Information for Parents of First-Year Students

Welcome!!

Hello, and welcome to The Beanie Blog!  In the coming days, weeks, and months we hope to fill this blog with content that will be helpful to you as parents of first-year students.  There will be many contributions made by first-year students as they share what they are currently experiencing throughout the year. In addition, below are some thoughts that might help you think through some great questions to ask at different points of the academic year.  We hope that all of this will allow this blog be a helpful resource for you as you gain an understanding of what your first-year student is experiencing at JBU.  It is a joy to have your son or daughter here as a student, and we greatly appreciate this opportunity to partner with you!

Also, if you have questions about the purpose of this blog or where its name came from, be sure to check out the "About the Blog" option!

 

September

September is a month of extreme transition for all JBU students but especially for our new students.  As parents adjust to life being different with their son or daughter away at college, their son or daughter is experiencing many more adjustments as they adapt to life at JBU.  Everything inside and outside the classroom likely feels new and different.  Most upperclassmen experience transitions that are internal as they consider their career path, grow in their identity, and mature as young adults.  However, for new students, most of their transitions are external as they simply try to work through what life looks like in a new place.  Here is a sample of what your son or daughter could be experiencing a month into the school year.

  • Syllabus shock
  • First round of exams
  • Turning in their first essays
  • Parents not around to tell them to go to bed or get out of bed
  • Anxiety about roommate situation, professors, classes, etc.
  • Some level of homesickness or loneliness
  • Questioning the study habits developed in high school
  • Honeymoon stage of college coming to an end

Here are some examples of questions that might be supportive and appropriate at this point in the academic year.

  1. Do you feel like you’ve made any potential friends during this first month?
  2. Do you understand what it’s going to take to do well in each of your classes?
  3. Is your room going to be a place where you feel comfortable and a good place to study?
  4. What are some adjustments you’re going to need to make in your study habits to do well in your courses?

 

October

The month of October is significant for many reasons for our students.  For most of our first-year students, the shiny newness of being in college has worn off, and their biggest questions are finding answers.  Do I fit in at JBU?  Can I handle college academically?  Will I make friends?  Do I like being a student at JBU?  Whether spoken or unspoken, each student has been asking these questions and gathering answers for the last two months.  At this point in the semester (and depending on how their questions are being answered), they likely already have a good idea of whether they want to be at JBU for future semesters. 

This is also the time of the semester when first-year students hit a wall.  They are 10 weeks in and have 6 left to go.  They've worked hard in each of their classes, and the short fall break likely wasn't enough to help them actually feel rested.  They are tired.  They may even be allowing their minds to think ahead to how great Thanksgiving dinner is going to taste or how nice it's going to be to have a month off for Christmas.  It's certainly a time of the year when support from home can be very helpful. 

Here are some examples of questions that might be supportive and appropriate at this point in the academic year.

  1. How would you describe your time at JBU so far? Has it been different than what you expected?
  2. What is some of the feedback you are receiving from your professors about the work you are turning in?
  3. Have you taken advantage of the opportunity to meet any of the faculty and staff?
  4. What changes need to be made in your study habits to meet your academic goals?
  5. Are there resources on campus that you need to seek out that could potentially help you?

 

November

For runners, I think it is pretty common to consider the most difficult part of the race to be when they have gone far enough to be very tired but to have the finish line still far from sight.  That is the month of November for first-year students.  They have run a race full of transitions, making friends, turning in projects, writing papers, and taking exams.  The end of the semester is only a few weeks away, and they can feel it.  They know an extended break is coming, but there is so much to do between now and then.  However, there's a delightful little break between now and Christmas break. As of this moment on campus, it is starting to get very quiet.  My Gateway class on Monday had fewer students than usual.  Students have been waiting for Thanksgiving break for quite some time and are going to soak up every second of it to be rejuvenated (as much as possible) for the home stretch of the semester.  It'll be a sprint to the finish, and they are going to get their fill of turkey, family time, and sleep so they are well-prepared.

As your sons and daughters start arriving back home, here are some examples of questions that might be supportive and appropriate at this point in the academic year.

1. What have you enjoyed most about your first semester at JBU?

2. What can you be doing in your classes to make sure you finish well this semester?

3. Which classes are going to be the most difficult to prepare for during finals week?

4. How is your relationship with your roommate?

5. Have you been sleeping?

 

December

It is December 19th, and all is quiet on campus.  I arrived at work this morning and walked through the Walker Student Center and heard something I haven't heard since the beginning of August.  I heard nothing!  Commencement for our December graduates took place on Saturday, and the first semester has officially been completed.  All our students have packed up and departed campus to enjoy their Christmas break.  This, of course, includes our first-year students.  They've made it.  The first semester, with all of its transitions and challenges, is in the rear view mirror.  The first semester, that often seems like the longest of all the semesters to many, is done.  Now our first-year students are at home and aren't required to be in class for 23 more days.  Not that they or I am counting!

So, all is well, right?  Hopefully that is true, but it's not always true.  Arriving back home after four months of being in college can be an adjustment for parents and students.  First-year students have experienced significant changes and growth since arriving here in August.  They are likely more confident and independent than they were when they gave their last hug goodbye at the start of orientation.  Now they are returning to a setting that likely hasn't changed as much as they have since they were last there.  That can be a challenge for parents and students.  For the parents, what does it look like to parent a college student now that they are back under your roof?  For the students, what does it look like to honor and respect your parent's home and rules now that you're back for a few weeks?  These questions, if left unanswered, can cause some tension.  However, if they are answered well, the relationship between parent and college son/daughter can enter into a wonderful, healthy stage.  At the very least, we know that this break will be a time of needed rest for the student before arriving back to campus in January with the confidence that they've done this before.

As your sons and daughters return, here are some examples of questions that might be supportive and appropriate at this point in the academic year.

1. What was your main takeaway from your first semester in college?

2. If you could change one thing to make the second semester better than the first, what would it be?

3. Is there anything about your study habits that you'd like to change before the beginning of the second semester?

4. What challenges are you expecting from your 2nd semester courses?

5. What does getting good rest look like for you during this break?

 

March

There are only three times of the year when campus is without students.  Those are during the summer, over Christmas break, and right now (spring break).  The residence halls are closed for break which means our students must go somewhere.  Some are on trips through the university to Chicago, Minnesota, or Atlanta.  Others have made plans with friends to visit a different (probably warm) part of the country.  And others likely are simply choosing to go home.  That is often a very good decision, especially for our first-year students.  This is such a good time for some rest before the final 5 weeks of the year.  They have been going strong academically for the 11 weeks since Christmas and face a busy last stretch before the summer that includes applying for various positions on campus for next year, signing up for room draw, registering for classes, projects/papers/presentations, and finals.  We hope that you, as parents, are currently enjoying their time at home.  We also hope that you see them awake every so often! 

While your sons and daughters are home, here are some examples of questions that might be supportive and appropriate at this point in the academic year.

1. How has this semester been different (academically, socially, spiritually, emotionally) than the first?

2. What does finishing the semester well look like for you?

3. Are there opportunities for next year that you are interested in that you would need to pursue and apply for yet this spring?

 

April/May

As the end of the academic year quickly approaches, our students are often very tired and may be wishing away time in anticipation of the extended summer break.  That is often especially true of our first-year students.  The first year, with its highs/lows/twists/turns that naturally come with the transition to college, leaves these students excited for the comfort and familiarity of home.  However, while all the many belongings re-entering might be the same, the person unloading them may have changed.  There is growth, maturity, independence, and confidence that often comes with successfully navigating the first year of college, and we certainly hope the changes you see are good!  Below are some questions that might allow you to help them reflect on their year.

1. How has your worldview changed throughout the year from what you have learned inside (or outside) the classroom?

  • "Worldview" will be a very familiar term to them from Gateway :)

2. In what ways have you experienced the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord at JBU?

3. Who are the people that you met that had the most significant impact on your first year?

4. What areas of your life at school would you like to change or be different when you return for your second year?

5. What opportunities for continued growth do you have this summer that will best prepare you for when you return in the fall?

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