.

One of the College's goals is to help your student transition into a responsible adult who is able to live independently. And that means that while they are here, students are responsible for meeting the College's expectations. You will not get information about their academics or behavior, or deadlines and due dates. The responsibility is now squarely on your student's shoulders.

How can you support their emerging independence? Students bring with them everything that you have taught them and they use that information when making decisions. That is why it is so important to be clear with your expectations for your student's academic performance and behavior while at college. We find that if students don't know what your standards are and what the consequences might be, they fear the worst and are less likely to share when they are struggling.

You will not receive academic reports from the College; however, your student has access to their own grades. As a new student, they will receive mid-term grades in mid-October. Ask your student to share their grades. Ask them to show you their papers and projects. Just because they are in college doesn't mean they don't like to have their good grades displayed on your refrigerator anymore! If your student is struggling, there are many avenues for help. Your student should contact the faculty in the class(es) that are of concern and ask for extra help.

Behaviorally, safety is of utmost importance and, in a community environment, having strong behavioral expectations is paramount to everyone's wellbeing and safety. In addition to your standards, you can review the College's expectations with your student before they arrive on campus.

We know that this transition will vary for every student. We hope that the information above helps you work with your student on their transition and helps you put the transition into perspective. For those of you who attended Great Beginnings, our message to you was, "Help us help your students, help your students help themselves." We hope you found this message beneficial. If we can be of any assistance to you, please contact us. We're here to help!


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