August 2012 Message to First Year Student Parents
What to Expect When You’re a Colby Parent
It’s going to be okay.
Really. Your soon-to-be Colby student is ready. She’s going to work out her course schedule. He will pick up his room and do his laundry; or he won’t. Either way, it’s going to be okay.
And you will be too.
All right, first things first. I’m like you. I’m a parent of an almost adult (but not quite yet) teenager so I get it. I understand the college search process you’ve just completed.
I’ve spent what seems like most of the past 18 years driving to daycare and school and soccer and music lessons and the movies and camp and, and, and. I’ve beamed when my kids have excelled and I have agonized when they’ve struggled. And, yes, I’ve attended school open houses and parent-teacher conferences and been engaged in my children’s learning in the ways that parents and families are encouraged to be.
So, I’m a parent like you. But I’m also the dean of students. And as the dean I know that the way we as parents engage with our children’s college experience has to be different from the way we have been asked to engage in their elementary, middle, and secondary school experiences. We have to step back so that they can step up.
When I wrote to you earlier in the summer I noted that we direct almost all of our correspondence regarding students’ relationship with Colby to them. And that our expectation is that students will take the lead in managing that relationship and their lives at the College. I write to you now to ask for your assistance in making this happen.
Last week I began sending a series of messages to incoming first-years about a variety of aspects of their lives at Colby. Your student may have shared what I am calling the Living Colby essays (14 Days, Roommate Knowledge, The Dean’s Lists) that they have received over the past week. All of these essays are available on the Living Colby web page at http://www.colby.edu/administration_cs/student-affairs/livingcolby.cfm and I invite and encourage you to read them as a way to gain further insight into what your Colby student is experiencing. As you can imagine, there is a lot of information for them to take in and we know that some of it won’t sink in the first time. But we find that by sharing information with family members as well as with students and their instructors and advisors we can strengthen the safety net while making it easier for students to advocate for themselves going forward.
One issue in particular that I want to discuss with you is helping students learn to be comfortable with discomfort. Your student will almost certainly encounter some sort of difficulty during her time at Colby. The reality of coping with hard or unpleasant situations is the topic of the next Living Colby installment that will go out to students this week but I want also to raise it directly with you now. The overarching message of what we hope to convey to students is that disappointment and difficulty are part of life and as such they will also be part of life at Colby. That what matters most is that they develop the skills they will need to negotiate the inevitable challenges and difficulties they will face throughout their lives. That none of us are perfect. That everyone makes mistakes. That they will learn from the challenges they face and the mistakes they make and that life goes on.
I am bringing this to your attention now – before your student has encountered difficulty at Colby – because I want to encourage you to give some thought to how you can be most supportive of your student when s/he does struggle. As parents we are programmed to protect and comfort and make things easier for our children. But as they grow up the job description changes and doing those things isn’t always what is best for them in the long run. We know that as much as we would like for it not to be so, life will invariably hand our children challenges, pain, and heartache (sadly I know many of our children have already lived through great hardships). Colby provides a setting where students can (and should) make mistakes and learn from them in a supportive and caring environment. In the end we believe that our students will be better able to face the future having had practice managing difficulty on their own while in college.
Finally, I want to remind you that we care deeply about each and every Colby student. Like you, we want your student to be happy and to succeed. And we will be here for your student and for you every step of the way.
Colby is a great place, and it really is going to be okay.
Parent and Family Page
October 2011 Updates:
• You may have heard from your student that several students were cited for underage drinking at large off-campus parties earlier this fall. Needless to say, our hope and expectation is that students will make safe, legal, and responsible social choices at all times. We are working with the student government and other student leaders to help students of those responsibilities and to remind them of our special obligation to be good neighbors to the residents of the Waterville community. The College provides extensive support and resources to provide a rich and varied set of social options on campus and experience tells us that the campus setting is better suited to meet students’ interests and needs than are off-campus venues.
• Academic demands and expectations start to increase dramatically for students during October. The first round of mid-term exams begins and other graded assignments (papers, lab reports, etc.) start to come due throughout the month. As a result, students tend to feel more harried and stretched for time. We encourage students to speak with their professors and to take advantage of the many academic resources that exist at the College. Some key resources of which exist include:
o Academic Advisors
o Advising Deans
o The Farnham Writers’ Center
o Individual tutors (available through academic departments and the Advising Deans)
o The Language Resource Center
• October is also the time when some first-year students start to feel homesick for the first time. This is a normal and appropriate response as they go through the process of settling into this new and very different life. It is important to listen to your student and acknowledge the feelings that they are having. Often times seemingly small and simple gestures of support from you and other friends and family are the most important. Examples of such gestures include:
o Reassure them that it is still early in the year and everyone adjusts in their own way and in their own time.
o Send a card or a care package: cookies or brownies from home always go a long way.
o Encourage them to get involved with a club or organization if they haven’t already done so.
o Suggest that they talk to their Advising Dean or someone in the Counseling Center.
o Tell them you love them.
• Remember, members of the Student Affairs staff are available to Colby students at all times. Likewise, we are happy to talk with family members to help provide
support and guidance to students.
Parent and Family Page: January Updates
• Understanding Jan Plan: January is an interesting time for Colby students. As you have certainly heard from your student[s], Colby’s Jan Plan offers students a unique opportunity to pursue in depth an area of interest that may or may not be directly linked to the regular curriculum. Though students are only required to complete three Jan Plans to meet the graduation requirements, 92% of Colby students actually participate in Jan Plan all four years. Roughly two-thirds of enrolled students are on campus in Waterville for Jan Plan while many others participate in off-campus Jan Plan courses (both domestic and abroad), work on independent study projects, or complete internships for credit. The dramatically different construction of courses and organization of the weekly schedule affords students the chance to delve deeper into particular areas of interest and to engage in personal and social offerings that are unique from the rest of the year. We encourage you to talk with your student[s] about their Jan Plan experiences and to urge them to branch out and try some new things while they have the time to do so.
• Figuring Out College: At this time of year - following the between semesters holiday break – it is common for first-year students to take stock of their college experience to date and to think about making changes. Often those changes involve pursuing new areas of academic interest, trying to identify new clubs or activities in which to participate, consider approaching social options in different ways, and even thinking about whether or not Colby is the right place for them. Be assured that these are normal and healthy issues for students to be exploring as they work to figure out exactly what they hope to get out of their college experience, and how best to do so. Try to keep in mind that the first semester is for most students a whirlwind of newness wherein they have to manage living on their own in a new place, adjust to dramatically different academic expectations, and try to figure out what kind of social life they want and who their friends are going to be. It can be pretty overwhelming. The holiday break affords them time to reconnect with family and long-time friends and that frequently prompts students to reconcile the people they were before college with who they are at college. Experience tells us that these sorts of explorations are very healthy and extremely helpful as students work to shape the majority of their time in college. The critical role that advisors and parents/families can play is to assure students that defining what they want from their college experience is a good thing to do, and that doing so well requires patience and the willingness to think critically about how they can and must take ownership of their own education. If you or your student[s] have questions about these or related issues we encourage you/them to contact their advising dean.
• Save the Dates: A few of the dates and events for your student[s] to keep in mind include:
o Campus Life Expo - February 6, 7, and 8 from 11-1 in the Cotter Student Center. This is a terrific opportunity for students to learn about student organizations and to get involved.
o Dinner with Six Strangers - The Office of Campus Life will be hosting two Dinner with Six Strangers events this spring. These events are designed to help students meet and connect with other members of the Colby community.
o Winter Carnival - Our Student Government Association is busy planning Winter Carnival for the weekend of February 9, 10, and 11. This is sure to be full of lots of activities and events.
Parent and Family Website: March Updates
Room Selection: March and April are when room selection for the upcoming academic year takes place. The room selection process is overseen by the Office of Campus Life and involves a number of different parts and options depending on students’ particular interests (e.g. Quiet, Chem-Free, Dialogue Housing, and the Senior Apartments). More detailed information about how the room draw process works can be found on the Colby website (http://www.colby.edu/administration_cs/campuslife/residential/hallinfo/room-draw-faqs.cfm).
As you may already know, room draw is often the source of significant stress and anxiety for many students. Students tend to place a high premium on where, in what type of housing (i.e. single, double, suite, etc.), and with whom they are going to live and emotions can run very high if and when things don’t fall neatly into place. The truth is, of course, that there is greater demand for the most sought after rooms/suites/apartments than there is a supply. Additionally, as many students have not finalized plans to study away from campus for the coming year we almost always end up with a few students on a waiting list for fall housing. Please be assured that students on the waiting list (should one be necessary) are still guaranteed housing. Indeed, those on the waiting list (usually rising sophomores) almost always end up with far more sought-after rooms than they would have otherwise gotten because those vacating the rooms tend to be juniors and seniors who select earlier in the process.
The bottom line is that room draw is an issue where you as family and friends of students can help them to keep a sense of perspective. While one room may seem to be way better than another, in the end there really is very little difference between any of them. Students’ experiences in the residence halls are shaped primarily by the relationships they make with friends and roommates; not by having a few more square feet of space between their desks.
CA/COOT Leader Selection and SGA Elections: The spring semester is a time of transition for our student leadership positions. Students are invited and encouraged to consider their co-curricular experience for the upcoming year and many will apply or run for positional leadership positions such as COOT Leader, Community Advisor, and SGA Representative. These positions provide terrific opportunities for students to shape the Colby community and to learn about themselves and their approach to working with a group. While we know that many or our students are strong leaders and important contributors to Colby the hard truth is that we do not have available positions for everyone who desires and deserves this opportunity. As such, we encourage our students (and their support networks) to consider that there are many different ways to lead and to have an impact on the Colby campus. If a student is not offered the opportunity to hold a position they are seeking they should come into the office of Campus Life to discuss other possibilities to share their skills and talents with the larger Colby community.
Spring Break Safety: As students head off to destinations around the country (and beyond) we want to encourage you to remind your student[s] to think about how to stay safe while they are away from campus. After completing mid-terms students are often over tired both physically and mentally so it is particularly important that they take steps to make sure they are awake and alert if they are driving. Likewise, they need to be mindful of eating well, getting adequate rest, and being sure to dress appropriately for their particular spring break circumstances, stay hydrated, and use sunscreen if they are heading to places where they are going to be out in the sun. Beyond that, we urge them to remember to practice personal safety (e.g. lock their cars and doors, don’t leave cash or other valuables lying around in plain sight, stay with friends when out and about at night or in unfamiliar places). Students have been working hard and are ready for a break. We just want to help them to make it a healthy and safe one as well.