This blog post has been minimally edited to reflect 2017 information.
There’s lots of activity over the summer for incoming students and their parents. Roommate assignments will soon be sent out, and students have registered for the first 12.0 hours of their schedules. They’ll now be filling out their Course Preference Surveys, which will help the Dean’s office and the Registrar’s office know the types of courses they hope to take for the remaining portion of their schedule.
We are also in the midst of New Student Receptions season. We hold these receptions in areas where we have a strong concentration of incoming students, and I have been delighted by all the students and parents I have met – they all are eager and excited, and have great questions. We do get some recurring topics of conversation and themes at these receptions, and I wanted to share some of them here:
Roommates – first bit of advice is to communicate with them (by email certainly, but phone as well). Establishing good, open communications is critical. Talk about who is going to bring what to the room (so there aren’t two TVs, etc.), but also get to know each other. And resist the urge to Google or Facebook stalk the roommate and worry about any photos, opinions, etc. that differ from yours or your student’s. Many of the things students post on Facebook are just a joke.
Classes – I have been hearing a lot of questions about online ratings sites with professor reviews populated by other students – and how much stock should you put in them? I personally think it is not the best strategy to make class choices based on those ratings, because they are always filled with comments from a self-selected population, who may skew the results because they either loved or hated the course. Keep in mind that every student learns differently and has different preferences for their teachers, so think less about ‘is this person rated as a hard grader?’ and more about ‘do I think I am going to like the course material?’ Also, a student’s academic adviser is not going to weigh in on ‘Which professor should I take, Dr. A or Dr. B?’ Every faculty member has his/her strengths and they will mesh differently with different students.
Extracurriculars – There will be a Student Activities Fair shortly after school begins, and students will have the opportunity to browse the 150+ student organizations. My caution here is not to sign up for everything all at once – pick just a few organizations to get involved with, and add others later. Some of the students in Charleston talked with great joy about their involvement in intramural and club sports, Greek life, volunteer organizations, and campus ministry. Each new student ought to find some area that is an outlet, based on his or her preferences.
Residence Halls – The temptation for some people I’ve chatted with is to be concerned about location of the residence hall, is it an older or newer one, etc. The good news is that they all have air conditioning, they all have common areas, and they will all have other friends to get to know. My best advice to students is that when you are in your room and are not studying (but just hanging out), leave your door open the first several days and when others are walking by or poke their head in the door, invite them in and have a conversation. Some of the best moments of college come from those unplanned conversations over a pizza or at 2 am (or both!) when you are chatting with someone you don’t know but might be a lifelong friend.