Parents and Families  
 

eNewsletter Archives: August 2009

 
Welcome to Aquinas College
Now What?
They're Feeling What You're Feeling
The Four Essential Principles of Academic Success
Academic and Learning Services
Wellness: Tips from Health & Wellness Services
Talking to Your College Student About Drinking
A Message from AQ Campus Safety
FERPA: What You Need to Know
Parents' Weekend Repackaged for 2009
2009-2010 Academic Calendar
 
Welcome to Aquinas College
As your student becomes a Saint, we hope you will accept our invitation to become part of our Aquinas College community as well.  At Aquinas, we consider families to be important components of college success and believe that your support is crucial as your students begin their college journey.

While we understand that the beginning of a college career is exciting, we also know that the transition may present some unexpected challenges for students and their families. Our hope is to partner with you, to provide resources, answer questions, and offer support, now and throughout your student's time at Aquinas.  With that in mind, this parents' e-newsletter letter is designed to be a resource to help you understand the opportunities and challenges that your student may encounter. Each issue will offer timely information, advice, and encouragement intended to assist as you navigate the college experience with your student.
 
It is our hope that your students' AQ experience will be meaningful and fulfilling. We are looking forward to working together as your student becomes an independent and confident young adult.
 
Now What?
By: Patricia Chase
Saying goodbye

Since it has only been a few days since you unloaded the car and said your goodbyes, many parents may be experiencing a range of emotions. The first year of college may be the first time your child will live away from home for any length of time and many parents feel a bit conflicted. On one hand there is the obvious pride in witnessing this important milestone but on the other it is also quite normal to feel some sadness. You’ve always been involved in your child’s life but now you may be wondering how to continue your parental role while still encouraging independence. However, you still have a very important place in your college students’ lives. Just as your students will be adjusting to their new roles, you will be going through a period of adjustment as well.

 

Your house may be feeling a little too empty. Similarly the first few weeks on any college campus can be a lonely period for new students. They may be concerned about forming friendships and fitting in. When new students look around, it may seem that everyone else is socially self-confident. In reality, many students share concerns about belonging. Knowing that this is normal and that they are not alone in their feelings can help students immensely. Becoming active in the Aquinas community is the quickest way to resolve these feelings. In fact, the sooner your student joins organizations and meets people the better he or she will do both socially and academically (and the better you’ll feel as well). Arming yourselves with information that will help you to understand your students’ transitions and when and how to offer support may help.

 
Here are a few pointers:
  1. During the first week try to give students space to discover Aquinas on their own. Be available in case they need something but let them initiate the contact.
  2. Remind them that making friends, although not that difficult, requires time and effort. Students must exhibit a willingness to extend themselves and should be open and welcoming. Tell them not to wait for others to break the ice and to remain open to new cultures, ideas and values. They should be prepared to take the initiative and introduce themselves first.
  3. Students will meet people more quickly and feel part of the Aquinas community if they take advantage of what Aquinas College has to offer. Residence hall meetings, sports events, and special gatherings are intended to provide opportunities for students to socialize.
  4. Study groups with other students in their classes or residence halls are a wonderful way to get to know other people. Look into any of the many clubs and organizations that exist at Aquinas. Tell them to jot down contact information for people they met with during orientation and use it!
  5. Encourage students to stay on campus during the weekends. They may want to come home but the best way to overcome homesickness is to stay here. There are many things to do at Aquinas on weekends and they are the perfect opportunities for your students to meet people and get to know their new environment.
  6. Meaningful, new relationships should not be expected to develop overnight. It took a great deal of time to develop intimacy in high school friendships; the same will be true of intimacy in college friendships.
There are many resources available to help students (and their parents) during their transition to college and beyond. If your student seems to be struggling unnecessarily please suggest that they talk to the professional staff at the Career and Counseling or the Academic Learning Centers. Our staff is skilled in helping students adjust and are an important resource to be used throughout their time at Aquinas.  Remember as they adjust you will feel better about your empty nest as well.
 
They’re Feeling What You’re Feeling
By: Sharon Smith, Director of Career and Counseling Services
As your child is going to college, their relationship with you will begin to change. They may be moving into adulthood, however this is still the same child you have nurtured, taught, guided, protected, and loved. The fear you have as parents is “Will they continue to find our relationship as important as I do?” Yes, even in times of conflict, they are worrying that your relationship might be changing too. So, what can you do? The answer is communication. Easier said than done, right? Here are some unique tips to stay connected with your child in their college environment: Coffee, Cookies, Letters, and Patience, or CCLP.
  • Coffee: Take your child out for a coffee date. Starbucks, McDonalds, even The Moose Café. This will give them some time to spend with you. Through conversation, they’ll get to know you as a person. (Not just their parent!) This will help encourage them to learn about who you are; how you feel about work, yourself and the world. You are modeling for them how to be comfortable with who they are.
  • Cookies: Everyone likes cookies! They remind us of time at home and being with family. It’s a gesture that shows you’re thinking about them enough to take the time to create a little treat. Send them via snail-mail or if they are living at home, sneak them into a back pack.
Take your student out for coffee
  • Letters/Cards: Stopping at the mailbox is a ritual for students. The anticipation of something other than bills greeting them is the main force behind sending them snail-mail. When your child receives a letter or card from you, it is another way of showing them that you care enough to take time out of your day to do something special for them, even when there are changes going on in your lives. Go the extra mile and send a card with some cookies! This is also a form of intimate conversation between you and your child.
  • Patience: Your child is part of a generation to who everything is “now.” They believe it is ok to walk away when something is not going as planned, instead of trying to find a solution. This is where they must take clues from you, learning that time is a plus and not a minus. All good things do not come immediately.
The CCLP isn’t only for your child’s first or senior year of college; it is something to do for life. It is something to do while your children are on their life journey.
 
The Four Essential Principles of Academic Success
Excerpted by: Paula Meehan, Vice President for Enrollment Management
Active Involvement
Class Time

Students need to spend their class time as actively engaged as possible. Contributing to discussions, asking questions, taking notes as opposed to underlining, joining a study group as opposed to working alone are all keys to success. They need to realize they are part of the learning not passive sponges. Class attendance is essential. There is a direct correlation between low class attendance and low grades.

 

Fun fact: A study of over 25,000 college students found that for those students who spent 40 hours or more per week on academic work, the percentage of these students receiving grades that were mostly "A's" was over three times higher than it was for students who spent 20 hours or less per week on academic work.

 
Utilizing Campus Resources
Academic learning centers are for everyone not just those in danger of failing. Turn a "B" paper into an "A" paper by conferring with a writing center specialist. Test taking techniques are something everyone can use.  How to take meaningful notes is a skill most college campuses offer help with. Librarians love to assist students and they are research experts. Academic Advisors have the big picture of college coursework and will help students clarify their goals so the concept of a major is clearer. Students are more likely to persist when they have some sense of how their academic experience will get them to the career they want to pursue.  Many colleges offer career courses and services that can help direct a student on their intended path or one they may not even be aware of yet.  Nearly all students at one time or another feel stressed, overwhelmed and struggling with transitional and adjustment issues. Counseling Centers can offer just the right help. Everyone needs a place to go for help when they can't see their way clear themselves. Getting outside the classroom and immersing yourself in co-curricular and volunteer opportunities contribute a significant amount of skill development that is all part of the total experience. These activities help develop leadership and result in high self esteem and confidence. The college campus is more than its classrooms and what happens inside those walls.  It is one of the biggest resource environments an individual is ever likely to have access to.
Fun fact: As the English author Dr. Samuel Johnson once said, "The next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it."
 
Social Interaction and Collaboration
Frequent, high quality dialogue with others increases the quality of our thinking and the quality of our knowledge.  When students interact with faculty, advisors, mentors and peers they gain greater satisfaction with their college experience.  Interacting with other students is particularly important in the freshman year. Students are likely experiencing the same types of feelings and finding a campus connectedness is key to first year success. There are a variety of departments on campuses that are set up solely for this purpose of helping students integrate. Everything from residential life to campus ministry to the wide variety of student affairs professionals all create both programs and environments where students can meet with others and deepen their college experience.
Social Interaction and Collaboration
 
Fun fact: A mentor is someone who can make students feel significant and who can encourage or enable them to stay on track until they complete their college degree.
 
Self Reflection
There are four specific forms of self reflection that are important for learning and college success: self assessment, self monitoring, reflecting on feedback and reflecting on ones future.
  • Self assessment can be simply defined as looking at oneself and evaluating your interests, values, abilities, and habits as they relate to learning.  Also included in self assessment is knowing your learning style, your personality traits and your own self concept around what type of student you think you are.
  • Self monitoring is maintaining an awareness of how well you are tracking along and if you adjust your strategies along the way as you approach different material to learn.  Successful students will tell you that reading a chapter in a science textbook takes a different strategy than reading a poem in English class.
  • Reflecting on feedback is an important piece of self reflection because the truly successful student listens carefully to what their professors and academic support specialists are telling them and they make appropriate use of the information.  Not unlike a coach who tells their athlete that a different approach may be necessary to get to a higher level of skill attainment.
  • Reflecting on the future is an exercise in self projection where students literally visualize themselves in the long run.  It is important as students work their way through the day to day, they don't take their eyes off of the bigger picture.  It is this combination attention to the big picture and the small details that gets students to their goals and their futures most readily.
Fun fact: If college students follow these four essential principles of academic success they cannot fail.
 
Academic and Learning Services
By: Sarah Cox, Director of Academic and Learning Services
Studying Planning for being successful at college takes time and commitment, one that very often our students find stressful, and if we dare admit - at times a little boring! Many students are surprised to find that the study habits they used in high school are different at college. Professors are less likely to use worksheets and more likely to use paper writing and exams to assess learning, and will expect students to be self-motivated. Additionally, life in the residence halls can be an exciting new experience; away from home, up all night, video games, music and, oops! -  staying in bed too long.
 
At Aquinas College, Academic and Learning Services provides support for students to aide their academic success. Our specialists offer help in the following areas:
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Textbook Reading/Studying
  • Note taking
  • Test Preparation/Test taking
  • SD101-College Success Class
  • Choosing a Topic
  • Organizing a Paper
  • Revising Drafts
  • Editing assistance for Cohesion, Usage, and Punctuation
  • Reviewing for the initial Michigan Basic Skills Test
For students with diagnosed disabilities, we provide services through a variety of academic adjustments based on their individual needs. Accommodations may include:
  • Extended-Time Testing
  • Reader-Assisted Testing
  • Testing in a Separate Room
  • Scribing for Tests
  • Note taking
  • Early Registration
  • Advising Assistance
  • E-Text Books
  • Tutoring by Specialists
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Assistive Technology
If you are looking for ways to prepare your student for college life - remind them to study, and to become acquainted with Aquinas's Academic and Learning Services Department. We support all our AQ students towards being successful and engaged learners.
 
Wellness: Tips from Health & Wellness Services
By: Kimberly Texley-Quigg, RNC, NP, Health Services Director and Veronica Beitner, Coordinator of Wellness Services
Physical wellness, including behaviors such as exercise, eating habits, and drug or alcohol use, is important to address during the college years, as this period is critical in the development of a healthy lifestyle Wellness has been defined as "the active process through which the individual becomes aware and makes choices toward a more healthy existence." Among college students, researchers have found that high levels of physical activity are related to lower levels of physical discomfort, while high levels of ingestion of fast foods and sweets are associated with high levels of physical discomfort .Though the stress of the college environment may worsen health practices such as exercise and good nutrition habits, exercising and practicing good nutrition habits have also been shown to buffer the effects of this stress. For example, lower levels of test anxiety, increased ability to relax, and increased work capacity have been associated with physical exercise. Encourage your student to try and do the following:
  • Eat Healthy: A person needs the energy to make it through.
  • Exercise: A 30-minute walk can relax a stressed-out mind and give a person an adrenaline rush to keep on working.
  • Sleep: Rest is fuel for the brain, so feed it!
  • Relax: Try relaxing music, a nice walk or going to the chapel for some quiet time.
  • Limit consumption of cigarettes and alcohol: Alcohol is a depressant and won't make a person feel better in the long run.
  • Give yourself a break: Recognize accomplishments to keep a positive attitude.
  • Smile: It's good for others and might make a person feel a little better, too.
  • Set long-term and short-term goals:  Write them down. Make them part of personal time-management schedule.
  • Each day, find 20 minutes of "alone time" to relax: Take a walk, write in a journal or meditate.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff: Always ask yourself if the issue at hand is worth getting upset about.
  • Communicate: It helps to talk to a trusted person about issues of concern.
Student playing Frisbee
 
Talking to Your College Student About Drinking
By: Dr. Patricia Chase
Most college students make responsible decisions about drinking but when first year students arrive on campus they are likely to find an environment far less restrictive than the one that they left at home. The desire to fit in coupled with an increased availability of alcohol and the absence of parents may lead to some risky decision making about alcohol usage.  During the first six weeks on campus, new students are considered to be at a higher risk for alcohol abuse that can lead to academic and social problems. In many cases alcohol is at the root of many adjustment problems and can be attributed to 29% of drop outs, 38% of academic failures, 64% of violent behaviors, 66% of unsafe sexual practices and 75% of acquaintance rapes. (Anderson and Gadaleto, College Alcohol Survey, 1997).
 
Despite the risks involved few parents broach the subject of alcohol consumption with their college-aged children. However, a well-timed dialogue about behaviors and consequences can circumvent problems later on. The important thing to remember is that you already have a well-established relationship with your child and he or she may even be expecting this conversation before leaving home for college.
 
Begin by setting expectations - not just about drinking, but about their academics, personal and social lives as well. It is surprising that in many families this conversation never takes place. By honestly discussing what you expect of your student as they test their newfound freedom, you will be able to set some realistic goals together. If you attended college, you may want to share your experience with them. Be straightforward, explain that you want them to enjoy college and have fun, but be careful not to glamorize your drinking or the drinking of others. This may also be a good time to discuss people in your family who drink responsibly and those who do not. It is important that your child understands that if there is a history of alcoholism in their family, the risk of developing problems with alcohol themselves is greater. Our professional staffs in Aquinas's Career and Counseling and Health Centers can provide information that will assist you in this discussion. Knowing about the potential risks involved will enable your student to make an informed decision of whether to drink or not.
 
Some parents may doubt that this type of a conversation would have much impact. Yet a recent study showed that simple parent and teen conversations like, "My mom and I have talked about how drinking can get me into trouble and is bad for my health," were helpful in preventing binge-drinking in college freshmen, (Turrisi, 2000). Keeping the doors to communication is also an important preventative. Call or e-mail frequently during the high-risk first year. Ask questions about their social life, out of class activities, and how they are doing. Try to pick up on stress or indications of being overwhelmed. Teach them how to refuse a drink at a party and where to find help on campus. Discuss the differences between low-risk and high-risk drinking and make sure your student understands the physical, legal, and parental consequences.
 
Because you know your children better than anyone else, you are in an excellent position to predict areas that may be problematic as they make the transition to college. While it is important for them to know you are supportive of their new independence, being “up front” with your concerns is also a way of assuring them that you trust their ability to make good choices.  Your children value that trust and want you to be proud of them.  Helping them set up behavioral guidelines will provide the structure they will need to make good decisions and feel good about their behaviors as they enter the adult world.
 
A Message from AQ Campus Safety
By: Kevin Kwiatkowski, Interim Director, Department of Campus Safety
Campus Safety

The Department of Campus Safety is implementing a major upgrade to our safety program this summer just in time to welcome students this fall.  An emergency mass notification system will be installed throughout our campus buildings and green areas.  This includes the addition of three outdoor communication towers and speaker systems in all campus buildings.  In an emergency, this system will transmit alarms and instructions quickly and efficiently.  Students will also be encouraged to register their cellular phones and personal e-mail accounts to receive immediate emergency notices from our department.

 

>>Emergency Notification Registration Instructions (pdf)

 
This fall students will also notice the upgrade and addition of several new security cameras, and building card access points throughout the campus. Incoming and returning students are encouraged to contact our department at any time day or night with safety or security concerns. If you have any questions on new or existing programs, please call at (616) 632-2467. We are excited about our safety upgrades and are looking forward to welcoming your student this fall.
 
FERPA: What You Need To Know
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) may seem confusing to both students and their parents. 
>>Learn what your rights are and to what extent you can exercise those rights.
 
Parents' Weekend Repackaged for 2009
By Heather Hall, Director of Student Activities and Orientation, Campus Life Office
AQ students in downtown Grand Rapids This summer, at the STAR and Parent Day programs, the question of when parents and families were welcome at AQ was raised over and over. The answer is simple - Parents' Weekend is EVERY weekend at Aquinas!

Typically, campuses offer one target weekend in the fall semester when parents and families arrive for the weekend and participate in on-campus events that offer a family focus. We have offered this program in the past and realized that our AQ families were missing out on so many other activities that occur year round. Whether in downtown Grand Rapids or in collaboration with the Eastown Community Association, AQ families can explore the many museums, athletic venues, shops, festivals, restaurants, coffee shops, gardens,cultural celebrations, neighborhoods and parks that
surround the College. With that in mind, we have developed Marquee Weekends. These weekends highlight various entertainment and events, both on-campus and in our surrounding community, that appeal to a wide variety of interests and budgets.
 
In communicating with our families, we have learned that parents are interested in coming to AQ for three main things: to physically lay eyes on their son/daughter and assess their overall wellness, to take them off-campus to replenish any supplies or do some shopping, and to grab a bite to eat outside of the on-campus dining options that their AQ student eats every day. Marquee Weekends will allow all three of these priorities to be achieved while also allowing you as a parent to disconnect from your every-day in an engaging and entertaining fashion. And for our commuter families, we have done the work for you so that you have information on what is happening right in your own neighborhoods.
 
The first Marquee Weekend is September 18-20 in conjunction with the Eastown Street Fair. Visit your student and walk across campus to Eastown to hear live music, eat, and enjoy the art and activities. Spend some time in Grand Rapids at the various exhibits at the museums and join us on campus for a special Family Mass on Sunday afternoon.  We hope to see you there!
>>More on Marquee Weekends (pdf)