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Fall Semester

AUGUST

What’s happening with your student:

  • They’re adjusting to the new responsibilities, new roommates, relationships, and freedoms that college life presents. The initial weeks may be challenging for new students navigating unfamiliar surroundings, especially when he or she may not know any other students yet.
  • They’re excited about moving away from home, but still may feel homesick.
  • They are starting over and are not sure of what to expect from their new life as a college student.
  • They are unsure of what to expect academically: the unknown workload and expectations from faculty.

What you can do:

  • Understand your changing role as a parent. Your new role is likely to be that of a consultant and mentor, providing support, encouragement, advice, and guidance without the control you once had.
  • Encourage your student to be independent and embrace these new experiences. Be an empathetic listener, but refrain from “coming to the rescue” when they face problems.
  • Encourage your student to become part of the university through involvement activities, such as organizations or campus jobs. Remind your student of their own personal talents, and encourage them to get involved in related activities.
  • Create realistic expectations for your student especially regarding academics, financial responsibility, social involvement, alcohol and drug use. Try to discuss these topics in a non-judgmental manner, and be open to listening to your student.
  • Read and learn about what resources are available at UMD for both you and your student. This will help you help your student more efficiently.

August Helpful Hint
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! This is a period of adjustment for you too. Your mixed feelings of joy and sorrow, pride and loss, are normal. There will be a void in the family and some roles may adjust, especially if younger siblings are still at home. It’s a good time to refocus on your own hobbies and interests. And remember that your student still needs you and loves you, even if he doesn’t say it.

SEPTEMBER

What’s happening with your student:

  • They are learning about what UMD has to offer, enjoying the energy of campus in the fall, and the excitement of a new environment.
  • They may be embracing the school spirit of Maryland by attending football games and other student events on campus.
  • They may be questioning their identity, pushing boundaries, and experimenting with new things.
  • They may be experiencing time management conflicts and are starting to understand that what worked in high school academics won’t necessarily work for college.
  • They may be experiencing relationship problems with roommates or an increased dependence on high school friends, enabling them to avoid getting involved with new people and the UMD community.

What you can do:

  • Listen to your child’s concerns and be reassuring. Your student will still rely on you for guidance on occasion. Make sure to actively listen to your student’s problems and issues.
  • Provide your child with time management techniques or refer him to Learning Assistance Services (part of the University Counseling Center), which offers various resources for time management and academic success.
  • Continue to encourage involvement. Tell your student about all the great opportunities on campus and encourage him or her to attend the First Look Fair on McKeldin Mall.
  • Help your student place minor disappointments in perspective (i.e. not being selected for Greek rush). It is inevitable that your student will face some sort of setback. Remind your student that it’s not the end of the world and come up with a plan to rectify the situation together.

September Helpful Hint
Register for Family Weekend (Oct. 18-20)! This is a great opportunity to meet with other Terp Families from across the country while attending some terrific events. Family Weekend is about midway through the semester, so it's a good excuse to return to campus and check-in with your son or daughter.  They may not want to admit it, but they will miss you by then.

OCTOBER

What’s happening with your student:

  • Students might be stressed about tests and midterms and may receive their first grades on papers and projects.
  • Early Warning grades* are sent in mid-October, and students may be disappointed or discouraged because they are unaccustomed to receiving poor grades.
  • They’re facing social demands. Some students who got involved in too many campus organizations may have trouble balancing the demands of the organizations with the demands of coursework.
  • They are learning to manage their own money, and may have trouble sticking to a budget. College presents many pressures to spend money and they may run out of money sooner than expected.

What parents can do:

  • Help your student to be realistic about academic achievement in a college environment. It is not uncommon for students to experience a GPA drop from grades they received in high school.
  • Encourage your student to take advantage of the academic resources on campus, including the Math Success Program, Learning Assistance Services, and the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education.
  • Be sympathetic, but try not to “fix” problems for your student.
  • Help your student to establish a budget and teach him or her how to stick to it. Educate him on financial responsibility before lack of responsibility becomes a problem. 

*Mid Semester or Early Warning Grades are good indicators of your student's performance and are normally reported by professors the sixth week of class, typically early October for the Fall semester and early March for the Spring semester. October is also when your student will first experience midterm examinations.  Utilize this time to gauge where your student is on the grade scale in each class by asking specific questions about assignments and performance. Finals week and the preparation for it will be especially daunting for a new freshman; this occurs in the beginning of December for the Fall semester and in the beginning of May for the Spring semester.

October Helpful Hint
Roommate conflicts do happen. They can happen regardless of whether students are complete strangers or have known each other for years. Most students find that talking over the problems with the roommate resolves the conflict; however, sometimes help is needed. It is counterproductive for parents to get involved in roommate disputes. Remember that you are hearing only half of the story. The best way for you to help the situation is to refer your student to the Resident Assistant (RA). RAs are upper-level students who are trained to resolve roommate disputes.

NOVEMBER

What’s happening with your student:

  • Stress levels are high as due dates for paper and projects approach and students begin to realize the semester is almost over.
  • Registration for Spring classes begins and students need to meet with an academic advisor before registering for classes.  
  • He or she may continue to struggle with time management and balancing social activities with academics.
  • Concerns about coming home for Thanksgiving may start to arise, especially if the student has changed significantly since the last time they saw you.

What parents can do:

  • Be supportive and encouraging. Refer your student to important resources such as the University Health Center if he’s sick or the Counseling Center if he needs additional emotional support.
  • Listen and support your student when she contacts you, but don’t be concerned if she doesn’t reach out as often as you would like. She may be too wrapped up in school to remember to contact home.
  • Support his academic progress without focusing on grades. Instead, engage him about what he is learning, why certain topics interest him, and what he feels passionate about.
  • Encourage her to make an appointment with an academic advisor and to make appointments early to avoid complications and stay on track for graduation.
  • Prepare yourself for changes when she returns home for Thanksgiving. The first year of college is a period of tremendous change and growth, and students demonstrate this change in different ways—new haircut, new piercings, tattoos, changes in religious or political beliefs, etc. She will appreciate your support, rather than criticism, through this changing time. Recognize that while she may be going through many changes, in the long run, she will probably maintain many of the core values that you instilled in her.

November Helpful Hint
Feeling overwhelmed? Sometimes parents and family members need some additional support, too. That's why we established the Parent Warmline—so you have a place to go to address any concerns or issues you may have as the parent of a college student. The parents' relationship to each other and their individual stresses may be discussed, but the focus is on the student and the parent-child interactions. Parents can receive education and guidance on adolescent development, managing emotional and behavioral concerns, helping their children deal with particular stresses, improving parenting skills, setting realistic goals, balancing work and family, single parenting, and step-parenting. The purpose is to better understand and improve child and family functioning. Consultations are available by calling the Parent Warmline at 301-314-7651 or via email at parentwarmline@umd.edu. The Parent Warmline is a service of the University Counseling Center.

DECEMBER

What’s happening with your student:

  • After Thanksgiving, there is very little time until finals; term papers and projects are due, and they may be the longest papers or projects that students have ever done. Students will continue to be stressed.
  • Students may get very little sleep, and neglect proper nutrition or exercise.
  • Many students may be concerned about the pressures of upcoming holidays, or returning home to live with family after a semester of independence.
  • Some students will have financial concerns, as the money they budgeted for the semester runs out earlier than planned. They may turn to credit cards to help them in their budget crunch.
  • They’ll probably sleep a lot over the winter break, as they try to ‘catch up’ on four months’ worth of lost sleep!
  • They will receive their grades from Fall semester and will either feel disappointed or delighted. Parental reactions to the grades weigh heavily on their minds and influence their stress level as they anticipate a new term. Whether the grades were good or bad, they will have a better understanding of what college work requires.

What parents can do:

  • Be supportive during this stressful time, and send care packages and mail. Snacks and special foods from home are always welcome this time of year.
  • Encourage healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits to help reduce the stress of college exam time. Remind your students of the wellness resources available on campus such as University Recreation & Wellness and various fitness classes offered by University Recreation & Wellness.
  • Be knowledgeable about campus resources and refer him to the UMD’s support services and resources for personal and academic help.
  • Encourage participation in study break activities offered at residence halls and at the Stamp Student Union. These are great ways for students to relax and recharge.
  • Discuss home ‘rules’ and expectations for the Winter Break as soon as she returns home, or preferably, before!  Students and parents often have different expectations about time with family and time with friends, which can lead to conflict. Having a discussion about this time beforehand can lead to a more peaceful and relaxing break for your entire family.
  • Be supportive of your student regardless of the Fall Term grades. If grades were poor, refer him to our Learning Assistance Service for help in future academic struggles. Remind him of your academic and class attendance expectations, but also keep those expectations realistic given the level of academic difficulty at the University of Maryland.

December Helpful Hint
Expect your student to be very stressed in December. While you won’t be able to prevent the academic stress, you can reduce the pressure for your student to participate in family obligations or traditions, which put added demands on a student’s busy schedule.

Information on this page was adapted from the University of Michigan Parents website.