Changing Roles: Easing Transition to College Life

by   |   dalewand@bju.edu   |  
Student at summer orientation ready to transition to college

As parents of current BJU students and University alumni, Gary and Rebecca Weier understand the delicate transition from high school to college.

The brief period between graduation party and unpacking on campus can include excitement, agitation, trepidation and verve—potentially all rolled into one hot August day—and is not limited to students. The family is impacted by the transition in the short and long term.

See Also: Welcome Week Schedule

“You have this dream for your children and your children have this dream of finishing college, but there’s going to be some stress involved in that transition,” said Rebecca Weier, BJU’s Director of Student Engagement & Success, during a Class of 2023 Summer Orientation session for parents.

Communication is Key

Understanding growth opportunities, demands and anxieties will help both parties navigate the initial transition with confidence. Weier points to informal conversations between students and parents about expectations ahead of the August 31 check-in as important in mitigating problem areas and cultivating a new relationship dynamic:

  • How often should we talk and who will initiate messaging and phone calls?
  • What can we do to help you adjust to college life?
  • How often do you plan to come home?
  • What church(es) do you plan to visit?
  • Have you thought about respecting your roommates’ space and them yours?
  • What are your action plans to study and to relieve stress?

Reframe the Failures

It’s also important to let go but still be there for your student. They need to know that they can talk to you when they get an A or D on a quiz, when they succeed at a new venture and when they make mistakes.

It might take time for the student to find their footing on campus, and irrational beliefs can render an individual vulnerable to anxiety or lead to worrisome coping behaviors. Remind them that they weren’t able to tie their shoes on their first attempt.

“One of the things you can do to help your student is to help them reframe any kind of disappointment or failure that they experience,” Weier said. “The process is really messy and is going to be dirty sometimes, but you have to help your students reframe the messiness as progress. If they never learn from their failures, then they are going to be constantly discouraged by their failures.”

Learn About Available Campus Resources

Does your student know how to schedule a doctor or dentist appointment if necessary? Do they know about the services available at the Academic Resource Center and Career Services? And do they know they’ll have a personal academic advisor and peer leader in their freshman seminar group?

See Also: Student Resources for Success

Emphasize that seeking out assistance is a sign of strength and healthy coping strategy, and reinforce that God “has gifted you and cares about developing you with a purpose.”

“Most of you aren’t going to be the next block away. You’ll be a phone call away, and most likely the one to get that phone call, so it’s helpful to know someone in close proximity who can help them with a problem,” Weier said to parents. “They don’t even think they’re going to need help. You know that might be possible. Who are the people who are going to help them in the residence hall? Who are the people who are going to help them academically? Who is their advisor?”

Support from Home, Campus Community

According to studies cited by Gary Weier, BJU’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, recent college graduates say that the most impactful aspects of their four years were support, relationships and experiential learning.

“We try to build an environment on campus and an emphasis that focuses on these things,” said Weier, who noted that 93 percent of BJU students say that they have at least one instructor as a friend or as a professional connection. “A third of them have four or more to help them get internships or be a reference.”

The ability for students to apply what they are learning with all kinds of learning experiences—internships, student organizations, outreach ministries and local church involvement among others—is also important.

“That’s why the first-year experience here on campus is so important because we’re nudging students to make decisions that will be more likely that they have these kinds of experiences even if they don’t gravitate to them on their own,” he added.

“As a university, we try to create an atmosphere for success for our students, and we tell them that the key is their attitude and approach to it. It’s not simply their aptitude, which plays a part in it. More important than aptitude is their attitude toward learning. We try to help them think of themselves as learners and not just students.

“A student is a temporary designation in life. The learner is something that we should be doing throughout our lives.”

The parent session Letting Them Grow from Summer Orientation will be offered at 2:30 p.m. August 31 in Stratton Hall.

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