Taking advantage of campus resources makes it easier to survive the first semester.
by Anne Vaccaro Brady
With midterms over, your freshman might realize they’re having some trouble. Provide parental advice, but also direct them to the various resources available on campus. Today, colleges offer more assistance to students than ever before.
Help with classes
No student should be ashamed to ask for help, even if they were an honors student in high school. There are several places where your student can find what they need. You may remember hearing about these at orientation.
Tutoring center The staff usually consists of upperclassmen who received As in the courses many students struggle with. Your freshman should visit regularly, not just once, especially if they must maintain a specific GPA to keep their scholarship or are facing a tough class in their major.
Writing center During several college tours, our guides pointed out the building that housed the Writing Center. Here students receive assistance preparing and completing papers. Some colleges require freshmen to visit at least once a semester. This is the place for students laboring through Freshman English or any other class where they’re required to write a paper.
Roommates, floor-mates and classmates Help can often be found right next door. The English major down the hall can proofread your teen’s sociology paper and your student, the math wiz, can explain the calculus homework. If a lab allows for flexible partners, your freshman should scope out one of the kids who seems to understand the material better than they do. It’s all about learning from each other.
Office hours Professors have them for a reason. Student should use this opportunity to ask questions one-on-one and develop a stronger relationship with their instructors.
Help sticking with a major
Yes, it’s early to be worrying about this, unless your freshman needs to pass required courses or maintain a minimum GPA to continue in the program. Advice isn’t far away.
Academic adviser This is the person who can tell your student whether this is the hardest course they’ll be taking for a while, if they should consider another major or suggest more manageable courses to take second semester to boost their GPA. The adviser can also offer guidance on time management and handling the challenges of freshman year.
Career services center It’s never too early for students to step foot in the career center. Here they can learn what employers look for in a job candidate (how critical is that freshman year chemistry grade) or which majors best fit a teen’s various career choices. Counselors might be able to offer suggestions on potential majors with similar career paths that better suit your freshman’s strengths, weaknesses and interests.
Help with everything else
If the problem is social or psychological, encourage your teen to find help soon.
Counseling center Colleges are stocked with people trained to assist students as they adjust to campus life. They know the difference between homesickness and depression. They’ll get your teen help for mental health issues which can prematurely derail a student from success in college.
Sometimes students just need talk to someone who understands all about the changes and challenges they’re facing.
Resident Advisor (RA) The upperclassman in charge of the floor has been taught to deal with roommate issues and other social problems. Good RAs know how to help freshmen make living with a stranger workable. They can also be a good sounding board for a teen still finding it hard to fit in.
As a parent, you can’t ignore your student’s academic or social issues at college. The best advice I’ve heard came from a professor at my son’s orientation: If you fail one test or one course, don’t give up. See what you did wrong and figure out how to fix it. That could mean learning how to ask for help.
Share your suggestions and experiences with freshman year challenges in the comments section below.