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Inroduction to DWU
Getting to Know Us
Getting Started
Frequently Asked Questions
Quick Reference Guide

Getting to Know Us

After graduation, new alumni often reflect back on their experiences as students and recall the transformations they went through over the past several years. Indeed, the beginning of the college experience will inevitably bring substantial change to the lives of students and to those around them. The information collected here is intended to help the student you care about succeed academically and remain healthy while at Dakota Wesleyan University.

Things to Consider Before Coming to DWU
Trust your student.
The first year is about discovery; discovery of self, discovery of academic strengths and limitations and discovery of choices for the future. Have faith in the values you have imparted to your new student and let them know that you trust their judgment.

Talk about finances. Many students have previously been financially dependent on their family. Some may have little understanding of their family’s financial situation, the definition of fiscal responsibility and how to manage their money. Likewise, working towards a college degree can be an expensive process. Discussing financial boundaries and the consequences of financial irresponsibility is an important step toward your new student’s success.

Things to Consider Along the Way
Don't ask if they're homesick.
The power of association can be a dangerous thing. (A friend once told me "the idea of being homesick didn't even occur to me, what with all the new things that were going on, until my mom called one of the first weekends and asked 'Are you homesick?' Then it hit me.") The first few days/weeks of school are activity-packed and friend-jammed and the challenge of meeting new people and adjusting to new situations takes a majority of a new student's time and concentration. So unless they're reminded of it (by well-meaning parents), they'll probably be able to escape homesickness.

And even if they don't tell you during those first few weeks, they do miss you.

Let your student resolve his own problems, issues, or concerns. While away at college, your student may face certain challenges that you may feel compelled to solve on his behalf. All students face different challenges, whether they are academic, social or personal. Your natural reaction may be to give advice or try to solve the problem. It is important to remember how much can be learned from such life experiences, and your student will grow a great deal from solving his own problems. However do be available to offer advice, help identify problem-solving methods and be sympathetic.

Ask questions, but be careful how you do so. Becoming a college student is an adult responsibility, and though you may be concerned for your student’s welfare, it is important to remember that she is taking steps on the path of her own development. Certain questions you ask may be intended to show you care, but may sometimes cause undue stress for your student. For example, it is better to approach your student with interest in her experiences, rather than insist it is your business. College is exciting and different. Your student will want to share what she has discovered and experienced with you, but she also does not want to feel judged.

Write or email. Most students will be very busy and may not be used to long distance communication. It may be difficult to express what is going on at school in a letter or email. Likewise, they are experiencing the independence that college affords. Try not to misinterpret a lack of responses as rejection. Even if students do not admit it, they often are excited to hear about news from home, family and friends. Getting personal mail is fun and it lets them know that someone cares. An empty mailbox can be very depressing, especially when a roommate or friend gets letters often. Send the local paper, news clippings about local events, goofy cards, pictures of friends and family—anything that will help ease the new separation. On the closing pages of this handbook there is an example of how to address mail to your student to ensure its proper delivery. (Their campus email will be the first two letters of their first name and up to six of their last @dwu.edu. Please encourage them to use this rather than previous addresses.)

Visit (but not too often). Occasional visits by family members (especially when accompanied by dinner out, small presents or shopping) are another part of the first year experience that students may be reluctant to admit liking, but do appreciate greatly. Visits work best if planned well in advance. Spur of the moment visits may disrupt student plans or social events, creating rather than relieving stress.

College is not always the best years of your student’s life. Especially during the first year, college can be punctuated by periods of indecision, insecurity, disappointment and mistakes. It is also full of discovery, inspiration, good times and new people. It may take students and families some time to understand that feeling unhappy, afraid, uncomfortable, confused or discouraged are all part of college, part of growing up and a part of life. Not all weekends are activity-packed, not all grades will be good, and not all decisions are wise. Accept and be prepared for the highs and lows of a student’s year, and be able to support and encourage your student throughout this transitional time.

Prepare for the return. Your student will change. It may be slow; it may be drastic; it may be a mixture of the two, but they will change! It is a natural, inevitable, wonderful, sometimes awkward experience, but it always happens. For example, the average student changes majors three times. Be patient, open to change and ready for your student and who he/she has become. When the school year ends and students return home, be prepared to discuss rules to guide behavior over the holiday breaks and summer. Students will become accustomed to the freedom of college living and may feel constrained by the need to return to their family environment. It is important to understand and respect the new individuality your student has developed but remind your student that there are rules and courtesies that still apply to them.

Ultimately, college is a period of transition, one that relies on the support of many other people. When anxiety mounts or challenges are faced, students often turn home for support. We each experience difficult times when we need other people. The college experience is no exception. It is important to remember as a parent or loved one that the urge to communicate is strongest when things are most difficult. It is typical for your student to find something they dislike about the college experience. It is important for you to support them in understanding these feelings. You may need to be an advice dispenser or simply a sympathetic listener. Overall, be available as needed and be interested in this new journey on which your student has embarked.

For more information and resources about the college transition, visit www.collegeparents.org.

Tips on being a DWU Parent
There are two stages in being a DWU parent: before they leave for school, and after they’ve left home.

Before
This is when you and your child are involved in the crazy, overwhelming college selection process. Your daughter or son is probably feeling pressure to complete a "to do" list that includes: researching potential colleges, completing heaps of paperwork, taking (or re-taking) the ACTs, visiting prospective schools, narrowing to a shortlist the potential colleges, sending out applications, waiting for acceptance letters, choosing a major, etc., all while still trying to finish high school. (Whew!) Even if they haven't told you, they're probably freaking out. Trust us; this is a stressful time for them.

For college-bound students and parents alike, this is an emotional rite of passage. But one that is navigated with some ease if you just relax, take a deep breath, and understand some honest facts:

  • The U.S. has more than 3,000 colleges and universities, many of which provide a first-rate education at an affordable price (DWU is one of them).
  • Forty percent of kids in college do not graduate from the school to which they first enroll (many more transfer than you'd ever imagine).
  • It's a myth there is just one right-fit school for each 18-year old high school senior (there are MANY right fits).

So relax. Try to get your son or daughter to relax. You WILL get through this and move on to the second stage — after.

After
This is when your daughter or son is out of the house. Your refrigerator is now full, your car actually has gas, your phone line is strangely free, and you're eyeing that now-empty bedroom for a home improvement project. (Some of the joys of being the proud parent of a college student.)

  • But now comes a new set of issues about your child:
  • How do I send her off right?
  • What can I do to help him while he's away?
  • When will she be back home and when does she need to go back to school?
  • Who do I contact at DWU in case of an emergency or if I have a question or concern?
  • What if he doesn't call regularly?
  • What if she doesn't like her roommate?
  • What if he ...
  • (Even more joys of being the proud parent of a college student.)

Stress – Helping Your Student Cope
For most DWU students, this is the first time they’ve lived away from home. It’s an exciting, exhilarating, and liberating time in their lives. It can also be a stressful, lonely, and anxious time.

Parents, you can play an important role in helping your daughter or son cope with this transition by being aware of what he or she is probably going through by simply listening to them.

August/September
  • Excitement
  • Homesickness, loneliness
  • Especially for new students, frequent calls home or visits home
  • Doubts about choice of school
  • Tendency to test new limits
  • Anxiety about roommates and professors
  • Anxiety about results of early–semester exams and papers
October
  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Concerns about the campus social climate
  • Midterm exams/midterm papers time
  • Students realize college life may not be perfect
  • Romances from home still going strong-but increasingly difficult to maintain
November
  • Roommate tensions increase (or decrease)
  • Academic pressures mount (procrastination? course difficulty? lack of sleep?)
  • Economic anxiety (funds beginning to run short)
  • Campus-wide feeling of general homesickness
  • Anxiety about returning home for Thanksgiving break (wondering, “Will I still fit in at home?”)
December
  • Increased social-life demands (parties, concerts, volunteer projects, and religious activities)
  • Increased nervousness as final exams approach and important papers are due
  • Financial strain caused by holiday gifts and travel costs
  • Pre-holiday break depression (especially for those who have no home to visit or who prefer not to go home because of family difficulties)
  • Physical, mental exhaustion (wiped out after busy first semester)
  • Friction from being under “house rules” after months of relative freedom
January
  • Post-holiday blues
  • Loneliness due to romantic relationship at college
  • Seeing upcoming semester as a time to make a fresh start
  • Relief at prospect of going back to school
February
  • Breakup of romance from home
  • Valentine’s Day Blues (everyone has somebody…except me)
  • Excitement of Spring Break (a week in Cancun or a week home in Canton, SD)
March
  • Anxiety over midterm exams and papers
  • Nervousness begins about upcoming summer employment
  • Concern begins over choosing room and roommate(s) for next fall
  • Nervousness about signing up for fall courses
April / May
  • Increased nervousness as final exams approach and important papers are due
  • Apprehension about returning home for summer
  • Sadness over losing touch with new friends and losing contact with romantic relationship
  • Concern over finding summer employment
  • Friction from being under “house rules” after months of relative freedom

Remember, we said college is an exciting time - no one said it’s an easy time.

Contact us (digoldam@dwu.edu) , ask questions (605-995-2160), and share anything you feel would be helpful to us as we embark on this exciting journey together.

Dakota Wesleyan University
1200 W. University Ave
Mitchell, SD 57301
800-333-8506
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Last updated: 7/7/09
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