One of the goals of our New Student Orientation (NSO) family session is to help identify some talking topics for parents and students that warrant discussion prior to the beginning of the first year of the collegiate experience. We are sharing a few sample questions and topics based on our collective experiences in working with first-year students.
Below is just a sampling of the types of discussions we recommend that you have with your student prior to their beginning classes and throughout their transition to college/adulthood. Having important discussions prior to the beginning of the academic year allows for you and your student to attempt to come to an agreement regarding how issues or concerns may be handled as well as how your student may make a positive overall transition to the University.
Will your student attend Welcome Weekend, scheduled to begin the Friday before classes start, regardless of where the student will be living?
How does your student envision spending their time outside of class?
Most students are only in class for a maximum of 18-20 hours per week out of the 168 total hours in a week. That leaves a lot of free time! Hint: they should seriously consider getting involved in at least one out-of-class experience:
- Join a student organization
- Play on an athletic team
- Participate in intramurals and/or recreational sports
- Work with faculty on a research project.
There is much learning which takes place in college, and it doesn’t just take place in a formal classroom setting.
What are your hopes/fears about the college experience?
What are you excited about? What are you nervous about? (It is perfectly natural to feel both of these things.)
What are your expectations regarding the conduct/behavior of your student while they are 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 read it?
What are your thoughts about fraternity and sorority life?
Under what circumstances would you be comfortable with your student joining one of these groups?
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 a residence hall or apartment. Will they be able to handle disagreements with their roommate(s)? Will they be able to negotiate and share as appropriate and respectfully and civilly work out disagreements?
What type of budget does your student have to spend on groceries and activities?
Do they understand the concept of budgeting? What happens if they run out of money? Will they work for wage in their first year as a student? Have they checked out local and/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?
If your student is living off-campus in privately owned housing, will they remain on campus between classes to study, attend an event, hang out, etc. or will they go back to their apartment during the break time?
How will this decision impact their transition and overall involvement in the life of the campus?
Have they completed their “homework” prior to coming to campus in August?
The two online modules are PSU SAFE and PSU AWARE.
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 as connected to curfews, going out at later hours, helping out 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?