All conversations with your college student will be different. Sometimes he will have lots to tell you or ask you, and other times you will both be searching for things to say to each other. However the conversations go, they are important times for sharing news, sharing feelings, making plans, and encouraging each other. Most of these conversations will probably not be about academics. However, there may be sometimes during the term when you will want to “check in” about how things are going in classes. Here are some possible suggestions for conversations at various times throughout the semester.
About a week into the semester:
By now your student has been in classes for one week and has probably had at least one class meeting for each of his courses. This is a good time to ask how he likes them and whether he has read all of the syllabi carefully. If the college has a Drop/Add period, that deadline may be coming up soon. This is a good time to ask whether he needs to drop or add any classes. (Remember that he may need to maintain a minimum number of credits to be considered a full time student – important for residence life, athletics, financial aid, and possibly health insurance.)
Check the academic calendar online to see if there is a drop/add deadline:
Students usually cannot add classes after this deadline. Classes dropped may require a fee and will be indicated on the transcript with a “W” for Withdraw. This is a good time to encourage your student to stop in and visit his advisor to introduce himself before deciding to drop or add a course. This may also be a good time to remind him to visit the college’s academic resource center or tutoring center for help and to make use of the reference help provided by the library.
Three or four weeks into the semester:
In addition to checking in about how classes are going, this is a good time to encourage your student to be involved in activities on campus. Has he joined any organizations? Has he attended any interesting special events on campus? Students who are involved on campus often do better in the classroom.
About six weeks into the semester:
This is probably midterm time for your student. He may be feeling stressed and overwhelmed. He may have extra exams or major papers or projects due. Lots of encouragement is welcome here. Remind him that this part of the semester will be over soon.
Shortly after midterm time:
Depending on school policy, midterm grades may be available to your student. Some schools send out formal grades (perhaps letter grades, or perhaps Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory indications) or midterm grades may be handled individually by instructors. Encourage your student to make sure he checks on his progress in all of his classes. Encourage him to talk to his instructors – especially if his midterm grade is not what he had hoped for or expected. Communication is key. Sometimes an unsatisfactory grade reflects a missing assignment or a single low test or quiz score. A conversation with the instructor is important. Encourage your student to check in with his academic advisor as well. This is especially important to discuss possible action regarding unsatisfactory grades. The advisor can help the student consider the best “next step”. Encourage your student to go back and review the course syllabi to look ahead for the second half of the semester.
Somewhere shortly after mid-semester:
Depending on school calendar, it may already time to plan for next semester! Sometime during this period your student should meet with his advisor to plan a schedule for next semester. Students may be able to register for courses on-line sometime after this period. Each school handles course registration slightly differently. Students should not register for courses if they have not met with their academic advisor. Advisors can often suggest appropriate course sequences, guide students toward appropriate course choices, help students navigate what are sometimes confusing or overwhelming requirements. Students who work closely with their advisors can avoid costly mistakes.
Nearing the end:
The last couple of weeks of class are very stressful for most students. Even if they have been very careful about time management for major projects and assignments, there is a lot of work to do at this time of semester. Lots of support from home is welcome here!!
Lots more support welcome here! Remind him that he is almost done. Understand that he may not be sleeping or eating well right now. It may seem overwhelming, but students do survive this time. Be sure to check with your student about her final exam schedule before making travel arrangements!
Congratulations! You’ve both made it through that first semester! By the second semester your student will know the rhythm of an academic term and you may need to “check in” less often. You’re both weathering the transition and hopefully, you’ve had some interesting and meaningful opportunities to stay in touch as you went along.