The transition from high school to university is often a time of significant change for students as they undergo new experiences and take on new responsibilities.
Some of the changes your student may encounter include:
Adapting to new surroundings
Most students adapt well to Sackville, but it is a small community and it can be an adjustment, particularly for students from large urban areas. It may take some time, but your student will find their niche and new favourite activities like walking in the Waterfowl Park, eating garlic fingers (especially a novelty for those new to the Maritimes), and enjoying the local arts and music scene.
Greater personal responsibility and independence
Many students will be taking on certain responsibilities for the first time: registering for courses, paying tuition fees, making independent decisions, lifestyle and diet choices. This is a time when there is often a focus on defining one’s own identity. This process of self-discovery can involve testing new limits and trying different identities and behaviours.
Making new friends and changing relationships with old friends
It can be a challenge making new friends and some first year students may feel lonely. We encourage all students to take part in Orientation to help establish friendships and to seek mentorship and guidance from faculty, staff, and community leaders.
More challenging academic expectations
University academics will be more challenging than high school. The schedule is less structured, with less actual classroom time and more free time to study. Time management is a key skill to develop and many resources exist on campus to help students will this.
Each student's transition to university is different — some adapt quickly, others need more time. Keep in touch with your student on a regular basis and offer your support and reassurance.
Before they arrive
You can help by encouraging them to:
- complete the application for admission themselves
- track important application, financial aid, and deposit deadlines in their agendas (see important dates)
- apply for residence and complete their course registration themselves
- get familiar with the academic calendar
- know their admission counsellor’s contact information
- contact their admission counsellor themselves if they have questions
After they arrive
You can help by encouraging them to:
- get involved in sports, clubs, or volunteer opportunities
- test their own problem-solving skills (instead of attempting to solve their problem for them)
- set realistic academic goals
- If they struggle academically, read how to support academic success
Your changing role
This is also a time of transition for you as a parent. Your role will also change as you move from advocate and helper to supporter as your student becomes more independent.
Parenting can be challenging during the first year of university. Here are some tips that may be helpful:
- Don’t take it personally if your student does not communicate with you as often as they used to — this often happens as they explore independence. But do establish a regular check-in routine to keep the lines of communication open.
- Cultivate an adult relationship with your student — ask them how they see their relationship with you changing.
- Love them enough to let them make their own mistakes — it’s okay if they struggle at times. Remember that you’ve already done the hard part: raising a smart, resourceful person!
- Talk to other parents or read resources like Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Coburn & Madge Lawrence Treeger.
- And now that you have some free time, explore taking classes, volunteering, trying new hobbies, or planning new adventures.
Tips for talking about alcohol
You may also want to have a discussion about the potential risks and consequences associated with drinking alcohol. Mount Allison has measures in place to discourage irresponsible drinking behaviours. Front-line staff are trained to address these behaviours should they occur, but it is important for parents to also talk about expectations and risks.
- Discuss your expectations, family beliefs and values, financial responsibility, class attendance, and staying in touch.
- Acknowledge that drinking is likely to happen and discuss the difference between low-risk and high-risk drinking.
- Acknowledge that your student may feel pressured to drink. Discuss a plan for dealing with this.
If you suspect your student is having a problem with alcohol (some signs are a significant change in academic performance; frequent requests for money to cover expenses or taking a second job; or moodiness, defensiveness, or silence when you try to talk to them about school) encourage them to talk to their residence assistants or residence don or seek help at the Wellness Centre or Student Life Office.
If your student declines to reach out for help and you remained concerned, you may contact any of these resources yourself.
Keep in touch
Each full-time student is assigned a mail box address. Letter mail and care packages can be sent to:
Mount Allison University
62A York Street
Sackville, NB E4L 1H3