Support Your Student

AU shirts

Transitioning to college can be a challenging time for students and their families - it's scary, empowering and at times, even amusing. Though this can be an exciting time for families, it also changes the roles and family dynamics. Your student may seek more independence, or ask for your advice as they encounter new situations. It can be tough to navigate, but we've put together some ways that you can support your student through their college career.

First-year Student Experience

As your student prepares to come to college, expect nervous excitement from your child. While this new adventure is something your student has been looking forward to, it also comes with a measure of anxiety as your student approaches this new time in life.

Here are some things your child might be experiencing as a first year student:

  • Worry about making new friends and getting along with their roommate
  • Homesickness
  • Struggling with new found freedom - time management challenges
  • Knowing how much time to spend on studying vs. socializing
  • Choosing whether or not to drink alcohol
  • Concern about choosing a major
  • Developing good study habits

How can you help?

  • Encourage your student to utilize the resources available in Campus Life and the Student Success Center to address any issues.
  • The first time students experience a birthday, holiday, or exams without family nearby can be stressful. Care packages or notes of encouragement in the mail are enthusiastically received by students any time of year! Send your student a cookie or care package from Sodexo, or send a package from home.
  • Talk to your student about alcohol use and the dangers of binge drinking before they come to school.
  • Set realistic goals for academics and grades in college. Understand that the increased rigor of college coursework will be an adjustment for your student.
  • If your student is stressed about choosing a major, encourage a conversation with the Student Success Center to help clarify your student’s interests and goals. Advice from family is important, but don’t insist on your student declaring a major.

Sophomore Year Student Experience

As your sophomore student gets ready to return to campus, you may notice that he/she has less anxiety about college in general, but may be feeling the pressure to make decisions regarding a major or a career choice.

Here are some things your student might be experiencing as a sophomore:

  • They are settled in to the social dynamic of college life, and are excited to return to campus to be with friends and their roommate.
  • Sophomore year is a time when students start to spread their wings and get more involved in co-curricular activities.
  • Students may be struggling with issues of identity as they work to establish who they are instead of who others want them to be.
  • New friendships with students in a common major or program might replace initial friendships from their first year of college.

What can you do to help?

  • Encourage your student to attend the Sophomore Retreat offered through the Student Success Center fall semester.
  • Ask questions about different student organizations available that might relate to your student’s professional aspirations.
  • Offer to introduce your student to people in your own network who might have an internship or shadow opportunity available at their place of employment.
  • If your student is still discerning his/her major, encourage them to seek out a conversation with their CAP Specialist in the Student Success Center.
  • Students can use the Academic Planner to chart their course toward earning their degree and planning a study abroad experience.

Junior Year Student Experience

As students enter their junior year in college, they are really hitting their stride. More mature now, they are contemplating their future and whether they will pursue graduate school or a career after graduation.

Here are some things your student might be experiencing as a junior:

  • Students are taking several classes in their major field of study.
  • They are pursuing leadership positions in the organizations to which they belong.
  • Off campus living which often includes managing finances, negotiating a lease, and creating expectations for living with a new group of people.
  • Students often study abroad during this year.
  • Internships and other experiences that help them network with professionals become a priority.
  • They begin to investigate graduate schools, what is required in the application process, and prepare for the tests needed to apply for those schools.

What can you do to help?

  • Have conversations about leases, personal finance, and budgeting with your student.
  • Encourage your student to participate in the alumni mentor program offered through the Student Success Center.
  • Resumes and cover letters being used to apply for internships can be reviewed by your student’s CAP Specialist in the Student Success Center.
  • Ask your student to visit with their faculty academic advisor to review their degree audit to ensure they are on track to graduate.
  • If possible, connect your student with your network to help them with shadowing and informational interview opportunities.

Senior Year Student Experience

Senior year at college can be a bittersweet time for students. They likely approach the new academic year with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. They are enthusiastic about their future, but also sad to think about leaving the community they’ve developed behind.

Here are some things your student might be experiencing as a senior:

  • Increased independence and maturity as they prepare to enter their career or graduate school of choice.
  • A desire to stay connected to classmates after graduation.
  • Reflection on their past four years of college and how it has prepared them for their future.
  • Anxiety about finding a job or getting into graduate school.
  • Uncertainty about their ability to pay back their school loans.

What can you do to help?

  • Express confidence in your student’s ability to find a position or get into graduate school post graduation.
  • Encourage him/her to visit the Student Success Center for guidance in building a resume/cover letter writing/graduate school applications/mock interviews.
  • Tell everyone you know that your student is graduating and will be looking for a position soon. It is often a personal connection that makes the difference in discovering opportunities or getting a foot in the door.
  • Financial Aid exit interviews are an important step in gaining information about loan repayment. Be sure to encourage your student to attend this meeting or schedule an appointment with the financial aid office to learn more.
  • The B.I.G. Job/Teacher Fair takes place in March 2020 and is an opportunity to network and learn about opportunities in the region.