Parents and Families  

Supporting an AQ Student

First Year Sophomore/Junior Junior/Senior
College life presents many new challenges. Through the years, we have compiled a list of common adjustments for our students during various points of their college experience.
Resources for all Parents:
Academic and Learning Services Sending Packages: AQ Mailroom
AQ Writing Center Flower and Gift Shops near AQ
Resources for Parents of Incoming Students:
Admissions Checklist (pdf) New Student Orientation
Visiting Aquinas "What Do I Bring?" (pdf)
Commuter Students Live a Dualistic Lifestyle
Some commuter students are still living at home with their families and are expected to abide by the same household rules while exploring their various freedoms at college. It is often helpful to renegotiate the expectations for a college-aged student in order for your student to grow and experience the changes their fellow first-years are experiencing. In discussing what is now accepted of your college-aged commuter, you are not only maintaining certain expectations in your household, you are also encouraging your student to maximize their college experience.
Transfer Students
It is critical that parents and families recognize that while a student may have some college experience under their belt, there is still a transition that will occur while the student immerses themselves into their newest home. So, while they may be upperclassmen by credit and have some of the concerns that are listed here because they are a sophomore, junior, etc., they may also experience feelings as if they were a first-year student again. Many campus resources are available to assist transfer students through their transition to AQ. Some find it helpful to begin with the Campus Life Office or Dean of Students Office who can then refer to the various units that may provide assistance.

First year

  • Academic Success: Am I really ready for college? Why am I here? What do I want to study? Did I pick the right college? Where do I go if I am struggling? Can I even admit to myself that I am struggling? What if I need specific accommodations to assist me with test taking, paper writing, note taking, tutoring, etc?
  • Alcohol/Drugs: What is the pressure for me to drink? What happens if I get caught? What if drugs are present on campus or with my roommate? Whom do I speak with if others are offering money for my prescriptions?
  • Acceptance by the new peers/classmates/teammates/faculty: Will I fit in? Did high school prepare me enough to be here? Will the faculty challenge me? Am I in over my head? What if I can't balance my schedule as an athlete?
  • Roommate concerns, sharing a room/bathroom: Who is this person? Do I feel safe with a stranger? Is my stuff safe? Why can't I have my own bathroom?
  • Concern for family they left behind: Economic conditions provide students with guilt that family may be sacrificing for their college experience. Family issues (substance abuse, changing family, etc) weigh heavily on the minds of new students and continue to impact their academic focus and success. Please refer your student to Career and Counseling Services if they or you are experiencing a concern for their overall wellness.
  • Pressure: There are all sorts of new and additional pressures placed on new college students. This may even more evident for students whose parents have not gone to college. The current economy can also place more academic and social pressure on today's college student. Parents sometimes do this inadvertently. However, with the fluctuating economy, a scholarship can be lost when academic success is not achieved. Success often means that a student is able to remain in college financially.
  • Homesickness: Care packages and cards can go a long way to ease students through periods of homesickness. Be sure to encourage your student to get connected with someone or something on campus that makes AQ their home too. Sometimes homesickness does not "kick in" until well into the semester when seasons change, holidays approach, roommates see their families, etc. Homesickness happens to almost everyone. The timing is not always immediate for some students, but there are plenty of people on campus ready and able to help.
  • Money Management: Managing the money on their food plan, their cash flow in general, determining whether to pick up a job, learning about credit cards, making choices while shopping, finding ways to manage their money in a new city/town, trying to make commuting effective for them in an ever-changing market with gas prices, etc. More and more students are funding their own college experiences and the economy is impacting grant opportunities.
  • Relationships with a significant other or wanting to find a significant other: The college years are all about relationships. Sometimes first year students begin their college experience with a significant other but it is not unusual if the relationship does not last due to distance and a variety of other reasons. Meeting people, making friends and dating are all part of college life so it is to be expected when students are concerned about finding a significant someone. The college offers many programs about healthy relationships and dating. Our Career and Counseling Services office is an excellent resource for students seeking advice.
Additional Resources
High School vs. College - Transitional Differences
Learn to Speak Like an AQ Student

Sophomore/Junior years

  • Choosing a Major/Vocation: Some students have known since they were little kids "what they wanted to be when they grow up" and others have just decided to figure it out while in college. There is no wrong answer to when that decision is made. One of the benefits of a liberal arts institution is the ability to be exposed to so many options while learning how to think critically. The Career and Counseling Services office as well as Academic Advising have opportunities for students to explore various vocations. And, our CD 200 class (Career and Self Exploration) is required before an AQ student graduates. This class will help a student determine their passions, interests and the careers that satisfy those. Those sophomores who declare their majors are invited to a Sophomore Pinning Ceremony offered by the Student Senate. Remember too that majors can be changed at any stage in the game. Students can work with their academic advisors to determine whether or not a "major" change is necessary or how to complete the degree in an affordable and conducive time period by adding minors, concentrations, etc. Our faculty and student affairs staff can help your AQ student determine how to achieve the student's goals in a reasonable and realistic way for the student and your family.
  • Sophomore Slump: As higher education professionals work with various populations of students, a new focus emerged regarding the challenges facing our sophomore students on campus. Known by most institutions as "the sophomore slump," this term refers to the issues that second year students battle with regard to the balancing act in and out of the classroom. They have just successfully navigated the first year and have been exposed to various out-of-classroom experiences. Now, they are either declaring a major or struggling to pick a vocation, spending too much time in co-curricular activities OR they have not connected with anything outside the classroom and perhaps feel marginalized.
  • Sophomores struggle because the expectations have changed for them. The College and the family are expecting them to buckle down and get rolling academically while they are having serious academic balance issues and often have another transition with being away from home. They are a bit more distant from their home safety net, roommate issues begin to pop up, and the novelty of being away at school and the academic rigor of the institution begin to be serious issues. Support your student by offering the positives that they do have as sophomores – to stay connected to those whom they have developed relationships, to find ways to connect with their passions, and to utilize campus resources the minute they acknowledge that they are struggling. The sooner the issues are identified, the earlier campus resources can assist in successfully assisting your student.
  • Transferring: While it is our ultimate goal during the first year orientation to plan your AQ student's graduation, we know that there are often circumstances  that do not include your student continuing at AQ. Our commitment to you is to continue to make AQ your first and right choice. However, if your student determines that a change is necessary, please contact the Registrar/Academic Advising Office for assistance. Know that many student affairs personnel can offer great conversation on options to keep your AQ student on campus. So before you apply and commit to another institution, let's talk it through and see what we can do to persist to an Aquinas College degree.
Additional Resources
AQ Service Learning

Junior/Senior years

  • Separation from Friends: Wait? Where are all of my friends? Juniors and Seniors often notice that their support groups have changed based on the commencements of older role models and friends. Now, they have become the elders in their social circles. With that becomes the feelings of losing their older friends and the pressures of mentoring younger members of their community.  Juniors feel that pain of losing those who have been with them for three years. Seniors typically have concerns about leaving everyone behind and entering into their alumni days. This is a very emotional issue for some students
  • Getting a Job/Career: Seniors, especially, really stress about the state of the economy on the job market. Not only have they been trying to balance financially to remain in school, but they are days/weeks/months away from repaying student loans, determining where to go to graduate school, whether to look for a job in their major or to just find a job that pays the bills. Outside pressures regarding when they will buy a house, get married, etc also become parts of their conversations with family which adds undue pressure for the student while they are trying to complete their degree.
  • Often times students will put themselves into such a panic about this issue that they struggle academically for the remainder of their college career. It is important, as people who support these students, to offer constructive ideas on how to stay motivated to finish strong academically. Know that they are putting a great deal of pressure on themselves to live up to all of these expectations. Also know that there is additional pressure on campus when they hear that their peers are getting jobs (or not getting jobs) and that motivational issues can stem from that.
  • It is important, even as someone is approaching their graduation, that they spend some time with the Career & Counseling Services. Not only does the department offer resources on resumes, interviewing, job search, etc , but the office also provides stress management support for those trying to tackle that push to graduation.
  • Selective Involvement: Known as "senioritis" to some, this refers to the attitude that our seniors have about activities and projects that they once tackled with energy and purpose. Seniors often try to get that 'last bit of youth' under their belt where they can be overly social and not exactly academically minded. Some seniors remove themselves from their clubs and organizations and totally focus on school. A significant drop-off in senior participation and an inconsistency in the effort put forth both academically and socially are observed. In order to support your senior, it is best to allow them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to help them to see the big picture with regard to graduation. Unless they are at risk of something harmful to them, it is often the best support to let them learn and regain that momentum.
Additional Resources
Career Services Study Abroad Programs