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How can I help my student with college transition?

LISTENING and PROBLEM-SOLVING

Be empathetic and encourage the student to talk if he/she seems troubled.  Sometimes they just need you to listen, while at other times they don’t know how to go about solving their problems and could use more guidance. Clarify which it is.

  • Ask questions to help your student define what the problem is.
  • Encourage them to brainstorm possible solutions and remind them of resources available to them.
  • Encourage them to weigh possible solutions, anticipate the positive and negative outcomes of each and
    select a plan of action.
  • Follow-up: they may need lots of support before they feel equipped to act.

COMMON FIRST YEAR STUDENT CONCERNS and ISSUES

Academics

Students have to adjust to the difference between high school and college academic expectations and sometimes underestimate the effort it will take to do well. Some students are uncomfortable with the fact that they may not get their first grade until halfway through the semester. Often students struggling with academics fail to act or act quickly enough to remedy the situation. How to help: Ask them how they are doing academically and probe for more than “OK”. If they seem to be having difficulty, encourage them to talk to their professor or academic advisor. Encourage them to seek tutoring through the Tutoring and Academic Enhancement Center.

Relationships

Most students will miss their old friends at first and many have left behind a “significant other”. They may feel homesick and tempted to return home on weekends. They are worried about fitting into a brand new environment and whether or not they will make new friends. How to help: listen, emphasize, and remind them that they are not the only ones making this transition and that homesickness is common. Encourage them to discuss their feelings with others such as their roommate or Community Advisor. Urge them to try staying at school over the weekends- perhaps you can visit them at TCNJ instead. E-mail to stay in touch. Encourage them to explore new activities.

Decision-making

Students will have much more freedom to determine how they use their time, and how they plan to act when faced with decisions about using alcohol or drugs or becoming involved in intimate relationships. The College is very clear in communicating their policies regarding these issues and if policies are violated, it will hold the student accountable for their actions and encourage healthier decision-making in the future.

How to help: Discuss your expectations and that of The College. Encourage them to attend educational programs related to alcohol, relationships and personal safety. Remind them of resources on campus.

Living with a Roommate

Living with a roommate and using a bathroom shared by 25 other students is a new experience for most students. Many don’t want to “rock the boat” and discuss issues of concern with their roommate, hoping any problems will just go away. Some expect to be best friends
with their roommate and are upset of this expectation is not mutual.

How to help: Encourage them to be honest in roommate contract decisions (setting boundaries/clarifying expectations) and to communicate honestly with their roommate. Refer to the CA if they are experiencing difficulty. Advise them to act sooner rather than later.  Remind them that The College will expect them to try to work out problems before resorting to a roommate switch.

Managing Finances

Many students have not had to budget funds before starting college. Others get credit cards for the first time and have difficulty setting limits and avoiding debt. How to help: Discuss budgeting and help them create a budget. Discuss your expectations regarding the use of any credit cards. Encourage them to attend programs on financial management & avoiding debt.

Navigating the College System

Students may be new to accomplishing things for them selves,  particularly in a large administrative system. They might not know where to go for information or  assistance, frequently don’t read important materials carefully or fail to meet critical deadlines. They may feel intimidated by the bureaucracy of a large system and feel frustrated navigating within it.

How to help: Listen and help them define what they want to accomplish and identify the appropriate office and staff to visit. Encourage them to act sooner rather than later. Advise them to take notes on what they are informed of and note the person with whom they spoke.

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