COMMON STUDENT PATTERNS OF ISSUES & TOPICS
Month by Month
The first six to eight weeks of school, from Orientation to after Family Weekend, can be exciting and exhilarating, yet they can also be a difficult transition, especially for boarders. With this document we try to identify some of the challenges your child might experience along with some suggestions on how to respond. Feedback and suggestions for other topics are greatly appreciated and should be directed to the Student Life Office.
A. During the first week, new students are particularly anxious to develop relationships with other students in order to define their role in the community. They are very receptive to new ideas, meeting new people, and trying new experiences.
Ask questions about your child’s roommate(s), Head of House, and other students in the house. Learn roommates' names, and some background information. Also, encourage them to give the new living situation a fair trial period if they seem concerned. Ask about members of their orientation group and orientation leaders.
B. Students feel a loss of identity when they come to a boarding school. Their previous social structures and placement in their community, family, and school, are gone. (First week)
Prior to first week, check to see if your student plans to continue with activities they participated in previously, such as music, drama, etc. Ask about their new friends. Some students may want to hear about how their friends are doing (sports scores, friends who asked about them, etc.).
C. Homesickness…especially for new boarders (first few weeks). These are normal, uncomfortable feelings associated with separation from home and familiar surroundings.
Remind them that most students are having similar feelings. Encourage them to take the initiative to become involved and meet new people. Refer to “Homesickness Guideline” if boarding parent.
D. Some students are socializing and tend to procrastinate on their academic work. This causes panic later in the month or in early October. After a few sessions with their advisors, most are able to achieve a balance of academic responsibilities and social needs.
Encourage them to have individual contact with their teachers and faculty advisors. This is the time for them to get acquainted with all the supportive services available. The counseling service is available for these normal adjustment issues. Let your child know that you understand socializing and making friends is important but they need to find the appropriate balance. Concord also has an Academic Support Center (ASC) with classroom teachers who can help with issues of planning, time management, etc. Each new student will meet with a member of the ASC in the first few weeks of school.
E. From auditioning for parts in plays or other performance groups to academics the new school environment is often more competitive than their old school. Performance for the first time may not meet the student's expectations. They may worry that they also are not meeting yours. Grades may not be as high as they were in the past.
Your student may bring this to your attention in a variety of ways. Remind them to seek help from their instructors, advisors and peers. Ask them to reassess study habits and skills. Don't make comparisons to other peers. Advise them to seek extra help. Contacting your child’s advisor at school is suggested if you have concerns. Praise them on their progress no matter how great or small.(i.e., managing time, completing their laundry, managing money, taking part in activities, learning to eat different food, navigating social situations, etc...). It is important to recognize that for many this environment will be more challenging than they have been accustomed to and that effort and attitude are important factors in establishing the grounding for long-term success.
F. Students bring challenges from home. Concern about parents and other family members may impact the student's ability to study.
Be sensitive - don't overburden students. Encourage them to seek ways and services to change the things they can control. The need for affection is strong.
G. Some students may feel anxious because they have not settled in.
Know that it will take time. It is not unusual for the transition to take six to eight weeks, even longer for some students. Show interest in their new environment. Ask what they've gotten involved in. Many will feel as though other students have found their close friends, but they have not. Appearances can be misleading! Tell them to be patient, it takes longer than we remember to form tight bonds.
H. Some students may be having second thoughts about whether Concord Academy is really for them. For a short period, grades may suffer.
Strongly urge them to discuss these feelings with their advisor or any school counselor or other adult with whom they feel comfortable.
I. Some behaviors may be positive (i.e. adapting to a different styles of dress, music, choice of activities, acceptance of others); while some behaviors may be negative (i.e. problems prioritizing, unusual/inappropriate language or curt responses).
Show admiration for their willingness to explore their choices in a mature, responsible manner. In responding to negative behaviors, patiently point out how some of these things can be damaging to their image and/or rapport with significant others.
J. Many students are unsure about how to meet their initial expenses.
Show them how to work within a budget - encourage them to keep files and records of financial accounts. Be supportive during periods of trial and error. It is important for parents to be explicit to their child about how much is okay to charge to one’s debit account. We find that $20-25 per week in spending money is sufficient for most students.
K. Values crisis: students are confronted with questions of conscience over value clarification, race relations, drugs and alcohol, morality, religion and social expectations. The ideal of Common Trust will also challenge some students to rethink their own values.
Be aware of these concerns and discuss them openly with your child. Be supportive during these periods; share some of your experiences behaviorally/socially. Try not to be judgmental.
L. Conflicts with roommates and other house residents may occur. They may have feelings of loneliness and see differences in lifestyle, habits, etc. The acting director of student life, the director of residential life, house parents, and their student head of house are trained to handle this type of conflict.
Suggest they discuss the differences with the roommate, house-mate and student head of house to try and work out their concerns. Encourage them to be upfront with others they live with, and to talk things out; don't just keep concerns to self.
A. Mid-semester pressures may be followed by feelings of failure and loss of self-esteem, especially if academic expectations are not met.
This can be a difficult time for students; be supportive. A faculty meeting in October is dedicated to discussing students experiencing difficulty. It is also important that parents share this information with advisors over Family Weekend.
B. A few students elect at this time to drop a course, fearing they are in too deep a hole. Some suffer because they haven't learned to use the proper study techniques or did not take their early school work seriously.
Encourage them to discuss their concerns with the teacher and their advisor and apply more time to the course; also, they should look into extra help. They can contact the school’s academic support center for some study skills help.
C. A few students begin thinking of returning at the end of this term to their old school. The adjustment to CA is difficult for some and may require additional time.
Suggest that the student follow one of the following:
1) Help student think through all the reasons they are unhappy. Be supportive of the process of "sorting things out."
2) Talk with their advisor or a faculty member.
D. Some students have not yet found their niche at Concord Academy.
This is a normal response to a new environment. Many are searching for their identity and should be encouraged to join groups, clubs, community service, etc., and to be themselves.
E. Some students may feel lonely due to the separation from boy/girl friends and other friends at home.
Ask them about their campus friends. Encourage seeking out new friends. However, don't put pressure on them.
F. Changes in the temperature lead to colds, flu, etc. This is the first time they have been responsible for their own health.
The student should get the proper amount of sleep and practice preventive health measures. They should visit the Student Health Center before problems become too severe.
G. Pre-vacation apprehension is evident as many students worry about going home, being accountable, and possibly being restricted in their behavior.
Be aware of this. Realize changes have occurred. Viewing them as young adults may help you avoid an unpleasant visit. Remember you want to foster a sense of independence and trust ---- treat them with respect.
H. Your child may not want you to come to Family Weekend.
This weekend can be very stressful due to a number of factors. Children of divorced parents can be very apprehensive about how parents will act towards each other. Students may be nervous about their parents embarrassing them. Talk with your child about their concerns before arriving and listen to them while visiting. Discussion of family issues should be done privately so that the student doesn’t feel their issues are being aired in front of their peers.
A. Academic pressures are beginning to build up because of procrastination, difficulty of work, and new levels of expectations.
Be supportive and remind the student of the faculty and staff help available to them.
B. Depression and anxiety increase because of feelings that one should have adjusted to the school environment by now, the change of seasons, and pure exhaustion.
Be supportive. Remind them of the campus resources. Share some of your struggles in adjusting to new situations. Being scared or down is okay.
C. Students feel that the friends they made at the beginning of the year are no longer their friends.
This is not an unusual pattern. Students befriend others at the beginning of the year based on convenience, i.e. someone in their orientation group, a next door neighbor, etc. After a couple of months of school students find that they don’t have many similar interests and start to seek out friendships based on shared values and interests vs. convenience.
D. Anxiety, fear, and guilt increase as final exams approach and papers are due.
Be aware of the tremendous pressures on your son/daughter at this time of year. Everyone is expected to be carefree and happy, but this is the time of most stress. Tolerance for their irritability and letting them know you care can help both of you survive this first end-of-semester period.
A. Pre-break depression-especially for those who have concerns for family, or those who have no opportunity to go home for the holidays.
Same as above.
B. Financial strain because of holiday expenses, gifts and travel costs.
Communicate that your child’s presence during the holidays is the best gift.
C. If on scholarship, students begin re-filing for aid for the following year.
Complete tax forms early.
D. Also be aware of the "vacation blues" where students may realize that the bonds between them and their friends at home have faded. They may not feel as though they fit in anymore. They will question where they belong – school or at home and may not feel they belong at either place.
This is where parents will be reminded of how critical it is to love and listen. "Quick to listen and slow to speak" is a good rule of thumb. The question, "Where do I belong?" usually translates into, "Who really loves me for me?" It is also important to remember that this is a normal transition.
E. FINALS! About a week of two-hour exams.
This form of testing is very stressful, for first-year students particularly. Ask about studying, sleep, and how you can help. Send a care package of goodies!
F. They may express a reluctance to return to school after vacation.
Understand that January is a time for a second transitional phase to occur. Much of the advice above will hold true again.
G. Some students struggle with feeling caught between two worlds when they come back home. They may not feel completely comfortable at CA yet, and may also feel a little out of place with their friends at home.
This is a very common reaction. Remind them that it’s okay to drift away from some friends at home, and that friendships at CA may take a little while to solidify. Reassure them that they always have a place at home, but growth has bumps.