One of the truths of college parenting for many of us is that we worry about our college students. We may worry a lot, or we may worry only a little. We worry about our students’ health and safety, their ability to make friends, to make wise decisions and choices, to learn and get decent grades, to find their way around, to have fun and to be fulfilled. Our concern is often the reason that we hover.
One of the things that often feels overwhelming to new college students is finding their way around a new campus. Obviously, this is even more challenging at a large university than a small college, but even a relatively small campus can feel overwhelming and strange at first. Remind your new college student to get a good campus map- and to spend some time looking at it. He can probably find one on line and print it out. This will help him to feel oriented even before he arrives on campus.
Once your student arrives on campus, she can spend some time getting to know her new surroundings. An unhurried walk around the campus with some of her new friends will help her locate important buildings and also spend time getting to know other students. She’ll want to find her classroom buildings and a few other important locations. Here are twelve locations that every student should find early in her college career. Knowing where these are located – and visiting often – will help your student get off to a good start and be prepared for possible needs in the future.
- The library – It seems obvious that your student should know where the library is, but some students never take advantage of this resource. Now that students can do so much research on line, they don’t head to the library as often. Encourage your student to check out what the school library has to offer. In addition to the books on the shelves, the library offers a quiet place to study or just get away from it all, movies and magazines, group study rooms, computers, and great research help.
- The computer center or lab – Your student has probably brought his own computer to school, and possibly a printer as well. If he doesn’t have a printer, he’ll want to locate the computer lab early so that he can print his papers. However, even if your student has both his own computer and printer, he should know where he needs to go in an emergency. If the printer is out of toner the morning that the paper is due, he’ll want to know where to head. If he develops computer problems, he’ll need to know where to go to use the college computers.
- The college bookstore – Many students buy their textbooks on line. Some schools offer bookstore services that deliver textbooks to the dorms. The college bookstore has much more than books. This will be the source of many items that your student may need or want.
- The college copy center – At some point, your student may be required to provide multiple copies of an assignment for a class. She may need to print copies of her resume. She may need to have a project bound. Locating the copy center early, and finding out what services are available, will help her be prepared when she needs it.
- The tutoring or academic support center – Many students will need a little help at some point in their college career. Your student should locate and explore the tutoring center before he needs it. Finding out what services are offered, how to sign up, how much advance notice is needed, will help him be prepared. Often, some of the best students are the ones who use the services of an academic support center to notch that grade just a bit higher. Your student may be able to get help with writing assignments, speaking assignments, specific course tutoring, or study materials. If he is a very strong student, your student might eventually be able to get a job tutoring other students.
- The health center – We hope that our student will stay healthy throughout her college career. However, when those health issues arise – either major or minor – the student health center is the place to get help. Your student should locate the center early, know the hours, know whether to call ahead or drop in, know what is offered. With any luck, she’ll never need the services of the health center, but if she does, it will be reassuring to know how to get there.
- The fitness center – It is important for students to stay fit. Their eating habits may be changing, they may be getting less exercise, and they may be getting less sleep. Many colleges now offer state-of-the-are fitness centers with equipment and experts to help students stay in shape. Checking out the facilities and services – usually offered free to students – may inspire him to stay in shape.
- The registrar’s office – The registrar’s office is the campus office that usually handles all issues related to grades and college transcripts. They may also deal with dropping or adding classes, incomplete grades, or course registration. Your student should know where this office is located and when it is open.
- The student center – Most schools have a student center which becomes the hub of social life and activities for students. This is often where the main dining facilities of the college may be located. This is a great place for students to enter into some of the social life of the school, meet friends, sign up for trips and activities, and generally take a break from studying. Encourage your student to check out what is offered and to take advantage of the services.
- The career office – Career Services Offices offer much more than job placement. Your student should locate and investigate this office early. They may help with choosing a major, locating campus jobs, finding internships, investigating graduate schools, building resumes, interviewing skills, and other important skills. They may offer lists of available jobs on and off campus. Your student will need these skills long before his senior year.
- The public safety office – Your student may need to contact the public safety office if she ever has a safety issue or concern. This may also be the office that deals with parking issues if your student has a car on campus. Knowing where this office is located means that your student will be able to get there quickly if necessary.
- The snack bar – Many schools have several snack bars or coffee shops. These are crucial to students’ survival. When the main dining room is closed, or when there is only time for a bite between classes, the snack bar can be a life saver. This may also be the place to meet friends or settle in with the laptop to get work done. Your student should check out options early.
Finding his way around campus may be a challenge for your student at first, but he will be surprised at how quickly he gets to know his new environment. What seemed impossible on the day he arrived, seems natural by the end of the first week. Locating a few key places on campus will mean that your student will have an extra sense of feeling in control. He’ll know that he’s prepared to take advantage of what the college has to offer. This will also help you, as college parent, to know that your student is one more step closer to independence.