MParents: What to Expect Freshman Year : Your New Student

Your New Student


What to Expect Freshman Year


August


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • They are adjusting to a new life, new responsibilities, new relationships, new roommates, and new freedoms. The first six weeks of college are a challenging time for new students who are trying to make these adjustments all at once.
  • They are excited about moving away from home, but may also be homesick.
  • They are enthusiastic about starting college life, but may be insecure about fitting in, being as smart as everyone else, or navigating unfamiliar surroundings.
  • They are separated from friends, loved ones, and familiar surroundings.
  • They’re unsure of what to expect academically—the unknown workload and expectations from faculty.
  • They’re starting over. They are no longer a big fish in small pond, and no one here knows their former status in high school (this may be a relief for some students; a concern for others).

August Helpful Hint

Don’t forget to take care of yourself! This is a period of adjustment for you too. Your mixed feelings of joy and sorrow, pride and loss, are normal. There will be a void in the family and some roles may adjust, especially if younger siblings are still at home. It’s a good time to refocus on your own hobbies and interests. And remember that your student still needs you and loves you, even if he doesn’t say it.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Accept your changing role as a parent. Your new role is likely to be that of a mentor, providing support, encouragement, advice, and guidance, without the control you once had. This is another stage of her life, and your role as a parent does not stop—it just changes.
  • Set realistic expectations for your student regarding academics, financial responsibility, social involvement, alcohol and drug use. Discuss these expectations with him in a non-judgmental manner, and be open to listening to him as well. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Encourage her to be independent and responsible. Be an empathic listener but refrain from ‘coming to the rescue’ when she faces a problem. By teaching her how to solve problems for herself, you will demonstrate that you have confidence in her. Encourage her to take responsibility for her own actions and accept the consequences, and let her know that you trust her.
  • Become familiar with University resources so that you can direct him to the appropriate resources for assistance.
  • Encourage her to become a part of the University by joining student groups and attending residence hall or campus-wide events. Tell her to not be afraid to go to informational mass meetings alone—it’s the best way to get involved with the community and to make new friends.
  • Listen and provide reassurance when communicating with him. Remind him that these adjustments and feelings are normal.

September


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • They are enjoying the beautiful weather, the energy of campus in the fall, and the excitement of a new environment.
  • They may be questioning their identity, pushing boundaries, and experimenting with new things. Experimenting may include challenging previous beliefs about religion or politics, experimenting with alcohol/drugs or sexual activity, and challenging social norms.
  • They may have trouble managing time. In September, it’s common for student to have a false sense of comfort because papers and projects aren’t due until October, and this may lead to procrastination.
  • They’re learning about opportunities to get involved with campus groups and should attend Festifall, a day when student groups try to recruit new members on the Diag. Sorority and Fraternity “Rush” also takes place.
  • They’re starting to understand that what worked for high school academics won’t necessarily work for college, and that a new level of work is expected. This may result in feelings of inadequacy, and they may ask themselves, “Can I really make it here?”
  • Some may be experiencing roommate conflicts.
  • A new trend with college students is an increased dependence on high school friends, which enables them to avoid getting involved with new people and the U-M community. Cell phones, Facebook, and texting make it easier than ever to keep in touch with old friends at other colleges, and it couldresult in an increased feeling of ‘not fitting in’ at U-M.

September Helpful Hint

Roommate conflicts do happen. They can happen regardless of whether students are complete strangers or have known each other for years. Most students find that talking over the problems with the roommate resolves the conflict. However, sometimes help is needed. It is counterproductive for parents to get involved in roommate disputes. As a parent, the best way for you to help the situation is to refer your student to the Resident Advisor (RA). RAs are upper-level students who have been trained to resolve roommate disputes.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Listen to his concerns and be reassuring. Don’t tell him these are the best years of his life. Be prepared for the “dump” phone call late at night. Students need to vent frustrations or fears, and you will be the dumping ground. Recognize his feelings are normal, as is the tendency to vent the feelings to a parent. In most cases, he will feel much better after having vented to you, but you are left feeling terrible and worried.
  • Encourage her to get involved with campus groups. It’s easy to meet new people at college, but students must make the effort. Old friendships are important, and they're easy to maintain with technology, but students need to find a balance between reaching out to new people and connecting with their old, familiar friends.
  • Provide him with time management techniques, or refer him to the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services office for time management and stress-reduction workshops, or encourage him to utilize his M-Planner provided at orientation.
  • Continue conversations with her about alcohol use. In the first 6 weeks freshmen are vulnerable to pressure to ‘fit in,’ and they perceive this to mean drinking. Discuss the consequences of making poor choices when it comes to alcohol, including trouble with classes, increased risk of sexual assault and violence, trouble with the law, possible negative impacts on professional school or employment opportunities, and even death. Encourage her to become involved in the numerous alcohol-free social events on campus, and to avoid risky drinking behaviors. Keep the lines of communication open on an adult-to-adult level, and avoid being judgmental.
  • Help him keep disappointments (such as not being selected during Greek Rush or not becoming ‘best friends’ with a roommate) in perspective. Refer him to support services on campus if additional support is needed.

October


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • They may be enjoying Football Saturdays and the amazing campus spirit.
  • They might be stressed out about tests and midterms. Some students fall behind in September because they weren’t accustomed to the type of time management skills required for college.
  • They may receive the first college grades on papers and projects. This helps students to understand what professors expect of them. It also means that students may realize that they are no longer ‘top of the class,’ and some who once got all As now get Bs and Cs. Students may be disappointed or lose self-esteem because they are unaccustomed to receiving poor grades.
  • They’re facing competing social demands. Students who got involved in too many campus organizations may have trouble balancing the demands of the organizations with the demands of coursework.
  • They will experience pressure to look for sophomore-year housing, and some students may not be ready to move ‘off-campus.’ At Michigan, the housing search occurs very early in the semester. As a result, freshmen consider signing year-long legal leases with friends they have only known for a few weeks.
  • They’ll begin to work on papers and must learn to navigate a college library system. The library system is an important campus resource, but because it is different from libraries that they have used in the past, it may be intimidating.
  • They are learning to manage their own money, and may have trouble sticking to a budget. College presents many pressures to spend money—pizza, movies, clothes, etc.—and they may run out of money sooner than expected.

October Helpful Hint

Refer your student to the Housing Information Office for information about both on-campus and off-campus housing, and discuss with him the increased responsibilities required when moving off-campus, such as utilities, cooking, and landlords. The Housing Office can provide students with estimates for off-campus housing expenses. Learn more online at the Housing website.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be sympathetic, but try not to “fix” problems for the student. By letting her fix her own problems, you will demonstrate that you have confidence in her, and help her to have confidence in herself.
  • Help him to be realistic about academic achievement in a college environment. It is common for U-M students to experience a full point drop from their high school grade point average, e.g., students who were 4.0 students in high school may only be 3.0 students at Michigan.
  • Direct her to University resources for assistance with papers and assignments. There are many resources designed to assist students with their academic struggles. You can also encourage her to go to professors’ and Graduate Student Instructors’ office hours, or to seek help from librarians who are trained to assist students with college level work/expectations.
  • Discuss living options with your student; listen to his perspective and be open to his ideas. Many students at Michigan expect to move off-campus for sophomore year, and many others feel pressured to do so before they’re ready. Discuss the pros and cons of moving off campus, and the dangers of committing to a year long lease with someone whom he’s only known for 6 weeks.
  • Help your student to establish a budget and teach her how to stick to it. Most high school students have a limited understanding of money management, and this lack of knowledge and experience continues in college. Educate her on financial responsibility before the lack of responsibility becomes a problem.

November


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • They may get sick as the change in Michigan’s weather brings on cold and flu season.
  • Stress levels are high as midterms continue, and many papers and projects are also due. They also begin to realize that the term is almost over. Procrastinators may panic as they face the consequences of falling behind in coursework. Students may pull “all-nighters” to get work done.
  • Upper-level students begin to register for Winter Term courses. First-year students will begin to register in December.
  • They may continue to struggle with time management and balancing social activities with academics.
  • Some students may have concerns about going home for Thanksgiving, especially if the student has changed dramatically since the last time they saw their parents.

November Helpful Hint

Care packages are a favorite way to show students how much you love them. Possible contents can include: food (homemade cookies or family specialties are especially nice), money, socks/slippers, pictures from home (don’t forget to include the family pet!), stamps, newspaper clippings from home, gift certificates for Ann Arbor restaurants or stores, microwave popcorn, candy/ chocolate/gum, letters from the family, vitamins, cold/flu medications, coupons, winter clothing, and toiletries.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be supportive and encouraging. Refer him to University resources such as University Health Service if he’s is sick, or Counseling and Psychological Services for counseling. Encourage a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, sleep, diet, and relaxation.

  • Send care packages. Remember to include cold/flu medications, tissues, cough drops, and anything needed to keep warm and dry as the winter approaches.
  • Be available to listen to her concerns when she contacts you, but don’t worry if she doesn’t call/write/e-mail as often as you would like. She may be too wrapped up in school to remember to contact home.
  • Be supportive of his academic progress without focusing on grades. Ask open-ended questions about what he’s learning, or why certain topics interest him, instead of asking about grades on tests or papers.
  • Encourage her to see an academic advisor before registering for classes, and to make appointments early to avoid complications. By seeing an academic advisor, students can stay on track when it comes to progress towards graduation.
  • Prepare yourself for changes her when she returns home for Thanksgiving. The first year of college is a period of tremendous change and growth, and students demonstrate this change in different ways—new haircut, new piercings, tattoos, changes in religious or political beliefs, etc. She will appreciate your support, rather than criticism, through this changing time. Recognize that while she may be going through many changes, in the long run, she will probably maintain many of the core values that you instilled in her.

December


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • After Thanksgiving, there is very little time until finals. Term papers and projects are due, and they may be the longest papers or projects that students have ever done. Students will continue to be stressed.
  • Students may get very little sleep, and neglect proper nutrition or exercise.
  • Many students may be concerned about the pressures of upcoming holidays, or returning home to live with the family after a semester of independence.
  • They’ll be stressed about finals. For freshmen, this will be their first college finals, and they’ll have the added fear of the unknown.
  • Some students will have financial concerns, as the money they budgeted for the semester runs out earlier than planned. They may turn to credit cards to help them in their budget crunch.
  • They’ll probably sleep a lot over the winter break, as they try to ‘catch up’ on four months’ worth of lost sleep!

December Helpful Hint

Expect your student to be very stressed in December. While you won’t be able to prevent the academic stress, you can reduce the pressure for your student to participate in family obligations or traditions, which put added demands on a student’s busy schedule.

What Parents can Do:

  • Be supportive during this stressful time, and send care packages and mail. Snacks and special foods from home are always welcome this time of year.
  • Encourage healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits to help reduce the stress of college exam time. Healthy habits will also help your student to prevent illness as the winter sets in.
  • Be knowledgeable about campus resources and refer him to the University’s support services and resources for personal and academic help.
  • Encourage participation in study break activities offered at residence halls and at the Michigan Union and Pierpont Commons. These are great ways for students to relax.
  • Discuss home ‘rules’ and expectations for the Winter Break as soon as she returns home, or preferably, before! Don’t wait for a conflict to arise before communicating with her. Students who have been making their own decisions for four months may find it difficult to suddenly succumb to their parents’ control again. Many parents have expectations about time spent with the family, which conflicts with student expectations to spend time with old friends.

January


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Students return to campus after the Winter Break. Many will feel homesick as they return to campus; others will feel relieved to be back to their independent lifestyle.
  • They will receive their grades from Fall Term and will either feel disappointed or delighted. Parental reactions to the grades weigh heavily on their minds and influence their stress level as they anticipate a new term. Whether the grades were good or bad, they will have a better understanding of what college work requires.
  • Students who wish to live in the residence halls for the next academic year will register to choose their rooms. The Housing Sign-Up allows students currently residing in University Housing to choose their rooms and roommates for the following academic year.
  • There will be uncertainties in the new semester, as students begin new classes and meet new professors.
  • Some students will make plans for study-abroad programs.
  • Sorority and Fraternities hold Winter Rush for students who did not participate in the fall, or for those who were not accepted in the fall.

January Helpful Hint

At Michigan, learning takes place ‘outside of the classroom’ too. Encourage your student to attend educational and cultural events around campus, including guest speakers, musical and theater performances, museums, poetry slams, etc. Arts at Michigan can help your student explore those opportunities.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be supportive of your student regardless of the Fall Term grades. If grades were poor, refer him to the University resources for help in future academic struggles. Remind him of your academic and class attendance expectations, but also keep those expectations realistic given the level of academic difficulty at the University of Michigan.
  • Remind her to keep up with her coursework. Many students find that falling behind early in the term is a major cause of stress and failures later on in the term. Help her with time management tips so that academics and social activities are balanced; as well as time for herself.
  • Direct him to the Housing Office for information about how to live on-campus for the following academic year (Housing Sign-Up). The Housing Office also has information about off-campus housing, including estimates on off-campus expenses.
  • Refer her to the Center for Global and Intercultural Study for information about study and work abroad opportunities.

February


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Students may be depressed as the cold weather and lack of sunshine continues.
  • They’ll start taking midterms, and some papers or projects may be due.
  • Many students neglect their health and exercise plans.
  • Students may get ‘Cabin Fever’ due to being indoors. This causes some students to be anxious, tense, distracted, or frustrated with people around them—especially roommates.
  • Student organizations demand a lot of time from students. As a result, students who have trouble with their time management skills may feel overcommitted and overwhelmed.
  • Some students have relationship anxiety, especially around Valentines Day.
  • Students make plans for Spring Break. This may lead to financial concerns for some. Others may be jealous of their friends who are going to places warm and exotic. This may also lead to disagreements with family over different expectations for how and where this vacation will be spent.
  • Some students may demonstrate irresponsible behavior at parties over Spring Break, and suffer the consequences of that behavior.

February Helpful Hint

Your tradition of taking a family vacation in February may change this year. Many students make plans to go on vacation with friends for Spring Break, and do not want to spend their break with the family. Talk to your student early on so that no one is disappointed at the last minute. With open communication, there may be ways to reach compromises. If not, remember that this is another milestone for a young adult, and be supportive of the decision.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Encourage her to actively enjoy the winter. Building a snowman, going sledding, or ice skating at Yost Arena could be the perfect study break! Students who learn to enjoy the winter, instead of dreading it, are better able to fight off ‘cabin fever’ or the winter blues. Of course, if those winter blues turn into something more serious, refer her to Counseling and Psychological Services, where trained staff can help her cope with stress, depression, and more.
  • Support him as he tries to balance academics and extracurricular activities. Encourage him to seek assistance from the on-campus resources, including the faculty. Advise him to go to office hours and to get to know the faculty.
  • Send care packages. Valentine’s Day is an excellent time for you to let her know that you’re thinking about her.
  • Listen and support his relationship or roommate concerns. Refer him to his Resident Advisor if roommate conflicts cannot be resolved, and to Counseling and Psychological Services if relationship concerns are severe and interfere with his academics.
  • Discuss her plans and expectations for Spring Break. Talk to her about who’s paying for the vacation, whether or not it will be spent with the family or friends, and about making responsible choices regarding her behavior.

March


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • They’ll be stressed as they take more midterms and have more papers or projects due.
  • Most will have their housing plans for the following year wrapped up by this point. This may be a relief for some. Others may find that they are no longer friends with the people they signed their lease with.
  • They’ll register for courses for the following Fall Term, and for Spring/Summer Terms if they’re staying in Ann Arbor for the summer.
  • Students feel pressure to declare a major, or make plans for applying to upper-level schools, such as Business, Architecture, Pharmacy, or Education.
  • Students begin to think about summer plans including jobs or internships. Students may also be concerned about how they will fit into the family and the family’s expectations if they return home to live with their parents for the entire summer.
  • Financial Aid documents for following year are due.

March Helpful Hint

If you live close enough, March is a good time for a short visit to campus. Be sure to talk to your student ahead of time to make sure it’s a good time for him. Students appreciate being taken out to dinner and going shopping when their parents visit!

What Parents Can Do:

  • Keep the lines of communication open. As she begins to prepare for her summer plans and for the upcoming Fall Term, she may seek your guidance and advice, or she may want to make her decisions without your help. Recognize that either way, these decisions are part of growing up, and trust that in the end, she will make decisions that are best for her. You can encourage her to see academic advisor before registering for courses.
  • Send care packages. Gift certificates for local restaurants, homemade goodies from home, a plant or flowers, and pictures of loved ones are welcome surprises.
  • Refer him to the Career Center for information about summer jobs and internships.

April


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Students get ‘Spring Fever’ as weather warms up, and they’ll find concentrating on academics harder than ever. There are also more distractions on campus, as students go outside to play Frisbee, go bike riding, or enjoy a stroll around campus.
  • Stress levels are high as papers and projects are due, and students take final exams.
  • They must plan for moving out of their current residence halls.
  • For some, leaving their college friends for the summer will be the biggest concern of all.

April Helpful Hint

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the freshman year. You should relax and enjoy this moment. Your student will continue to grow and change over the course of the next few years, and your relationship with your student will also continue to change. However, the freshman year is a big transition for you both, and you should feel proud if you have both managed to successfully navigate hurdles of the freshman year.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Be supportive through stressful time, and send care packages to help her get through final exams.
  • Remind him to take care of himself with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and enough sleep.
  • Communicate with her about her end-of-term plans for moving out of the residence hall. Visit the University Housing website for updated information about the move-out process in the residence halls.

May


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Many students will return home for the summer. Others will stay on campus and take Spring/Summer Term courses. Those staying on campus may choose to stay in a residence hall or to sublet an apartment or room near campus.
  • Students who lined up summer employment ahead of time will begin their summer jobs. Others will still need to find work.
  • Students who return home may have anxiety about losing their independence, and be concerned about adjusting to life under their parents’ roofs again.

May Helpful Hint

Plan ahead. Be sure to talk to your student about your expectations for saving money over the summer for the school year. Address any concerns you had about how money was spent in the freshman year, so you can avoid continued problems in the sophomore year. Be sure to discuss the use of credit cards as well.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Discuss with her what your expectations are for her behavior, roles, and responsibilities during the summer months if she will be moving home. Students may not be expecting to take on household-related tasks, especially if they have job and social commitments for the summer. This is a time to renegotiate the responsibilities as one adult to another. Will you expect her to eat at family meals? Be home by a certain time? Call if coming home late? Or something else? These are all restrictions that she has not had for 9 months. Be sure to talk about what you expect, and be willing to compromise, before problems occur.
  • Respect and appreciate the independent, self-reliant, mature person who has returned home, even if he seems nothing like the freshman you dropped off in Ann Arbor last fall.
  • Use this summer to openly communicate with her as an adult, and to discover and appreciate the intellectual growth that she has developed in the past few months.

June


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Students who returned home may be experiencing conflict with their parents about independence, house rules, duties, expectations for work around the house, and respect for the needs of the family vs. the needs of the individual.
  • Students taking spring/summer classes will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of Ann Arbor, while at the same time have to adjust to the faster pace of spring/summer term classes. Frequent opportunities for fun and social time may make studying a lower priority than it had been in the winter.

June Helpful Hint

Take time to learn more about the University’s resources. You can be a helpful referral source when students need guidance on campus. As a sophomore, your student may have learned how to navigate the University’s campus, but often times, navigating resources has not yet been learned.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Discuss with your student what your expectations are for her behavior, roles, and responsibilities during the summer months if she will be moving home. Keep the lines of communication open all summer.
  • If he’s taking spring/summer courses, remind him of your expectations for academic performance, but be realistic about the challenges of the faster paced half-terms.
  • Encourage her to manage time appropriately. The summer will go by quicker than she thinks!

July


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Spring half-term will end, and students taking Spring half-term classes will take finals.
  • Summer half-term begins.
  • New freshmen attend summer orientation. Students who are now considered sophomores may feel nostalgic as they realize how quickly the year flew by and how much they have changed and grown as individuals.
  • Students who returned home for the summer may be anxious to return to campus in the fall and may miss their campus friends. Some may have anxiety that the relationships with their friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends may have changed over the summer.
  • Summer jobs reduce the amount of ‘spare time’ for students to relax and enjoy summer.
  • Students may be tired of living under ‘house rules’ and challenge parental rules.

July Helpful Hint

Don’t forget to show your student how much you love her. Tensions may be high as she gets tired of living at home, and as you get tired of having her home! Remember the summer will soon be over, and for many students, the summer after the freshman year is the last time they live at home ever again. Work to build a strong adult to adult relationship that will carry on long after she moves out.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Appreciate his growth and changes as he develops into an adult.
  • Keep communication open about plans for fall, finances, and relationships. Students at this age are far more willing to communicate with parents as fellow adults.
  • Help her to assess her freshman year successes and failures, and discuss her plans for making improvements in her sophomore year.

August


What’s Happening with Your Student:

  • Summer half-term ends, and students taking summer half-term classes will take finals.
  • Students living on campus will move out of their residence halls or apartments, and may have to move home for a week or two before the fall housing lease begins. As a result, some will have anxiety about moving and storing their stuff.
  • Students may have anxiety about their new fall living arrangements and new roommates.
  • They’ll be sad that the summer is ending, but also excited to return to campus and see all of their friends again.
  • They may want to spend all of their remaining free time with old friends, instead of with the family. This may differ from what the family wants.
  • They may have financial concerns that they didn’t make enough money over the summer to support their budget needs for the fall.

August Helpful Hint

Most students declare a major by the end of the sophomore year. You should discuss careers and majors before your student returns to school and gets bogged down in the day-to-day stress of school work. Encourage your student to explore many career and major options, without pressure to choose something that pleases you. The Career Center on campus can help your student with these decisions.

What Parents Can Do:

  • Support him through another transition.
  • Help with moving and storage issues if possible. An extra pair of hands and a minivan on moving day are most appreciated.
  • Recognize that last days of summer will be busy and she will not want to spend much time with the family if friends are in town.
  • Continue to communicate with him about your expectations for academics and behavior regarding drinking and relationships. Your role as a mentor continues throughout the college years, and these conversations become easier if you’ve established a respectful adult-to-adult relationship.