The Care and Support of Your New College Student

Mon, Aug 28, 2023

Classes started (recently) at Vol State. Students arrived on campus looking by turns excited, scared, too cool to be here, optimistic, sleepy, and confused. I suspect they’re not the main readers of this [blog], so I’m here to offer you three ways you can help alleviate some of the negative feelings and bolster the positive to support your Humanities (or any other major) student.

  1. Be interested in what they’re doing, or at least what they think about what they’re doing. Having interested family members and friends goes a long way to making students feel like their efforts have value, even in the doldrums of midterm paper-writing and exam season. Many of our students are the first in their families to go to college. That can make both the students and the families anxious about how things will change. We know from long experience that the students who are most likely to succeed are those whose families are cheering them on and providing emotional support and connection throughout the college years.
  2. Foster their independence. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s tempting for some family members to provide too much support: to email a professor when an exam comes back with a lower score than expected is a frequent example I see. It’s important for students to learn to solve problems themselves. Instead of emailing the professor yourself, help them craft a polite request for a meeting to discuss the grade, or suggest that they connect with one of the many resources on campus to prepare for next time, like the Learning Commons for study help or the Access Center for disability accommodations, if needed. Problem-solving is a skill that can be learned and is highly desired by employers. And our division faculty love to see students demonstrating it.
  3. Encourage their involvement. Another major predictor of student persistence and success is connections outside the classroom—what we in the biz often refer to as “belongingness.” When students join a club, find study buddies, or even just come to on-campus events, they’re more likely to graduate. Obviously we’re always looking for Humanities students to put on plays, be in book clubs, and compete in Philosophy Ethics Bowls, but the benefit is there for students who come to concerts, gallery openings, and plays to support their classmates, too.

You’ll notice these tips are all really about the relationships your student is developing at this time. The more they can reach out to new people while feeling support and interest from their existing friends and family, the more likely it is they’ll achieve their goals. The formula is relatively simple and consistent, even though it will look a little different for each student in practice.

Blog Author
Erin Mann, PhD, Dean of the Humanities Division
students back on campus for fall semester