Second day of classes today, and if this year is like most, there are students who are excitedly stepping into their courses and some who are still wanting to make tweaks to their schedules. Both are fine. Students can add or drop courses in WIN, and the Office of Academic Advising is always there as a resource, in addition to their regular academic or major advisers for help.
We’ve published some of the Orientation handouts, slide shows, and speeches and have made those available online for families who want them as reference or were not able to attend. You can access those here. As part of those materials, Christy Buchanan, who is the Senior Associate Dean of Academic Advising, had a couple of great Top 10 lists she shared at Orientation. They are worth repeating here.
Top 10 Things Successful Students Do:
- Attend class!!!!
- Get to know their professors. Faculty really want students to initiate contact outside of class.
- COMMUNICATE, communicate, communicate!!! Communicate interests, needs, and concerns respectfully – and do it face-to-face (not just by email).Side note: One situation I’ve experienced frequently is when students get critical feedback or an unpleasant grade, often for the first time, it can be hard for them to communicate about it. But for academic success, it’s important that the student get themselves in to see that professor, get help from their adviser, etc. There is so much help available if people know you need it. Sometimes students withdraw rather than ask for help. They are embarrassed or ashamed to have gotten a bad grade or critical feedback – yet everyone experiences some difficulty or disappointment along the way, and we don’t want your student to feel embarrassed or ashamed. We admire those students who reach out and ask for help and try to learn from these disappointing moments. And it’s this that leads to ultimate success.
- Respond to those who reach out you to help.
- Space out their studying and coursework over time, rather than “cramming.”
- Explore intellectually … then follow their intellectual passions. Studying widely helps your student think broadly, across disciplines, and integrate ideas … then find, embrace, and invest in their own unique intellectual passions. This passion – and the fact that students tend to achieve best when they are passionate about their learning – is what launches students into successful careers and lives of fulfillment.
- Take initiative / responsibility. Students do better when they plan ahead, work to solve their own problems, take responsibility for their part in problems, and/or avoid blaming others or expecting others (including parents) to solve their problems for them.
- Expect good things to happen … but know that success takes work, and that they will face challenges and adversity. Successful students are prepared for challenges and stress are and plan ahead for how to handle it. They have healthy options: exercise, sleep, eating well, yoga, meditation, time with friends, spiritual connections, reaching out to others. They also know what cheating or plagiarism is, and have decided ahead of time that no bad grade is worth succumbing to temptations to cheat or steal.
- When they experience adversity, disappointments, or even failure, their reaction is NOT to give up, but to GET UP, brush themselves off, learn from the experience, and move on.
- Get involved but not over-involved. They do something outside of the classroom that helps them connect with others of similar interests and values, that helps them develop skills in teamwork and leadership, that helps them give back to others (and thus keep their own lives and stresses in perspective), that builds school spirit. Getting involved in a meaningful and fun way can provide that healthy stress-relief as well as a true sense of belonging. But it’s important not to do too much, so that there is enough time to study and to sleep!
Top 10 Things Parents/Family Members Can Do to Help
- Encourage your student to do the things on the list above.
- Allow them to follow their interests & passions. We at Wake Forest will be encouraging your students to explore their academic interests and passions, and we hope you will do the same – even if those interests and passions turn out to be something different than what you expected. Give your child permission to find & follow the things that interest them.
- Normalize the ups and downs of (college) life, and transitions. There are ups & downs, bad times & good times (it’s not ALL wonderful, and that’s ok) – let your student know that. Also, college is likely to be harder than high school. Grades might be worse ( 47% of the students in this class were in the top 5% of their class… they can’t all be in the top 5%). Also help them know that it can take a semester or even a year to feel like you belong.
- Don’t expect academic perfection (I cringe when I hear a parent state expectations for a 4.0!); help your student see challenges, problems, mistakes not as catastrophes, but as normal. “This too shall pass.” Encourage them to enjoy learning and to “do their best.”
- Let your student take the lead in addressing and solving problems and making decisions –don’t solve problems / make decisions FOR them. In the vast majority of cases, it is important to encourage your student to take the initiative in gathering information that they need, in seeking out help, in problem-solving, etc.
- Instead of doing the problem-solving, show interest, support; provide guidance, encouragement, be a sounding board.
- Once you’ve listened, share your values, advice, and wisdom … don’t assume your child knows your expectations & values.
- Encourage health (and legal) means of having fun, socializing, and de-stressing. Looking at this another way, don’t implicitly or explicitly approve of unhealthy or illegal behavior. If you view underage drinking as inevitable or “part of the fun” of college, think twice.
- Model the behaviors you want to see in your student: accept that adversity happens,;be patient with and forgiving of yourself and others when adversity strikes; model honor and integrity; model healthy behavior and healthy ways of coping with stress … take care of yourself!