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Transitioning to College

Typical Issues for First Year Students: How You Can Help
Every student is different. Each student will experience a different range of emotions and issues as they pursue their education. The following list highlights some of the more common experiences of students and some suggestions for parents on how to support your student through these challenges.

  • Academics
  • Cost & Money
  • Independence
  • Social
  • First Generation

Academics

Student experience: The semester pace often starts out slowly and speeds up quickly
How you can help: During your regular conversations, ask your student what the class workload is like and what events (tests, papers, etc.) are approaching on class syllabi.


Student experience: Trouble finding the right study system (note-taking strategies, study groups, study locations, etc.)
How you can help: Remind them that Avila has a Learning Center to help students with their study skills.


Student experience: Improving critical thinking skills (it’s not all memorization and recall anymore)
How you can help: Ask them what they think about what they are learning, not just what they have learned.


Student experience: First paper / test returned with a grade lower than they had expected or hoped for
How you can help: Help your student set realistic expectations for college level work.


Student experience: Pressure of grades going into midterms; especially strong for students who are required to maintain a particular grade point average for sports or scholarships
How you can help: Ask them how they feel about their classes, not just how they are doing in them.


If you have similar experiences to share, share them. Students always like to be reminded that their parents are “human” too.



Cost & Money

Student experience: Balancing the value of a college education with the cost
How you can help: Discuss goals and professional aspirations with your student. Help your student explore whether these goals are attainable without a college education. This is generally a good way to help students better appreciate the value of their education.


Student experience: Working while going to school: 8 out of 10 college students work while completing their degree; working part-time is positively associated with high academic performance and completion of education; and working full-time is positively associated with is continuation of educational pursuits
How you can help: Discuss time management strategies. You might want to recommend that your student seek time management assistance on campus through the Learning Center, an academic advisor, or by attending a workshop on the topic.


Student experience: Budgeting their money and responsible use of credit. College students are bombarded with offers from credit card companies and often receive credit offers far in excess of their means $$$
How you can help: Help your student develop a budget that is realistic for income and expenses. Encourage your students to become aware of realistic spending habits. The website www.finaid.org helps students look at their spending of today in light of their future anticipated earnings.


If you have similar experiences to share, share them. Students always like to be reminded that their parents are “human” too.

Independence

Student experience: Homesickness. For many students this improves as they become more involved in the college environment. Even if they won’t mention it, they miss the comforts of home
How you can help: Listen, offer support and suggestions, encourage honest communication, encourage use of services of Resident Assistant (RA), Residence Director (RD), Learning Center, Counseling Center, etc.


Student experience: They are struggling with “starting over”. They were big fish as seniors and have to return to being little fish as first-year students in college
How you can help: *****


Student experience: Learning to manage their own time, money and health (staying up late, eating junk food, learning study skills, etc.)
How you can help: Discuss making responsible choices, consequences, and taking responsibility.


Student experience: Making life choices about issues such as alcohol, sex, drugs, etc. Many students state that they have had encounters with these issues in high school, but are forced to look at them in a different light in college
How you can help: Discuss making responsible choices, consequences, and taking responsibility. Encourage your student to make choices for him/herself. Discuss setting boundaries in all aspects of life.


Student experience: Feeling guilty/bad for not being home during a special family event or a family crisis; Feeling like they are “out of the loop” with family related decisions and routines
How you can help: Don’t try to hide family situations from your student. Prepare the student and the family members for events that will be different. A student going away from home changes things. Be open and honest in communications. Expect changes in your student and your family dynamics.


Be open and honest in communications. If you have similar experiences to share, share them. Students always like to be reminded that their parents are “human” too.

 

Social

Student experience: Trouble finding a new group of friends; Changing dynamics of relationships with a significant other or close friends back home. These relationships will change and might even end. This can be a very unsettling situation for a student that hasn’t found a new circle of friends at school
How you can help: Remind your student that friendships take time and effort, but that being involved in hall activities and student organizations, forming study groups, etc. can help speed up the process.


Student experience: Trying on a new “self” with new looks, foods, habits, friends, personas, etc.
How you can help: Discuss the importance of seeking balance between finding a comfort zone and pushing to meet others.


Student experience: Struggling to identify who they are and what they want from life
How you can help: Discuss self-exploration as a natural part of determining “who you want to be when you grow up,” and that everyone will approach this differently.

If you have similar experiences to share, share them. Students always like to be reminded that their parents are “human” too.

 

First Generation

Student experience: Fear they are becoming “different” than the rest of their family
How you can help: Know that a student’s respect for their family usually grows during college as they begin to more fully understand the sacrifices and challenges that you have experienced. Remember that most students usually do not stray far from their family’s value system.


Student experience: Concern that the family doesn’t understand why they have chosen to attend college
How you can help: Ask your student to explain what it is like at college so you can gain a better appreciation of what the typical college student day is like.


Student experience: Loneliness – fear that nobody at home understands what it's like
How you can help: Ask your student to explain what it is like at college so you can gain a better appreciation of what the typical college student day is like.


Student experience: Financial guilt. Students may fear that they are “taking” money from other family endeavors. Or, if a student is financially responsible for their educational costs, they may be struggling to balance work and class commitments
How you can help: *******