The first few month of college can be tough: How to handle the frantic (or grumpy or lonely) calls home
Associate Dean of Students
Associate Dean of Students
October is here. The days are getting shorter, the weather's getting colder, and the first colds and flus of the season are beginning to appear. During Summerstart, we shared with you that when the going gets tough, students often call, text, or email home.
To help you better prepare for that first frantic phone call, e-mail, or text message, we've pulled together a few common concerns that families of first year students might hear (adapted from "A Parent's Guide to Freshman Year Woes" by Frank Rizzo, Associate Vice President and Dean for Student Development at Marymount College):
Concern #1: "There's nothing to do here."
Western offers a diverse array of student clubs and organizations, social and cultural events, intramural and intercollegiate sports, outdoor center excursions, and volunteer service opportunities. From the Board Game Club and Latino Student Union, to the Viking Band and Human-Powered Submarine Team, there's something for everyone! If your student isn't sure where to start, encourage her to talk to her orientation student advisor, resident advisor, the AS club coordinator, or staff in Student Outreach Services or the Dean of Students office. Information on getting involved and events on campus is also available in "ThisWeek@WWU," a weekly email sent to all new students.
Concern #2: "I can't stand my roommate."
For first year students who aren't used to sharing a room, living with a roommate is often a life-changing social experiment. Having a roommate can be an opportunity to forge a great friendship, as well as to learn and practice important interpersonal skills like negotiation, compromise, and conflict resolution. If you student calls home and says he can't live with his roommate one more minute, don't overreact; encourage him to talk to his roommate or his resident advisor. Often, both roommates want the relationship to be better but aren't sure where to start. One exception: If your student raises serious concerns about a roommate's behavior or feels unsafe in the room, encourage him to seek immediate help from his resident director or staff in the Residence Life office.
Concern #3: "I'm having a hard time making it to my 8 a.m. class."
Ask any faculty member and they'll tell you: Students who attend class more frequently earn better grades. Students, however, often struggle to make it to early morning classes, especially during the cold, dark days of fall and winter quarter. If your student has an early morning class, encourage her to go to bed at a reasonable hour on weekdays and set her alarm clock (or schedule a wake-up call on Snoozester) to get up half an hour early. A shower, quick breakfast, or cup of coffee can help students get moving, and make the difference between making it to that 8 a.m. class… or not.
Concern #4: "There's nothing to eat on campus."
Western's cafes, markets, and dining commons offer a wide range of food options, from burgers and pizzas to salad bars and full, hot meals. If your student has special dietary needs, he can work with Western's registered dietician or the executive chef, Patrick Durgan, to make sure those needs are met. Additional information is available on the University Dining Services website .
Concern #5: "Nobody told me I had to start working on my final paper before the last week of class."
Early in every college course, students receive a syllabus. This document outlines faculty members' policies and expectations for the class, including readings, homework assignments, tests, and papers… often with specific deadlines. Encourage your student to become familiar with the syllabi for her classes, keep them handy, and refer to them often. Also, urge your student to be proactive; if she's unsure when the next big test or paper is, she should ask. If procrastination or time management becomes an ongoing issue for your student, encourage her to take advantage of campus resources that can help: the Tutoring Center, the Counseling Center, or the Academic Advising Center.
Concern #6: "I don't know what major to choose!"
Choosing a major can be a difficult process; national studies estimate that the average college student changes their major three times. It's not uncommon for first-year students to seem unsure about their career path… even those who come to college with very specific goals. Encourage your student to work with the Academic Advising Center to begin to explore his options. It's also never too early to visit the Career Services Center; they offer a wide variety of resources to assist students in clarifying their academic interests, identifying skill sets, and exploring possible careers.
Concern #7: "I'm really sick and don't know what to do."
Western's Student Health Center is a primary care medical clinic, staffed by a team of nurse practitioners, physicians, and registered nurses. The health center is open for same-day appointments Monday through Friday. After hours and on weekends, a consulting nurse is available to all students by phone at 1-800-607-5501. If your student lives on campus and is sick, encourage her to talk to her resident advisor, who can help students arrange for transportation to the health center or hospital, if needed. If your student is too sick to go to the dining commons, a sick tray can be requested by calling 360-650-6851 for Fairhaven Commons, 360-650-3943 for Ridgeway Commons, or 360-650-2983 for Viking Commons.
It's not uncommon for freshmen to struggle as they make the adjustment to college. The best gift you can give your emerging adult through this process is to listen, be supportive, expect a few bumps in the road, and encourage your student to stick it out and work it out. If other issues arise, or you're not sure how to advise your student, give us a call or e-mail us. Two great places to start: New Student Services and Family Outreach (360-650-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Dean of Students Office (360-650-3706 or email@example.com).