Reality Check Fact #1:

Most PSU students “party” less than 2 nights each week (80%).

Fact taken from 2015 NH Higher Education on line Alcohol and Drug Survey at PSU

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A Monthly Glance at Issues Facing Plymouth State University First-Year Students and Families (2015-2016)

 

Given that university life provides a special venue for learning about oneself and one’s interests, families are encouraged to explore these opportunities as well. Family members hope, in full earnest, that they have imparted all of the wisdom to their child that is necessary for her/him to be a whole, productive, and ultimately happy adult. Families and students may experience nervous excitement and uneasy apprehension about the transition to college. These emotions make the transition from home to university a potentially stressful one. However, those families who can make room for their own and their child’s conflicting and ever-changing feelings do find that this stage of discovery is enriching for themselves as well as for their child.

Throughout the calendar we have provided benchmarks of the first year and potential challenges that you and/or your university student might face. Our hope at Plymouth State is that we can collaborate with families as partners in the educational experience and the development of your first-year student. We understand that you are in the process of witnessing the often rapid and awkward transformation from dependent child to independent adult/child and hope that along the way you will see the fruits of your labor in creating this unique person. Now your student must learn to do and think for her/himself and we encourage you to teach them practical skills, prior to their arrival. Such skills include learning how to balance a checkbook, learning to establish healthy credit card habits, how to do laundry, as well as reviewing the values and principles that your family embraces.

August

Important Dates

  • Fall Convocation – August 31
  • Fall classes begin – August 31 (5 p.m.)

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Discuss issues regarding alcohol and drug abuse and misuse, sex and safety.
  • Feel free (perhaps for the first or the final time before they leave for college) to make your wishes known to your student and offer parameters for experimentation. Communicate clearly that you will not judge them in this newfound independence for making mistakes and that they can always come to you for assistance, guidance, and support. Remember to live by your promises both when outlining consequences for actions and offering support.
  • Prepare your student to be successful by discussing the Counseling Center, Health Services, the Wellness Center, and Plymouth Academic Support Services (PASS) and the resources available to them. Information regarding any learning challenges or mental health or physical health issues from your child’s past might be disclosed to these offices to optimize planning for needed services. We understand how a student may want to leave labels or diagnoses behind them as they enter a new environment in which they can reinvent themselves. We also have seen how a student’s or family’s failure to disclose has led to feelings of frustration and isolation. Our aim is to pave the way to your student’s success, and we will work confidentially and respectfully to co-create a positive, supportive experience. Students should know that they have responsibilities in the college classroom and community including coming prepared to class, understanding financial responsibilities, becoming a self-advocate, and being a respectful member of the community.
  • Do not be surprised if your student acts distant or remarkably antagonistic in the last weeks of living at home. Your child may be unconsciously attempting to make the separation easier for themselves and for the family by acting in unlikable ways. Keep an open mind and know that by Thanksgiving time, you and your student will most likely have a happy reunion.

September

Important Dates

  • Labor Day Holiday (no classes) – September 7
  • Add/Drop and Confirmation Deadline – September 8
  • Student Activities Fair – Usually during first week of semester; check HUB web site for exact date

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Try to recall the times when your student was forging new pathways of independence in their past (for example, kindergarten, driver’s license).
  • Use these memories as indications of how you and your student might behave throughout this transition. For instance, if the student’s pattern is to be very enthusiastic and really “dive in” to experiences and then to lose steam when they arrive, then this pattern is likely to be repeated.
  • Reflect on how you typically handle major separations from important people and the kind of supports you need from your partner, family, and friends.
  • In the first weeks of school, be prepared to receive calls home from your student. This is a period of extreme self-doubt. Your student may ask you to rescue them from the challenges that they are facing socially, academically, and physically. When you can, resist the temptation to “be needed” and encourage the student to seek out his or her own supports and solutions. Refer the student to oncampus supports such as Community Advisors (CAs) and Residential Directors (RDs), Academic Advisors, the Counseling Center, the Wellness Center, Health Services, and the PASS office.
  • If needed, make arrangements in the first week of school to meet with the PASS office to have an intake session regarding learning disability accommodation eligibility. It is very important to disclose to the PASS office about your student’s learning challenges so that they may create a structure in which they can succeed as students.
  • Ask open-ended questions about favorite classes and what they are reading. Convey an interest in their learning and always ask your student if they want to hear your thoughts before offering up your advice or insights. Talk about yourself and tell them about the mundane aspects of life at home (for example, “I saw that the neighbors have a new dog”).
  • Do not convert their room too quickly. Students need to know that in this time of tremendous change some things stay the same, and their own room, as it looked when they left for school, is an important stabilizer.
  • Don’t panic if you have either no conversation or frequent communication with your student. There is no right way to make a transition. Letter writing and emailing notes about the goings on at home may not be returned letter for letter but are deeply appreciated by the student. Know that “being there” and serving as your student’s anchor is a thankless and invisible job and that things will change when your adolescent becomes a grown adult and reaches back to you.
  • Encourage your student to stay on campus during the first few weekends. The first six weeks are critical in determining if a student will persist through the school year. By attending social events and meeting new friends, your student will be more likely to connect and feel a part of the Plymouth State community.
  • Encourage your student to join clubs or organizations in order to make social connections. The Student Activities Office sponsors a Student Activities Fair in September. Check on-line for date, time, and location.
  • If your student is eligible for work study, encourage them to seek an on-campus job. This is a great way for students to connect with potential mentors and/or learn about different opportunities to gain enriching work experience.
  • Homecoming and Family Celebration brings the separation issues back to the forefront.  Don’t be surprised if your student does not want to spend every moment with you or even discourages you from coming for the weekend.  Respect their wishes and also know that they may change their minds last minute.  Feel assured that by Thanksgiving they will yearn for a “home cooked” meal, freshly washed clothes, and maybe your company.
  • If you cannot make the weekend or have been temporarily “banished” from the campus, please send care packages in the place of your presence.  It will mean a great deal to your student if you send notes, supplies, home baked treats, a newspaper from home, and/or pictures.

October

Important Dates:

  • Homecoming and Family Celebration – October 2-5
  • Fall holiday (no daytime classes; evening classes start at 5 p.m.) – October 12
  • Second half of semester begins – October 26

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Emphasize issues of time management and study skills. If they are falling behind, encourage them to re-connect with their academic advisor. Faculty members also have available office hours to provide students with any necessary assistance. Encourage your student to seek out professors after class and to utilize their support offerings, guidance, and wisdom.
  • Adjustment issues are still in full effect, and loneliness and homesickness may increase as students have their first long weekend and potential to see families and old friends. Long-distance relationships may begin to weaken and students may also experience increased feelings of doubt regarding their decision to go to school.
  • Managing money is often a hot topic at this point because students are finding out how expensive living can be and may want to renegotiate their allowance if one is being given. Ask for a clear budget so that you can decide if your estimations were unreasonable. The first phone bill arrives this month and can be a shock to students who have not had to monitor their phone usage in the past. The use of phone cards or phone provider limits on minutes (call provider for details) can help solve spending problems. Also, cell phones tend to add up. Talk to your student about whether a cell phone is a necessity and, if so, discuss limitations.
  • Requests for room changes in residence halls may prompt phone calls of support. Encourage working out solutions with roommates because room changes can interfere with the flow of the semester. Remember that students are learning how to advocate for themselves and intervening is tempting, but rarely necessary. We want your student to thrive, and Residential Life makes every effort to accommodate the needs of the students who are unhappy with their living situations.
  • Given that everyone is different, please note if your student has historically “endured” uncomfortable circumstances, has not made contact, and does not advocate well for themselves. If necessary, contact a Residence Life staff member who will discreetly “check in” on their experience.
  • Mid-term examinations can be a particularly stressful milestone for the first-year student.
  • Six week grades are issued to students and families in October. This is a good indication of your student’s progress to date, but there is still time for struggling students to employ new strategies and get on track. It is important to discuss academic progress with your student. Congratulate them on their successes and seek to identify any challenges. Some students may feel discouraged, stressed, scared or excited and over-confident. Encourage your student to connect with their advisor for assistance and to focus on continuing patterns of success or developing new habits toward success.

November

Important Dates:

  • Veterans Day Holiday (no classes) – November 11
  • Thanksgiving Recess (no classes) – November 25-29
  • Classes resume – November 30 (8 a.m.)

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Stress of “catching up” in coursework may hit at this time. Increased alcohol consumption as a result of anxiety and peer pressure may be evident. Encourage your student, if overwhelmed, to ask for help and emphasize that they are not alone.
  • Health issues such as cold and flu may begin to spread. Your student can make an appointment at Health Services should they need medical attention. Encourage your student to seek out special programs in yoga, meditation, and stress reduction activities in order to increase immunity to disease and reduce anxiety.
  • Parents may need to adjust to changes made (hair, makeup, style, food preferences, establishing own schedule, etc.) when your student visits during Thanksgiving break. Stay flexible and be prepared to negotiate new rules while your student is home. They may just want to “veg out,” eat, and see friends.
  • Roommate issues may continue.
  • Provide support and encourage responsibility and follow-through for the rest of the semester.

December

Important Dates:

  • Final Exam Week – December 14-18

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • End of the semester anxiety regarding academic performance and concern over finals is paramount. This is perhaps the last chance to save one’s grade in one or many classes.
  • This is a time of extreme pressure and emotional overload. The student may drastically fear parental reaction to first semester performance. Listen and steady them in their panic.
  • The anticipation of six weeks at home can inspire both dread and excitement. Encourage your student to secure some work during the break to make some “fun money” and foster some level of financial independence.
  • Prepare for further negotiations regarding curfews and responsibilities while living at home.

January

Important Dates:

  • Winterim Classes – January 4-22
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (no classes) – January 18
  • Spring 2016 classes begin – January 25 (8 a.m.)

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • The home needs to be flexible to accommodate your student’s vacillating behavior of old routine (child) and new independence and wants (adult).
  • Talk with other parents about their experiences and take time out to talk with your student about the realities of the past semester and anticipations for the spring semester.
  • Ready your student to return to campus with needed supplies.

February

Important Dates:

  • Add/Drop and Confirmation Deadline – February 1
  • Student Activities Fair – Usually during first week of semester; check HUB web site for exact date
  • Winter Carnival (classes begin at 5:00 p.m.) – February 10

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Students often exhibit far less strain with the start of spring semester. There is a “honeymoon” period when the students have a renewed energy for classes and friendships.
  • This is the perfect time for your student to work on the skills that were not employed in the fall semester regarding successful test taking, study skills, and time management. Also, this is an opportune time for your student to start an exercise routine and assess food choices. The varied options in the Dining Hall make it possible to eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Feelings of depression may set in with short days and winter weather.
  • Valentine’s Day may bring out loneliness and isolation.

March

Important Dates:

  • Spring Break begins at 3:20 p.m. – March 11
  • Classes resume at 8 a.m. – March 21
  • Second half of the semester begins – March 21

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Spring Break has a negative reputation due to movies and reports on the news; however, your student may make the choice of most first-year students, which is to return home. Few first-year students have the financial means to go to a tropical location. Should your student choose to go to a popular Spring Break spot such as Florida, Mexico, or the Caribbean, please remind them of the extreme risks of underage drinking (alcohol poisoning) and sexual activity under the influence of alcohol or drugs (increased risk for STDs and acquaintance rape). The student should be encouraged to make safe and healthy choices.
  • Mid-term examinations are in March. It is important for parents to discuss academic progress with their student. Many students have gaps in their learning that can be creatively and successfully addressed, and it is imperative to decipher whether those gaps originate from emotional, social, intellectual, and/or organizational difficulties.
  • Students start to make plans for living arrangements and roommates for the next academic year.

April

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • The arrival of spring can bring excitement. Remind your student of safety issues as outdoor activity increases.
  • Mention to adult/child that summer job opportunities can be explored at this time and internships are a valuable adjunct to working in order to gain specific experience in a certain area of interest (for example, work for a radio station, law office, or corporation).
  • April can be a difficult month due to a lack of motivation to excel in the final leg of the academic year. Encourage your student to liven up their routine with new strategies and stick with it.

 

May

Important Dates:

  • Spring Fling – Usually the first weekend in May
  • Final Exams – May 9 – 13
  • Undergraduate Commencement – May 14

Benchmarks and Potential Challenges

  • Some students experience “Spring Fever” and have a hard time concentrating on studying because of good weather.
  • At the same time, the student may stress over finals, grades, the anticipation of leaving friends, finding summer jobs, and a lack of money. Continue to be the caring ear to their worries and ask what you can do to help.
  • Families need to reflect on their expectations regarding maturity, independence and autonomy and prepare for the transition of the return of their student. Adjusting to your student’s newfound independence may require more flexibility on your part and clear reasons for any limitations.
  • Prepare the student for and arrange for packing up and moving out.

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