What big adjustments might your first-year student be facing this year?
Freedom and independence
Sleeping too much or not enough
Discovering a balance between social and academic life
Changes with past and present relationships
Learning how to study effectively (a little each day vs. cramming)
Investigating academic majors that peak interest
Choosing whether or not to drink alcohol
Deciding whether or not to get involved on campus and in which activities
Homesickness and anxiety about missing events and people at home
Dropping or adding courses
Returning home may bring about stress and pressure from parents
Helping your Central first-year student as they spread their wings –
Especially the first birthdays, holidays, mid-terms, final exams are all times when it is nice to know that parents care and wish to send them best wishes with a care packages, a cake, flowers, balloons, etc.
Treat academic achievement and grades realistically. It is appropriate to help your child set his or her own long-term goals, but in the end these are choices that are up to the student to make.
Getting connected socially and getting involved can become more of a priority than academics.
The structure of academics and managing time can be a struggle for new students and the first exams bring bout their anxiety
Speaking with your son or daughter about drug and alcohol use is not always easy but is necessary. Make it clear to your student that underage alcohol consumption and driving which under the influence are against the law. Stress that alcohol is toxic when consumed excessively (binge drinking) and is can be fatal. Learning about the alcohol policy on campus and then having the conversation can be helpful.
Being financially responsible for themselves is a pressure for them and also for you if you’re always paying for something every time you turn around. Decisions about whether they should or should not work, should have a credit card or not and other money matters should be discussed as a family prior to college.
You want to know that they are taking care of themselves and are eating nutritiously. Encourage them to make time for breakfast and to pack snacks in their backpack for in between classes.
First-year students face a multitude of social challenges, which they must solve by finding productive activities with what seems like a lot of free time on their hands.
Feel free to advise your son or daughter on certain majors but don’t insist on your student needing to declare a major.
The W Curve and the Central first year student
The W-Curve developed by Zeller and Mosier (1993) explains a pattern of stages that occur when experiencing culture shock.
Its normal to have ups and downs, especially during the first year of college, as the W-Curve suggests.
The “Honeymoon Phase” starts prior to even stepping foot on campus and encompasses the excitement and anticipation of a new journey.
“Culture Shock” occurs naturally while dealing with all the new adjustments. Zeller and Mosier reveal this period as a time of great conflict and anxiety but it can lead to positive change.
“Initial Adjustments” once made helps students to gain confidence in ability to face other conflicts and challenges along the way.
“Mental Isolation” occurs where they may compare the new culture and their familiar culture back home. Homesickness begins to be felt, however there is a sense of being in limbo, and not completely belonging in either place.
“Acceptance, Integration, and Connectedness” is where the college begins to feel like home and the student’s home is more like a foreign place. They being to integrate the positive experiences with the struggles and see the college with a more balanced and realistic view.