Your first year student is more than halfway through his/her first semester. Although it may not seem like it, your student is officially on the road to Know Where – as in, to begin to get a sense of what he/she enjoys: academically, socially, experientially, and perhaps even is thinking about future paths.
One of the things our students do not appear to do as much as previous generations is take time to sit quietly and think, reflect. And it might take some prompting to help our students unpack the various parts of their Wake Forest experience. One way to do that is to introduce the idea of a T-chart. It is a very simple process – there is a column for positives and one for negatives, and students can record their ideas in either column as appropriate. The items they list don’t have to be profound or academic – they can cover all areas of their experience. Here is a T-Chart example.
If your students begin to jot out a few ideas every day about things they have liked vs disliked, after a while they might be able to see patterns that emerge. Do they tend to like small group interactions and independent work? Do they thrive on oral presentations and being front and center? Those patterns could help them make future choices about types of classes they wish to take, or experiences they want to have on campus. It can also be helpful if they talk about their T-Chart with a mentor on campus – be that a professor, adviser, administrator they have come to know.
First year students are also becoming painfully aware of pressure they feel to know which major (or minor) they want to choose. Many of them have no idea at this point, and if they are asked by well-meaning friends, advisers, or family members, it can cause great stress and panic. So there is another great tool in the “Road to Know Where” toolbox, and that is the Focus 2 assessments of the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD). This is a set of personal quizzes that help students identify interests, values, and work preferences – which can ultimately suggest not only majors, but possible careers. If your student has not yet become plugged in with the OPCD and learned about Focus 2, you might gently suggest that to them at the Thanksgiving or Winter breaks. The OPCD, by the way, has a year-by-year list of suggested activities for students to help them think through their path from college to career.
Finally, a wonderful resource to help students divine their path is the amazingly rich and varied community in which they are living. Students should talk to other students about classes they are taking, things they enjoy, experiences they have had. As I heard one student very astutely say once “every single person here has something valuable they can teach me if I take time to get to know them.” And as a first year student, it is the ideal time to ask those beginner’s questions – because the rest of the upperclassmen and faculty and staff expect them to need some advice and suggestions.
The Road to Know Where can look scary – but with some deliberate work on your student’s part, he or she can find a path at Wake Forest (and later in life) that is fulfilling and rewarding.