This morning I put up this week’s Message for First Year Families, which is entitled Grade Expectations (get it? Remember, I was an English major twice over at Wake.) Grade expectations is about the transition from the kinds of grades our students had gotten accustomed to seeing in high school vs. what they might discover here.
Even if you are the parent or family member of an older student, I would still commend this article to you. While I think our first year students feel it keenly, our students who are planning to apply to the business school – or who hope to get into med school – also feel enormous pressure (real or imagined) to get good grades. Our students have as intense desire to please (or not disappoint) their loved ones, along with a fear of limiting their future career options due to grades. So where you can offer some understanding and empathy, my bet is your Deacs will welcome it.
If grades are one big transitions students feel as mid-terms get closer, the other is the ongoing transition of finding a friend group and feeling acclimated in a new environment. While we think of this as a first-year student issue, I was reminded that it really works on all transitions – including going abroad. I had the pleasure of getting an email from a ’19 Deac Abroad, reflecting on their first-year transition and now their transition abroad. Wise words.
“In the vein of freshmen who are having trouble acclimating, last night I called one of my Wake friends who is also studying abroad, and we both said the first couple weeks have felt a lot like freshman year. So in that sense, I think the process of self-discovery is ongoing for those who seek new environments – perhaps not the most comforting message for freshmen who are struggling, but true nonetheless.
Two pieces of advice that come to mind are that 1) first semester is hard for everyone, even friends from home whose social media says otherwise, and 2) students just have to keep putting themselves out there, which I appreciate can be really hard. Joining clubs, raising your hand in class, doing things with your hall are all great places to start! I remember feeling awkward asking to join in on plans, but the positive response I received when I put myself out there at Wake encouraged me to make plans and include as many people as possible here in my new environment!
I’ll share a funny story from when we dropped off my brother for his freshman year. My parents and I attended the family orientation, where the provost explained that students will call home with all sorts of reactions, one of which is that everyone else has made best friends for the rest of their life and there is no one left for them to be friends with. Obviously this is not the case, but the hyperbole was all the more humorous because I knew that I had called home with similar worries just two years prior. In fact, I called home with nearly every anxiety the provost mentioned that day.
If anything, just admitting that the transition is hard is a great first step, and I think that if students are brave enough to share their anxieties, they will be shocked how many people will respond, “Oh my gosh, I thought I was the only one.” It took me about a year and half to come to that realization at Wake, and it gave me the courage to come out and say it from the get go here.
I viscerally remember the first six weeks, so I feel for my fellow Deacs who are experiencing those same growing pains. Bottom line is it WILL get better, I promise, and they will be shocked where they find themselves in two years.
All my best,
’19 Deac Abroad”
Final transition to talk about – the weather! This week is going to be a hot one, but look at what next week has in store for us! Proper fall weather. I can’t wait.