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In a few days, many members of the Class of 2013 will be headed home for fall break, and you can feel the energy in the air. For many this will be the first time they’ve been home since August, and the students are excited about having a break from classes and the comforts of home.
Fresh@news has compiled a list of Tips for Fall Break:
Fresh@News: So what should parents be looking for as they try to get a sense of how their son or daughter is doing as a freshman?
Kathy Byrnes : Generally speaking when we ask how a student is doing we look at a few different things: 1) Is the student adjusting well to the academic expectations of college work? By now the student should have gotten some grades back, and should either be doing work that is at least satisfactory or being proactive about seeking help. 2) Does the student seem to be making some social connections? Everyone expects the students to make a lot of new friends in college and it often happens that way, but for some students it takes a bit of time. It is a good thing if by fall break the student does seem to be talking about at least some new friends. 3) Is the student getting involved with some activities? Some students who have a really rigorous academic schedule hold off on getting involved with activities until they get their feet under them, and that is a good thing. Other students may get over-involved right away and can’t keep up with their work, so that isn’t such a good thing. For most students, however, it is a positive thing if they are involved in at least some structured co-curricular activity over and above their course work and spending time with their friends.
Fresh@News: Here is a question that we hear sometimes: “My son says he LOVES Villanova and that he is having a great time. I'm worried, however, that he is having a terrific time socially but that his grades may be suffering. It isn't that I don't trust him, but I'd like some independent indication of how he is doing academically. How would I get that?”
Kathy Byrnes: This question is not untypical, and it applies equally to young men and women who may be distracted by the social aspect of college. Given the greater freedom of college life, some of our students can be a bit unrealistic about how things are going. The fact that they have fewer tests and fewer graded homework assignments can also mean that they don't get as much feedback on their progress as they got in high school. Occasionally a student also may not be completely up front with their parents about their academic work.
There are several things to watch. The first indication is mid-term grades. Many faculty members post a mid-term grade. These grades are posted on Novasis, which is our student record system, and they are usually available about a week or two after fall break. So if you haven’t heard anything by the end of October, it is a good time to ask your son or daughter since it is more than likely they received most of their midterm grades by then. You might ask your son to show you his mid-term grades on Novasis. Three of the colleges - Arts and Sciences, Business, and Nursing - also send a mid-term warning letter to first year students who are doing poorly in their academic work. These letters are typically sent to the student both at the home address and at Villanova. So, if a letter arrives in October from the Academic Dean, you might ask your child what is in the letter.
Final grades - which come out just around Christmas -- are a definite moment of truth for first year students. Again, they will be posted on Novasis, and so you should check in with your son or daughter about how their grades were. A student who does poorly (generally less than a 2.0) during the first semester is put on academic probation. Most of them straighten out in their second semester. A few who really aren't ready for college work continue to do poorly, and may be asked to take some time off to gain some additional maturity.
Fresh@News: What if a parent hears that their son or daughter is doing okay in classes, but is not that happy with life on campus?
Kathy Byrnes: Once again, it sometimes takes awhile for friendships to solidify. One question to ask is what is the student doing to try to make friends? Is the student reaching out to classmates? … hallmates? … students from the orientation group? If the student lives on campus, another step is to talk to the RA (Resident Assistant) in the residence hall. The RA is trained to be a resource for students, and can refer the student to a variety of services as needed. Some of these services are listed on this resource page for parents: http://www.parents.villanova.edu. Students can also contact their Orientation Counselor (OC). The OC often has many connections throughout campus and can help students navigate some of the ins and outs of campus life. Another avenue is a visit to the Office of Student Development, home of many campus organizations and a great resource for getting involved. Through getting involved, students naturally meet people with similar interests and friendships form.
Fresh@News: Suppose a parent is worried about the student. When is it appropriate to call and whom should they call?
Kathy Byrnes: If there are problems, the first thing for the parent to do is to advise the student to seek help. Generally speaking, the parent should get involved in one of three cases. 1) The student is in trouble but doesn't seem to be reaching out for help. 2) The student has reached out for help, but the issue wasn't resolved. 3) The parent is concerned that the student is not being completely candid about the situation. In those cases, the parent should call either the Dean of Students Office or the University Counseling Center (for personal concerns) or the office of the Academic Dean of the student's particular college (in other words, if the student is in Arts and Sciences, call the office of the Dean of Liberal Arts and Science). These offices are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. While college is a time for students to learn how to manage and navigate their own lives, as a parent you are always welcome to reach out to Villanova when you are worried about your son or daughter.
Fresh@News: Any other general advice for parents?
Kathy Byrnes: Sometimes there is a temptation for parents to want to interrogate their daughter or son, to make sure everything is going well. My suggestion is to be patient, at least at first, and let your son or daughter tell about their experiences in their own way. Of course a few well placed questions can always be helpful too.
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