Understanding First Semester Dynamics
At 10 a.m. you receive a text from your student saying college is best time of his/her life. Later that day, your student calls expressing feelings of frustration and anxiety. What's a parent to do? Whether it happens the first few weeks of classes or just prior to finals, most families will receive an emotion-laden phone call, text or e-mail from their students. The student may be in tears or expressing a flurry of fears about one topic or many.
For families, this can be disheartening. But it shouldn't be overly surprising. College can mean freedom, excitement and new experiences. It also can be a time when social, academic, athletic, financial and other challenges affect a student's mental, physical and emotional well being.
Understanding Their Concerns
Many first-year students struggle with areas relating to academic pressure, time management and encounters with sex, drugs and drinking.
Students living in the residence halls may experience roommate conflicts, feelings of no privacy and family separation issues. Commuters may struggle with concerns relating to socialization and balancing college with home life.
Sometimes the frustration leads students to question their own abilities, their choice of academic direction, their sense of belonging, as well as their selection of a university.
Giving Them Time to Adjust
For most students, these doubts are part of the pattern of adjustment that occurs during the first year, most often in the first semester. And while a student might believe dropping out of college or transferring to another institution might solve his/her frustrations, there are often underlying problems and/or temporary conditions precipitating these concerns that can be worked out over time.
As a parent, listening and talking to your student is important in helping him/her work through periods of uncertainty. Likewise, a student should visit BW's Counseling Center, Office of Academic Advising and/or Office of Career Services to gain assistance in addressing areas of concern.
At times, it may be tempting to call or email BW on behalf of your student. But this is not the best way to support your student. Learning to negotiate with a roommate, talk with a professor and utilize campus resources help a student gain self reliance, confidence, communication skills and other attributes beneficial in the workplace as well as in social settings.
Listen: It is easy to get emotionally involved when your student is upset. Sometimes all that is needed is to listen while he/she airs frustrations.
Trust: Offering limited advice and respecting your student's decisions encourages personal growth. If your student makes mistakes along the way, offer support and encourage resilience. After all, college is a time when students not only enrich their minds but also their experiences.
Bond: Every now and then, your student's motivation and self-esteem need a boost. Support your student emotionally, physically and mentally by thoughtfully choosing your words and actions.
Encourage: A range of campus resources are available to assist your student in the areas of academic, social and wellness concerns. If you feel your student needs guidance in resolving issues of transitioning to college life—including behaviors associated with alcohol/drug use, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions—encourage him/her to contact the Counseling Center.
A Major Change
If your student has declared a major, don't be surprised if he/she decides on new one. This is the time freshmen begin questioning their choice after seeing the scope of majors offered. Your student can talk with his/her academic advisor or visit the Academic Advising Office.