Arise Advising

How will my student find their people, feel okay, and thrive in their first year at college?

There are so many things that students can do to make their first year productive and enjoyable. Families can help their students by exploring these issues while they are researching and visiting colleges. For a list of questions to ask and features to explore with the colleges on your student’s list.
  • Is there a first-year program to help students adjust to college? This might include –
    • Orientation and pre-orientation programs
    • First-year academic programs and seminars
    • Peer mentoring or dedicated college staff
    • New-student events and activities throughout the year
  • What is the approach to first-year housing and residential life? Look for information about –
    • First-year students housed together or among mixed classes
    • Single rooms or roommates
    • Common dorm spaces such as kitchens, lounges, rec rooms
    • Dining rooms affiliated with housing or central dining system
    • Upper-class students live on campus or off
  • How do students find and make community? Ask virtual student ambassadors or tour guides about how they became part of campus communities, such as –
    • Common spaces for hanging out and making friends, such as libraries, common rooms, rec center, campus center, the quad
    • Clubs and organizations, such as interest clubs, student government and dorm management, recreational sports, music/dance/performance
    • Greek life presence on campus
    • Classes and departments: first-year seminars, sections, sharing notes, group chats/study groups
    • Opportunities to find campus jobs
    • Ease of getting off campus and into the local community
    • Campus traditions that encourage participation and care
    • Campus traditions such as pet-a-pet days, scavenger hunts, relays, carnivals
  • What is the culture around dealing with homesickness? Think about –
    • Encouraging your student to welcome family visitors but perhaps avoid going home at weekends, during the first semester
    • Asking older students how they dealt with homesickness
  • Who are you going to call? Anticipate the support system that your student will want to build on campus. How would they handle a rough night? They might connect with –
    • Resident advisors (RA’s) in the dorm
    • Tutoring and drop-in centers
    • Professors
    • Peer mentors
    • Roommates
    • Open counseling hours
  • What formal services are available to support mental health, physical health, and learning differences? It can be very helpful to do research on issues including –
    • On-campus wellness and mental-health services and if they are available on a reliable and timely basis
    • Ease of finding services off campus, when needed
    • Campus staff who are trained to provide emergency support or interventions
    • Office of Disability Services (or similar) operations and services
    • How students feel about campus security
  • How do students feel recognized, included, and authentically supported? Ask student ambassadors to share their experiences with –
    • Affinity and theme housing and dining
    • LGBTQ+ centers and services
    • Office of equity and inclusion
    • Multicultural and identity centers
    • Religious services and holiday celebrations and meals
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Barbara Rifkind

As an independent educational consultant, I bring a powerful toolkit to the wonderful work of helping students and families achieve their college search goals.

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