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Cal U Parent & Family E-News: September-October 2012

The Call

Submitted Dr. Daniel Engstrom, Assoc. Provost, Office of Academic Success

As students approach mid-semester, the pressure of tests, papers and projects weigh heavy. They are realizing that college isn’t all “fun and games”, but is a whole lot of work, too.  When the going gets tough for college students, the “tough” often call home. At some point, you may receive that dreadful call from your son or daughter and hear “I want to quit and come home.” What is a parent to do?

This is something that I remember all too well. Growing up in a middle-class family of three children, my brother, sister, and I were all first-generation college students. I remember when I was a junior in high school and my sister used to call home from another university crying and begging my parents to come and get her. My parents were shocked because neither of them had ever been to college and didn't quite know what to say. I recall my dad firmly saying a number of times "Kirsten, you just need to deal with it and get through it."

For many students, going to college is a very challenging time. Meeting new friends, learning new skills, and experiencing life on their own can be daunting. If you receive one of those phone calls, I would encourage you to consider a few things:

First, urge your son or daughter to list some of the positives that are going on so far. Students sometimes see things in only black-and-white and to them, a “bad day means a “bad life”. A few days or weeks can make all the difference in a student’s perspective.

Secondly, ask about their classes. If they are experiencing difficulty, encourage them to seek help from an instructor, academic advisor, Student Success Facilitator, tutor, or counselor. Or encourage them to make an appointment with me.

Third, you may want to remind them how privileged they are to attend college, and that a college education will open many doors throughout life. After all, only 6.7% of the world’s population is college degree holders.

Finally, don’t be too eager to allow them to take the easy road out, quit, and come home.  For most students, this is a temporary adjustment phase where the benefits for waiting it out far outweigh the need to swoop in for the rescue.

Dr. Daniel Engstrom

All I Said Was...

Talking with your student can be challenging at times; the simplest of questions from you can be perceived as a grilling to your student. But, it’s still important to know how things are going. Choosing the right time and place for conversation can be important. Try to do less talking; rather, focus on more listening. Resist the temptation to jump in with advice. Your student may have already figured it out and is ready to tell you about it in their next sentence. Keep a positive tone. Doing so increases the chances that your student will open up with you again.

Conversation Starters:

What do you like most about this year so far?

What does a typical day look like for you?

What new people have you met this semester?

What have you done to try to resolve this issue?

How would you describe the level of difficulty of your classes? 

Do you know where to get help if you need it?

What is your favorite class?

What organizations are you involved in?

Where have you found is the best place to study?

Managing Midterms

Midterm exams can be a source of stress for many students, especially for first-time college students who may be experiencing the exams for the first time. Wondering what to expect, handling the volume of information, and organizing their time can seem overwhelming. Procrastination is the bane of college students. Reminders to use a daily planner, schedule work sessions, set realistic goals, and break down tasks into smaller pieces can help. Tips for helping your student with exam stress:

Other Resources:
Cal U Counseling Center: Students who become over-stressed due to academic or other demands may utilize up to eight counseling sessions per semester at no cost.

Cal U Office of Students With Disabilities provides support and accommodation for students with disabilities.

Peer Mentoring Program
Get a Mentor, Be a Mentor, Submitted by Dori Eichelberger, Assistant Director, Peer Mentoring

The first year of college is an exciting, and sometimes unsettling time for new students. So how does a student navigate their way through a first year at Cal U without feeling as if they are alone? The Peer Mentoring Program gives incoming Freshmen the unique opportunity to have an upper-class student as their mentor. It also gives interested Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors the chance to help another student.

Mentors are typically from the same academic major and make adjusting to college life easier by offering guidance in academic areas, encouraging participation in college life, providing friendship, and disseminating information about the requirements of each individual’s academic major.  Peer mentors offer the “inside scoop” on life at Cal U such as the location of classrooms, the best places to eat on and off campus, and important campus resources such as the library, math lab, writing center, etc.  Not only do mentors help freshmen adjust to the first year of college, mentors also help students stay in school: Cal U freshmen with peer mentors move on to their 2nd year of college at a 10% higher rate than freshmen without mentors.

The Peer Mentoring Program not only makes transitioning into University life a little easier, but it also yields life-long friendships.  Former Mentor Tiffani Rossi and her Protégé Hillary Drumheller are prime examples of the lasting relationships that can result from the Peer Mentoring Program.  Upon arrival at California University, Hillary already had a trusted source of information and support in her mentor, Tiffani.  Both women currently work as Peer Mentor Coordinator (PMCs) within the Mentoring Office and still share a close bond that was developed over two years ago.

Peer Mentoring

Midterm Grade Reports

Fall 2012 midterm grades will be available to students in VIP (Vulcan Information Portal) beginning October 22. Once the grades are posted, students and their faculty advisors can use the information to begin planning for the remainder of this term for Spring 2013 Registration. Students with a midterm grade of C- or below are contacted by the Office Academic Success and offered assistance to help them get back on track.

Students are encouraged to use the many academic resources available at no cost to improve their performance.

Math Lab
Writing Center
Reading Clinic
Fall Tutoring Schedule

For students who have signed the Authorization to Disclose waiver (FERPA) from the Office of Academic Success, authorized parents or guardians may discuss the specifics regarding their student’s academic progress with a Student Success Facilitator.

Authorization to Disclose (FERPA) Form:

Academic Advising

College is an investment of time and finances for students and their families. Parents must strive to find the balance between ensuring that their students are making the most of their experience while also allowing them to grow in self-responsibility, independence, and ownership of their educations. Academic advisors are an excellent resource for students and provide an important role in academic success and career preparation. which parents value, but cannot fill themselves.

Each student has an assigned faculty advisor. Advisors are experts in their disciplines and are knowledgeable about departmental courses and in educational and career opportunities in their fields. They also provide students with guidance in program planning, course selection, and schedule development. Advisor offices are located in academic departments where they have assigned office hours each week. Students can find their advisor’s name in student VIP under the Academic Info tab or by visiting the department of the major to inquire. Meeting regularly with a faculty advisor is important to optimum academic planning and timely graduation. Advisors may also assist when students are job-hunting by providing recommendations to prospective future employers. Students are strongly encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunity.

Tips For Making the Most of an Academic Advisor's Guidance

1. Be proactive. Your student should contact his/her advisor to set up an appointment. By establishing a relationship from the beginning, your student will feel more comfortable to go to the advisor with questions or concerns as they come up. Scheduling an initial meeting and showing up prepared will also help the advisor to know and remember your student.

2. Be prepared. When it's time to meet with an academic advisor, encourage your student to have a list of questions. Review the course catalogue, tentatively schedule out prerequisites and required courses and discuss what goals your student has in the upcoming year. Examples of goals for the year are: staying on track to graduate in four years, getting an internship, applying to study abroad, or volunteering.

3. Be open. Remind your student that the academic advisor's advice is valuable. His recommendations for course sequencing, when to secure an internship, what course load to take, and how to start planning a career path will only be helpful if your student listens and follows the advice that makes sense to him.

Academic Department Contact List

Why Can't I See My Student's Grades?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects your college student’s privacy and grants them the exclusive right to view and share their education records such as grades, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact information, and class schedules. Under the law, colleges and universities may not disclose education records to anyone other than the student without consent.  FERPA’s restrictions sometimes frustrate parents, especially when parents are often times supporting their student financially through college. But, as College Parents of America suggests, “Rather than seeing this legislation as a barrier to good college parenting, parents might see this as an important opportunity for meaningful dialogue with a student. Talking About Grades With Your Student

While acknowledging the restrictions of FERPA, support your student in taking personal responsibility for his/her transcript and financial obligations. Although this legislation restricts parents from involvement in some ways, it also empowers students to become independent. Encourage your student to be aware of their rights, which will help them to take ownership over their education.

Key Things to Remember about FERPA

•  The University cannot disclose academic information to parents/guardians without written consent from the student.

•  Do not be frustrated by the law. Use it as an opportunity to help your student develop independence.

•  Continue to support your student academically throughout the year and not just when grades are released. 

 More about FERPA at Cal U 

Important Upcoming Dates

Mission Day (No classes 8 am - 4 pm) October 24
Last Day to Withdraw from a Course or University November 2
Early Registration For Spring 2013 (Tentative) November 12-16
Thanksgiving Break (No Classes) November 21-23
Classes End December 7
Reading Day (No Classes 8 am-4 pm) December 10
Exam Week (Starting 4 pm on December 10) December 10-14
Fall Semester Ends December 14
Graduate Commencement (7 pm) December 14
Undergraduate Commencement (10 am) December 15
Spring Semester Classes Begin January 28