At the end of every semester, many of us who work at a university reflect on our last few months-what worked, what didn’t. I am sure that faculty members ponder the content of their courses and lectures and judge how well they engaged their students and sent them, at the close of finals, in new directions of discovery. Students, I am sure, replay in their minds their preparations for exams, their participation in courses, and the quality of their papers.
I KNOW that many first year students and their parents find themselves marveling at the transition they just underwent as those days in August swiftly became those last days in December and – BAM! – one semester is in the books. Whether it was a smooth ride or a bumpy one, this IS a transition. It’s a new world for both students and families. Heck, even students who commute from home quickly find that life is very different.
Fr. Jim Caime, SJ witnessed first hand this year’s transition for first year students, as this was his first year in his role as our Student Success and Retention Coordinator. Fr. Jim works directly with first-year students and their parents and assists them as they get a handle on college life and navigate these new academic and social worlds.
I’ve asked him to share some ideas on how students and families can prepare for the first year in college at Loyola. Here you go:
“Ask any first year college student what his or her greatest challenge is and almost without exception the response is time management.
Time management is essential for all of us, of course, and college students find quickly that they need to cultivate this skill to be successful. So often prior to college, students have their schedules planned for them, so each late August we welcome a new slate of students who are about to embark on a major change – whether they know it or not!
What surprises some is the pace of academic life at a university. Courses take a semester; not a year. So learning is condensed into a smaller space, as are papers, readings, and labs. A student shared with me that he had taken a year-long psychology course in high school, but found that he learned twice as much in his psychology course here-in half the time. Yes, we ease students into their courses in the first few weeks, but midterms approach quickly and so the skills of anticipating, preparing, planning become essential. One learns that college is one’s full time job; and best practice dictates that students should spend two to three hours studying, reading, writing for every one hour in class. So, this can add up to 45-60 hours of academic work per week.”
We encourage all families to think about exactly how the experience of having a student attend Loyola – or any other college, for that matter – alters family dynamics. We invite high school students to ponder the changes they face in becoming new college students. And we make these comments not to scare you, but to allow you time to reflect on and then account for the swift shifts that transpire at the onset on this transition. Our hope is that you come not to fear the new existence, but to enjoy it!
It’s ok to think about all of the normal stuff that may or may not happen – homesickness (again, even for those from close by), making plans to pay tuition and room and board costs and learning a whole new vocabulary in the process, feeling anxiety over making new friends, feeling overwhelmed by so much “free” time and choice. Some of it can be anticipated; some of it can’t. Regardless, you’ll be on a campus that cares about you as a whole person and you’ll be at a place with the resources and the staffing to make sure that a bad day does not turn into a bad week.
Transitions are tricky and our job is to help you get through them, so that you – like hundreds of our current first year students – will be enthralled to return to campus in January.