It’s the first week of school. It’s finally real. College is beginning.
So – how can you encourage your students to make the most of their new home, both on campus and in the beautiful town of Winston-Salem? Here’s some advice.
Encourage your students to:
Meet as many people as possible. This is a time where all our first-year students are on the same page: they are all new. The RAs (Resident Advisers) on their halls will be holding hall meetings and planning group activities so they get to know each other and bond. When your students are in their rooms just hanging out, encourage them to leave the door open and encourage their fellow hallmates to pop in and say hello, and vice versa; if they are asleep or out of the room, the room should always be locked! Students should also meet their RAs, Faculty Fellows (faculty and staff assigned to help host events in residence halls and make connections with students).
Keep an open mind. Students will have the opportunity to meet other classmates from different parts of the country and the world, or whose backgrounds are different and unique. Urge your students to meet everyone with an open mind and see what wonderful friendships can develop.
Include others. Look for people on their hall or in their classes who might need a friend or might want an invitation – whether it is to lunch, or to drive to the grocery store or to hang out. Be a good friend to others and they will return the favor.
Explore every inch of the campus. During the first week or so on campus is a great time to explore. Students should get to know locations of buildings, find the Starbucks in the Z Smith Reynolds Library as well as the books and the Reference desk, walk through classroom buildings and find the location of all their classes, eat in every campus dining venue and decide what they like best. The campus borders beautiful Reynolda Village, home to Reynolda House, Museum of American Art (which students can access with their student IDs) as well as shops and great gardens and walking trails. The sooner your students feel like this campus is ‘theirs’ and they know where they are going, the more comfortable they will be.
Try new things. There will be a Student Involvement Fair on Tuesday, September 6th from 3:30-6 pm on the Mag Quad (aka Manchester Plaza). All the student organizations on campus will have tables with email signups to get involved in their organization. Urge your students to find a few organizations to try – whether that is continuing a passion they had in high school or trying something completely different.
Use the first week to plan wisely. Students will need to discover the best way to plan for their new academic lives. For most students, they need to find out the best places for studying – is it in their room? in the library? in a classroom? in an administrative building? – as well as when they do their best studying and homework – is it right after class? am? pm? Once classes begin, students will be asked to follow each class’ syllabus that shows all assignments, papers, tests, and expectations for things like attendance. Those who plan their activities – whether it is paper calendaring system, phone calendar reminders, etc. – tend to fare better and procrastinate less.
Use moderation and restraint in all things. This includes diet, exercise, social life, etc. Encourage your student to be balanced and to exercise good judgment. They should be true to themselves and their values. It is wise for families to talk to their students about expectations about alcohol. Hint: studies show that for parents who speak to their student on Friday, the student exhibits less risky behaviors that weekend. Read more.
Go beyond the ‘Wake Forest bubble.” There is also a wonderful city beyond campus. After your students get over the initial adjustment to campus, they might enjoy taking advantage of some of the restaurants that border campus, or our rich artistic downtown (especially 4th street and Trade street), or Old Salem, or Pilot Mountain. Try Camino Bakery (my personal favorite downtown coffeehouse/hangout!) and go see an artsy movie at a/perture theatre. Get plugged into Smitty’s Notes, which is a local web site that lists activities and events in Winston-Salem. You can recommend some of these resources to your students if they are looking for things to do – and there are many more on the site Visit Winston Salem – and you might want to consider these too for Family Weekend.
How can you help as parents and loved ones?
Understand that there are so many adjustments your students are experiencing right now. The first week can be a big hodgepodge of emotions – excitement, confusion, apprehension, curiosity, exhaustion, homesickness. Your students are making independent choices – often for the first time – about everything. When/what/where do I eat? When/how long do I sleep? What do we do for exercise? For fun? How and where should I spend money? And how much can I spend? When and where should I study? How can I stay organized? How will I get along with my roommate? How/where will I find friends? etc. Students will be thinking about these issues and beginning to sort out their routine in the coming days.
The college adjustment can be a lot to process. So if you speak to your student and he (or she) seems overwhelmed, that might well be true. Help your student understand it is normal to have a period of adjustment, and reassure him that you have confidence in his abilities. Share some of your own college adjustment (or other life adjustment) stories, to help your student gain some perspective.
The University Counseling Center has a great “Tips for Parents” web site; note this also has the slide deck from the Just for Parents session on Friday night of Orientation! And if your student wants additional support or a safe place to talk through his/her emotions during this big adjustment, the University Counseling Center is there to provide free, confidential, high-quality counseling.
Many people refer to college as the best four years of their lives, and we hope your students will love Wake Forest. For some it may be love at first sight. For others it might take time for that love to grow, just as in real life.
Note: This is the first of our series of weekly messages for parents and family members of new students. Please check back on the First Year Families page each week for new messages covering topics your students may be experiencing that week.
For more information on how to contact the Office of Family Engagement, please visit our contact page.
One of the most important ways parents and families can help their students in college is by encouraging them to solve their own problems. Please bookmark or print out this Stop, Drop, and Roll flyer so you have it when your student contacts you with a problem. Also, the flyer lists contact information for urgent and serious concerns where family intervention might be appropriate.
Select information and presentations from Orientation 2016 are available online.