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Moving to MSUOrientation

Beginning college is an exciting time for new Mississippi State students and their families. Along with the thrill of new-found freedom, there are a lot of challenges that students will face. Some of their thoughts will be:

  • Excitement of leaving home
  • Testing new-found freedom
  • Anxious about sharing a room
  • Homesickness and loneliness
  • Feeling overwhelmed in a foreign environment; navigating campus, learning unfamiliar policies and procedures, and meeting new people
  • Feeling disconnected from family and high school support system, which may include a long-distance romantic relationship
  • Adapting to a new, more challenging academic environment:
    • Questioning previously held values while learning new ideas and perspectives
    • Time management-balancing obligations, deciding how to use "free" time outside of class
    • Completing reading assignments, studying notes, and preparing for tests and quizzes
    • Larger classes
    • Confusion about academic expectations
    • Attending class
    • Different relationship with instructors
    • High school study skills not appropriate for college work

How Parents Can Help

  • Communicate with your son or daughter to listen and provide reassurance. Resist the temptation to try to fix problems.
  • Reassure your student that the adjustments he/she is experiencing are common and expected for first-year students.
  • Encourage your student to purchase and use a calendar, planner, or other personal organizer to stay caught up with tasks and obligations.
  • Encourage your student to participate in campus events like Dawg Daze or the Student Involvement Fair.
  • Encourage your student to talk with his/her Resident Advisor and attend programs in the residence hall.
  • Suggest exploration of opportunities for involvement in the Student Association such as: Senate, Freshman Forum, or one of the SA committees.
  • Recommend regular exercise and use of the Sanderson Center.
  • Encourage your student to participate actively in class and meet with instructors during office hours to get to know them and discuss class expectations.
  • Remind your student that regular class attendance is important, whether it is required or not.
  • Remember that no matter how near or far your student lives from you, he/she may still experience homesickness. The best cure for homesickness is for students to get involved and make friends on campus.


School is UnderwayOrientation

After Labor Day students begin to get settled and some of their initial fears begin to fade. For some, there are situations that continue to cause distress. Some of the things they might be experiencing are:

  • Increased comfort on campus as anxiety fades or greater sense of homesickness
  • Desire to come home frequently and call often
  • Free time is overtaken by course work, projects, reading, etc.
  • Anxiety about first quizzes and tests
  • Realizes that high school study habits are not enough for success in college courses
  • Roommate conflicts
  • Feeling disconnected from home and family
  • Balancing academic and social obligations
  • Developing bad habits, such as skipping class, staying out late every night, or spending too much time on the Internet

How Parents Can Help

  • Reassure your student that feeling overwhelmed is normal for new students learning to manage academic demands and new personal responsibilities.
  • Remind your students that attending class regularly and keeping up with assignments are keys to academic success.
  • Encourage your student to build a time management schedule and stick to it.
  • If your student is experiencing extreme homesickness, encourage him/her to get involved with a campus organization, seek a part-time job on campus, or find another way to get involved.
  • Encourage your student to get involved in one of the many intramural sports leagues.
  • Keep your student informed about events and activities taking place at home.
  • Send a care package to your student. Consider including snacks, cards, phone cards, or something to remind her of home.

As midterms approach, students may have increased stress and anxiety about academic performance. Adjustment issues may persist, causing some students to compare themselves to others who have made the transition easily. On the other hand, October is a time when many students begin to feel more at home at MSU and actively seek friendships and involvement.

  • Midterm exams create tension and nervousness.
  • If a student doesn't meet expectations on first tests he/she may have feelings of failure.
  • Students may feel like a "small fish in a big pond" and question if they fit in.
  • Being around others with differing moral and social views can be challenging.
  • Not dating frequently or having a close friend leads to lower confidence.
  • Roommate problems may begin to arise.
  • Impulsive behavior to handle the social pressures of dating and drinking may result in unwanted consequences.
  • Students unable to choose a major may feel they are behind.
  • Some students may begin to have fears about properly managing finances.
  • Some will want to transfer to a school closer to home.
  • Other will start to find true friends and begin to feel at home.

How Parents Can Help

  • Be willing to listen to your student express his or her frustrations with the adjustment process.
  • Be sympathetic but careful not to provide too many suggestions on how to "fix" your student's problems. Convey your confidence in his/her own ability to find his/her way around in this new environment.
  • Encourage your student to read the Reflector or the Student Express to learn about events on campus.
  • Encourage your student to meet with an academic advisor prior to advance registration in November.
  • Remind students of previous success in making friends and having relationships so that impulsive actions are mediated by innate common sense and memories of success before college.
  • Discuss budget planning with your student so that issues do not build up and interfere with academics.

As the semester continues, students look forward to the holidays and a break from academic pressures. Some of the thoughts and events they are experiencing are:

  • Many exams, class projects, and papers are due before Thanksgiving.
  • Many feel excited and nervous about going home for Thanksgiving.
  • First series of campus-wide illnesses (Cold, flu, strep, mono, etc.)
  • Some have academic pressure due to procrastination, difficulty of work, lack of ability.
  • Students try to keep their grades up through finals or raise them finals.
  • Depression and anxiety may increase if students haven't found their niche.
  • Students begin to run out of money for the semester.
  • Thanksgiving break provides much-needed respite.
  • Coping with stress by engaging in counter-productive behaviors, including late night socializing, increased alcohol consumption, and poor eating and sleeping habits

How Parents Can Help

  • Provide your student with encouragement and support. Many students put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves. They may also be anxious about living up to your academic expectations and may find themselves even more overwhelmed.
  • Encourage students to visit professors to get help or discuss academic performance.
  • If your student seems depressed, encourage him/her to visit the Counseling Center.
  • Even though this may be a time of increased academic pressure, encourage your student to attempt a balance of healthy diet, adequate sleep exercise, and some relaxation.
  • Remind your student about academic support services offered on campus.
  • If your student lives in a residence hall and is feeling isolated, encourage him to talk with an Resident Advisor or Hall Director.
  • Remind your student to visit the Student Health Center to take care of any health needs and to let professors know if she is going to miss classes due to illness.
  • Remind your student to take advantage of resources meant to ensure campus safety, especially as it begins to get dark earlier in the evening.

No matter how well adjusted your student may be, he/she will still experience anxiety in preparing for final exams. He/She may be:Orientation

  • Overly busy because of the small amount of time between Thanksgiving and exams.
  • Excited about holidays and having a break.
  • Focused on completing work - studying, projects, reading, etc.
  • Resorting to alcohol and partying to cope. Others may study non-stop and neglect sleep and meals.
  • Busy as extracurricular activities increase with the holidays and the end of the semester.
  • Concerned about finances for the end of this semester and paying for next semester.
  • Worried about paying for travel home or paying for holiday gifts.
  • Worried about how semester break will affect friendships and romantic relationships.
  • Worried about how families will readjust to being back at home again.

How Parents Can Help

  • Reassure your student that these next few weeks will be stressful and challenging but you will be there to listen.
  • Encourage your student to eat a balanced diet, get a reasonable amount of sleep, and avoid too much caffeine
  • Encourage your student to participate in stress-reducing activities such as exercise
  • Consider sending a package with your student's favorite snacks or goodies. It doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate, but it will be a real morale booster.
  • Establish plans for your student's trip home for the holidays and how he/she is planning to travel.
  • Offer support by phoning, sending e-mails, or writing letters. Do not be offended if your student does not have time to talk or write back while he is studying.
  • Include your student in plans for holiday events and activities. Your student may feel excluded if she is on campus studying for finals while the rest of the family is decorating the house or participating in an annual tradition.
  • Be prepared for your student to want to spend a lot of his time catching up with high school friends while at home. Communicate with him to make time for family activities, and express your expectations for the break.

January's success may be influenced by how well the winter break went for your student and your family. Issues that face them now are:

  • Winter break may not have lived up to expectations.
  • Homesick students have to leave the security and acceptance of home and family for the uncertainties of their second semester.
  • They may have anxiety about improving upon first semester performance as well as continuing good habits and discontinuing bad habits.
  • Holiday weight gain may give some lower self-confidence.
  • They may be excited about returning to school friends or worried about past conflicts with friends or roommates.

How Parents Can Help

  • Reassure your student that feelings of anxiety are normal when beginning the spring semester.
  • Be aware that family discord or losses may affect your student's ability to focus on his/her academic work.
  • Encourage your student to take a renewed look at his/her classes and potential classmates as opportunities for new connections and improved academic performance.
  • Encourage your student to look for new opportunities to get involved in campus activities and programs.
  • Provide support for your student to review the previous semester and to learn from any mistakes made along the way.
  • Discuss with your student what worked and what didn't regarding time management in the fall semester.
  • Begin to compile the necessary tax documentation to apply for financial aid.
  • Even if his/her academic performance did not meet your expectations, encouragement and support are needed now. Provide support for your student to review the previous semester and to learn from any mistakes he/she may have made along the way.
  • Discuss with your student how his/her fall grades may impact financial aid and scholarships.

As the winter sets in with cold weather and lots of rain, students long for spring and the sunshine it will bring. A big component of this month is Valentine's Day and the emotions it brings--whether good or bad. Here are some things to expect:

  • Dreary winter weather can be depressing.
  • Focus more on relationships and less on classes around Valentine's Day.
  • Romantic relationships can be confusing. Also, not being in a romantic relationship can be especially lonely this month.
  • This month there is a lot of pressure to socialize as exams seem far away.
  • Students that are involved in many organizations may underestimate how much time they'll need for class work and start to fall behind.

How Parents Can Help

  • Discuss summer plans with your student: summer enrollment, study abroad, internships, or summer employment.
  • Relationships are a focus during this month and your student may need you to listen to his/her experiences with friends and significant others.
  • You may want to evaluate your student's financial needs to see if additional spending money is needed.
  • Discuss Spring Break with your student. Don't assume that they are automatically coming home.
  • Communicate with your student the importance of balancing work and social activities.

March is a hectic month when academic requirements and social activities can collide. Academic pressures increase as students face midterm exams and begin to realize that the end of the semester is not far away. In addition to all of this, Spring Break occurs this month, too. Here are some of the issues your student may be facing:Orientation

  • Excitement and /or disappointment regarding Spring Break plans
  • Potential sense of disappointment when peers are going on an "actual vacation" instead of "just going home"
  • Wondering how to pay for Spring Break
  • Decisions at Spring Break can be challenging - Should I drink? Do I give him my number?
  • Emotionally and financially costly consequences if he or she makes unwise choices during Spring Break
  • Concern over summer employment
  • Thinking about future living arrangements: moving off campus, changing roommates, or staying in Starkville for the summer

How Parents Can Help

  • Encourage your student to think through choices for Spring Break activities.
  • Remind your student that while spring is a time for much social activity, balance is important.
  • Take the time to discuss living options with you student for next year. Listen to your student's ideas about what he/she would like to do and what he/she thinks is feasible.
  • Encourage your student to talk to their academic advisor prior to pre-registration for fall classes.
  • Acknowledge that you understand how competitive the academic environment is and you share reasonable expectations of success.

The month of April is a time when the pace of the semester escalates academically, socially, and personally. Students may be experiencing considerable stress and fatigue by this point in the semester. As they face upcoming exams, here are some of the concerns in their lives:Orientation

  • Anxious over upcoming exams
  • Final projects and papers are due this month
  • Group assignments may be challenging with 3-5 stressed students involved
  • Concern over declaring a major
  • Fall registration creates concerns for getting into needed courses
  • Spring and End of the year social events
  • Anxious over finances

How Parents Can Help

  • Send care packages with brownies, vitamins, and encouraging notes.
  • Stress the wisdom of doing the very best he/she can, not worrying about what has happened so far in the semester.
  • Encourage students to talk to professors about performance so far.
  • Encourage your student to work into their schedule exercise, some healthy meals and sleep to prepare for finals.
  • Understand that your students' passage into independent and successful adulthood will be gradual and be best aided by your respectful challenges and support.
  • Be supportive if your student is having difficulty selecting a major. Encourage him/her to consider career counseling.

May begins with a bang as finals occur in the first week of the month. Orientation Once students complete that hurdle, they are faced with moving again and the challenges that it brings. Here are some other concerns in their lives:

  • Final exam anxiety
  • Apprehension about returning home for the summer
  • Readjusting to life back at home
  • Sadness over leaving friendships/relationships at school
  • Realization of how college influences life decisions
  • Enrolling in summer school at MSU or a school near home
  • Find themselves in conflict with parents about rules when back at home
  • Have to adjust to the rapid pace of summer school

How Parents Can Help

  • Make plans for how he will move home or to a new location with all of his belongings at the end of the semester.
  • Talk with your returning student ahead of time about your expectations while she is living at home. Acknowledge the possible differences in your lifestyles after living apart for the past year.
  • Discuss with and help your student make connections with his peer support group at home. In some cases, many childhood and high school friends will have moved away. Encourage your student to find ways to make new acquaintances during this break from school.
  • If your student is enrolled in summer school, talk about the importance of effective time management.
  • If your son or daughter is attending summer school at MSU or away from home, be sure to remain in contact and keep lines of communication open.
Summer and Beyond...

The end of the academic year can be looked at from a different perspective once your student has returned home.Orientation There is time to reflect on the challenges that your student faced and his or her successes and failures.

How Parents Can Help

  • If your student has returned home for the summer, take some time to get reacquainted.
  • Review the events of the first year with your student. This may be the first time your student has time to reflect on the meaning of his academic experience.
  • Discuss how initial academic interests and career plans have been affected. This can be an occasion for increased motivation towards original goals or an opportunity to explore alternative plans.
  • Help identify problem areas and encourage your student to consider the possible solutions. Suggest campus resources that may help.
  • As the summer progresses, your student may express some loneliness for friends made at college, a "home" away for home. Discuss the value of your student having developed a positive sense of campus life and plans for involvement next year.
  • Sit down with your student to review his/her financial needs for the coming academic year and work together to establish a tentative budget.
  • Discuss how new living arrangements will impact his/her academic year.
  • Discuss part-time campus employment as a way for your student to gain additional income and valuable work skills.
  • Be supportive of your student's search for the best career path by listening as he/she discusses options. Explore the need for counseling to establish career or academic goals.
  • Encourage your student to explore supplementary academic pursuits such as study abroad or internships.
  • Review time management skills. Discuss failures and successes at balancing the social and academic responsibilities in his/her life.
  • Encourage your student to enhance his/her academic experience as much as possible by staying involved in activities on campus even if he/she is now living off campus.
  • Encouragement and support by family can be meaningful in providing a safe environment to make thoughtful choices and weigh options. Now is the time for many students to begin to realize the importance of family and friends as a support system for the remainder of their college experience.

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