University of Wisconsin–Madison

First Year: Spring Semester Transitions

Spring semester is an opportunity for students to start fresh: setting new goals academically and socially, seeking out advising to better understand their long-term career goals, and beginning to plan for summer. These spring-semester transitions can seem daunting, but here are some helpful hints to coach your student through the last stretch of the academic year.

  • As your student continues to mature and evolve into an adult, keep listening, encouraging, and coaching.
  • If your student struggled with academics during fall semester, encourage them to access campus resources. House Fellows, in-hall tutors, study groups, and tutoring services such as the Greater University Tutoring Service (GUTS) are all excellent resources that are easy to access. It is also helpful for students to assess the strategies they used during the first semester, evaluate what worked, and determine which areas they can improve upon this semester.
  • Empower your student to take advantage of the confidence that they gained from the first semester. Encourage your student to get to know their teaching assistants and professors and to take advantage of office hours. If your student had trouble finding a social niche last fall, encourage them to continue reaching out and making friends in classes or in the residence hall, join a student organization, or participate in recreational sports.
  • Many students begin to consider a major at this point. Keep in mind that only a few academic areas require a student to declare a major during freshman year to finish in four years. Many students change their minds and their majors at least once; your student may still be undecided or will want to change direction. Cross-College Advising Service, which is home to the Career Exploration Center, offers a wealth of useful information for students who are undecided or considering changing majors.
  • Parents and families play an important role in helping students to explore options. As your student is identifying next steps, our advisors suggest that you ask your students what classes they like, what they feel they are good at, and what out-of-classroom opportunities might help them discover their career path.
  • In late March/early April, students will receive an email that includes the earliest appointment times for summer and fall enrollment. Encourage your student to plan ahead and make an appointment with an academic advisor to discuss course selection well before their assigned enrollment time. Even though some students are not required to see an advisor to enroll, it is always helpful to consult with advisors — either through group advising sessions or a one-on-one meeting — when making course decisions.
  • It’s not too early to start asking your student about plans for the summer: will they return home, get a job or internship, or stay in Madison to take classes? These questions will help your student plan ahead and consider different options, and can influence your own summer planning, too. Advisors assist with weighing out the best option in addition to helping students with course enrollment.

Perhaps one of the most important things parents and family members can do is help their student recognize the advantages of a new beginning. Learning from the first semester, utilizing resources, and setting goals all help create a successful spring semester.