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[Fresh] FRESH@News: Fall Break!


In a few days, many members of the Class of 2018 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 the comforts of home and to have a break from classes.

Fresh@news has compiled a list of Top 5 Tips for Fall Break:

1.     Don’t be offended if they spend the first 30 minutes they are home exclusively with the family dog. They miss them too, and Fido doesn’t have a cell phone for them to send text messages to, so they really need to catch up.

2.   When you inquire about their courses, be sensitive that they have likely just completed a mid-term exam, paper, or project (or all 3!) and might be less excited than usual to talk about classes after what may feel like academic overload.

3.   “Going home” for students typically extends beyond your physical residence.  What they miss about home often encompasses family, friends, and FOOD!  Have their favorite meal for dinner this week, or treat them to dinner at a favorite restaurant. No matter how much they like the food on campus, they like something you’ve prepared so much more!

4.   Don’t structure ALL their time while they are home. As much as they look forward to visits with their family, they are also hoping to connect with friends and catch up on sleep.

5.    Remember that they have spent seven weeks on their own, and it might be a good idea to talk with them about your expectations while they are home, which may include waking up before noon, telling you when they will be home at night, picking up after themselves, and so on. Sometimes parents think everything will be as it was in high school, while the student has developed a new routine with new habits. It’s good to have a conversation before an issue comes up.


After spending time with your student, a big question that many parents will have is: “How is my son or daughter doing at college?”  Fresh@News has asked Ms. Kathy Byrnes, Associate Vice President for Student Life, to provide some perspectives.

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 students 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 seems to have at least some new friends, and seem to have a positive peer network on campus. But a student really needs to have patience in developing friendships. It takes time to really to get to know others and college friendships will not yet be as close as high school friendships.  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 adjust to their academic load, and that is a smart move.  Other students may get over-involved right away and can’t keep up with their work, which is not optimal.  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 social down time. Getting involved in something they are passionate about can often invigorate a student’s positive attitude about completing academic work, expand their social circle and make them feel more confident and comfortable with their experience. If they are not involved with any co-curricular activity yet, a parent may ask whether they have thought about getting connected in this way.

F@N:  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?”

KB: This question is not uncommon, and it applies to many new students 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 closely. A good place to start is to ask them how they are doing on any tests or papers they’ve had.  They may not yet have graded work in all of their classes, but they will have some grades. Don’t be afraid to ask specifics.  If they say, “I’m doing fine,” ask them what grade “fine” is. While a “C” is a passing grade, a student should be aiming higher. The next indication is mid-term grades. Many faculty members post a mid-term grade. These grades are posted on myNova, which is our student record system, and they are usually available about a week 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 mid-term grades by then. You might ask to see the mid-term grades on myNova. Some of the colleges also send a mid-term warning letter to first year students who are doing poorly in their academic work. These communications typically include resources available and helpful ways to focus on success for the remainder of the semester.  So, if a letter arrives in October from the Academic Dean, you might ask your child what information 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 myNova, 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 improve their second semester.  Learning Support Services is a great place to consult when classes are not going as well as they should be. Students who continue to do poorly for a second semester may be asked to take some time off to gain some additional maturity.

F@N: What if a parent hears that their son or daughter is doing okay in classes, but is not that happy with life on campus?

KB:  Once again, it sometimes takes a while 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 their orientation group? Is the student spending too much time keeping up with friends from home, rather than spending time making new friends at school? 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. RAs also offer “community builders” in the hall to help students connect with one another. 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. They are also happy to help parents directly as well; if you would like to talk to your son or daughter’s OC, but don’t have the contact information, just email us at parents@villanova.edu and we will be happy to put you in touch with them.  Another avenue is to encourage them to visit the Office of Student Development, home of many campus organizations and a great resource for getting involved. As you are likely aware, service is a popular activity on our campus, and there are several ways for them to volunteer and start to branch out.  Through getting involved, students naturally meet people with similar interests and friendships form.

F@N:  Suppose a parent is worried about the student. When is it appropriate to call and whom should they call?

KB: 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, or 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 Sciences). 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. If you have any questions or are confused as to where to start, please email parents@villanova.edu and we will be happy to point you in the right direction!

F@N: Any other general advice for parents?

KB: While students say one of the biggest adjustments of the first year is the independence, they may seem more independent to you than you are expected.  Talk about both their new experiences as well as expectations while at home. There can also be the 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 open-ended questions can always be helpful too. Enjoy your time with them and try to do something fun together while they are home.




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