Parents and Families: Getting Through The First Year
We also know that you have concerns about helping your student to do well in the first semester and first year of college. Here is how you can partner with us to help your student:
Now is the time for your student to start taking responsibility for him/herself. We know that you want to make sure that your student has the best experience possible and gets all the assistance they may need. Every student experiences problems adjusting to college. You can help by staying involved in the student’s life and the life of the College in appropriate ways. Instead of intervening on behalf of the student to “fix” whatever you may perceive to be the problem, ask your student what steps they have taken to address the issue. Guide them in taking charge of their own experience. One of the most important outcomes of the college experience is developing the professional and life skills they will need to have by time they graduate. These include:
- problem-solving skills
- interpersonal skills
- communication skills
- leadership skills
If you over-facilitate the challenges your student faces, then you rob them of the unique opportunity in college to develop these skills. While we will do everything we can to help your student succeed, even failure can be part of the learning process.
Understand the difference between learning in high school and learning in college.
Learning in college is as very different process than learning in high school. The first thing you will notice is that classes are scheduled differently than in high school. In high school students attend classes five days a week, scheduled back to back from early morning into the afternoon. At the end of the school day students are free to participate in extracurricular activities, work, and study. In class, high school teachers teach differently than college professors teach. High school teachers give students regular homework assignments, collect them, grade them, review them, and let students know what they are expected to learn for exams and what to do to earn good grades.
In college, students attend class only a few hours each week. Classes are scheduled with large gaps of time in between them and may span fewer than five days per week. Both students and parents become frustrated when they cannot get a class schedule like the one they had in high school with courses scheduled back-to-back and no time “wasted.” The gaps between classes are the time your student needs to study in the library, meet with study groups and work on team projects. This is also time the student can use to become involved in extracurricular activities on campus and take advantage of the athletic and recreational facilities. Finally, this is the time the student should take to meet with professors outside of class, schedule tutoring, counseling, or advisement appointments.
College professors may not do the “hand-holding” that high school teachers do. Students are asked questions that have no “right” answer and are expected to figure out how to solve a problem on their own. Regular assignments may not get assigned, or if they are, they are assigned merely for the student’s own learning purposes, not as performance indicators that will be graded. Often college courses only require a mid-term and final exam or a term paper. All other assignments and readings are left to the student to do or not do at their own pace. And assigned readings can be in the hundreds of pages per week. This workload can be a shock for a first year student and their parents.
Parents often wonder, why do professors assign so much school work-don’t they know the student has other things they have to do? We suggest that students and parents acknowledge that a college education is the foundation for future opportunity. Yet many students and parents feel that a job takes precedence over school, that school must fit into a work schedule. Unless the student now has the job they want for the rest of their life, they should not jeopardize their future by jeopardizing their academic careers. Being a student is more than a full-time job and should be made an unquestioned priority.
For all of the reasons just mentioned, good students frequently perform poorly during their first year. Students feel that they should only spend time studying what they can get “credit” for rather than what will help them to learn or satisfies their curiosity. Parents should know what we tell students in their first year, that admission into Baruch does not guarantee them admission into the degree program here of their choice. Each Baruch undergraduate degree (business, arts and sciences, or public affairs/real estate) has certain application requirements for its majors. Poor academic performance in the first year can exclude the student from ever being able to pursue the major of their choice at Baruch College. You know that success in the professional world requires more than the minimum effort. If you deliver no more than what is required to get by, you will stay at a low level. Students in their first year must transform themselves into self-motivated learners.
- Understand the self-esteem and identity formation issues that confront a first year student. When a good student starts to do poorly in college because the demands and expectations for academic achievement have changed-the rules of the game have changed from those of high school-they can suffer serious self-doubt and lowered self-esteem. What this means for you is that your student may be having academic difficulties in their first year but they are reluctant to tell you about it because it means losing face. The student often feels alone in this struggle and paralyzed to act to remedy the situation. They wait passively for the problem to go away. But doing nothing only makes it worse. This is often the first test for the student to take charge of their future and seek out help. You can help by creating the safety for your student to confide to you how they are doing without fear of retribution, shame, or intrusion. Instead, encourage them to seek out help and take charge of solving the difficulty, knowing that you are there for support as they find their way. Get to know the available support services on campus and refer the student to them.
- Familiarize yourself with the College’s policies on Academic Honesty, cheating and plagiarism. Baruch College has very strict guidelines regulating academic honesty and other codes of conduct. Students can be tempted to resort to cheating when they feel desperate. The only constraint is often the fear of getting caught. Obviously, the best solution for the student is to manage their time effectively, devote adequate time to studies, and make use of legitimate methods of help so that they do not feel tempted to cheat. Parents need to familiarize themselves with College regulations on Academic Integrity.
- Accommodate your student’s need for adequate study time and space. Students need at least two hours of study time set aside per week for each hour they sit in class. For a full-time student, this means they must set aside a minimum of thirty hours each week for study outside of class. You can help by making sure your demands on the student allow them this study time. Without it, they will be at risk for failure.