One of the goals of our New Student Orientation (NSO) family session is to identify some talking topics for parents and students that warrant discussion before the beginning of the first year of the collegiate experience. Consider discussing the following topics with your student.
Will your student attend Welcome Week events during the first week of classes? This offering is for all students, regardless of where they live.
How does your student envision spending their time outside of class? Most students are only physically in class fifteen out of 168 hours during the week. That leaves a lot of free time! Students should consider getting involved in at least one out-of-class experience. A lot of learning occurs in college and in more than just a formal classroom setting. Learn more about getting involved at altoona.psu.edu/engage.
What are your hopes/fears about the college experience? What are you excited about? What are you nervous about?
What are your expectations regarding the conduct and behavior of your student while at college? What will happen if they get into trouble? Are they aware that Penn State has a Code of Conduct that outlines what is expected of them as students? Have they actually reviewed it? Does your student understand Pennsylvania drinking laws (hint: they are strict)?
How will your student handle issues that may arise within their living environment? Many students are not experienced with living in a community, such as in a residence hall or apartment. How will they handle disagreements with their roommate(s)? Will they be able to negotiate and share—as appropriate and respectfully—and civilly work out conflicts?
What type of budget does your student have monthly or daily to spend on meal plans, groceries, and activities? Do they understand the concept of budgeting? What happens if they run out of money? What does this mean for how many fancy coffees they can have per week? Will they work for wage in their first year as a student? Have they checked out local or campus job availability?
If your student is undecided about what academic area they would like to study or “major in,” what steps will they take to help them determine that path?
Have you discussed visitation and communication expectations? How often do you expect your student will come home to visit? How often do they expect you to visit them? How often do you expect to communicate (text, social media, call, write, etc.) with your student (daily, weekly, see you at Thanksgiving, etc.)? What does your student think is reasonable?
Will your student have a vehicle at Altoona? Should they let other people borrow it? Are they ready to drive in the typical weather in central Pennsylvania?
If your student is living off-campus, whether in privately owned housing or with you, will they remain on campus between classes to study, attend an event, hang out, etc., or will they go back during the break time? How will this decision impact their transition and overall involvement in the life of the campus? How will this decision impact their ability to make friends?
What are your expectations regarding class attendance and academic performance? Has your student thought about their strengths and weaknesses academically? Will they be willing to ask for help as needed? Will they not procrastinate and seek academic help early in the semester as needed?
What if your student was an excellent high school student but finds they are struggling at the University? How should they handle this issue? What might be their plan for addressing this concern?
If your student is commuting from home, what agreements have you come to regarding behavior connected to curfews, going out at later hours, helping at home, etc.? What expectations does your student have regarding continuing to live at home?
If your student is living “away” at college, what agreements have you come to regarding behavior when they come home to visit on weekends, holidays, and break times?
These are just some of the discussions we recommend you have with your student before they begin classes and throughout their transition to college and adulthood. These discussions allow you and your student to agree on how issues or concerns will be handled and how your student may make a positive overall transition to the University.