University of Wisconsin–Madison

First Year: Offering Support

The transition from high school to college is an important milestone in the life of your student. While every student is different, feelings of nervousness, excitement, pressure, and success are quite common. Below we provide tips on how you can best support students as a coach and mentor as you encourage them to chart their own path.

What’s happening for my student in October/November?

At this time in the first semester, classes are in full swing, and students are beginning to get feedback on their progress. Some may be surprised at the amount of work they have for their classes and may struggle with managing their time. Others will be disappointed about grades on their first exams or papers. Roommate conflicts may also flare up at this time after the initial “honeymoon” phase is over. In addition, course enrollment for spring is approaching, and students will be making plans with their academic advisors. Of course, life still continues at home, and students will want to stay informed about what’s going on with their families.

How can I best support my students during this time?

To be reassuring, express confidence that your student can succeed in this environment. Have two-way conversations: let your student know what’s going on at home and don’t make major changes — moving, vacations, remodeling your student’s room, and the like — without discussing it first.

Talk about study skills and time management, and refer to campus resources. Encourage your student to form relationships with instructors and consult with an academic advisor when selecting next semester’s classes.

Discuss plans for upcoming events, such as a trip home for Thanksgiving. Break periods are approaching quickly — how will these change things in your home? Ask about study time, workload, and involvement in campus organizations and activities.

What questions can I ask to get the conversation going during the next few months?

  • How are you managing the workload? What is your study schedule?
  • What courses are you thinking of taking next semester?
  • Have you met with any of your professors or teaching assistants and your advisor?
  • What can you do differently on your next exam/paper? What is working well?