The annual autumn migration from home to the Heights can induce stress and instigate anxious moments for undergraduates as well as their parents. First-year students wonder if they’ll make new friends, fit in, and manage a full course load. Returning students worry about choosing their major, readying for a semester abroad, finding the right internship or fellowship, and what their futures hold upon graduation. Most BC students are concerned with finding the right balance of friendship, extracurricular, and social commitments while not losing sight of their academic goals.
Here are some Boston College insiders’ tips on helping your student adjust to the rhythms of an unfamiliar campus, a daunting academic schedule, or a new living situation at college.
Tip #1: Explore
College is about discovering new subjects, people, and interests. Donald Hafner, vice provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, advises freshmen to take their time when choosing an academic major and to think openly when choosing courses.
Tip #2: Make Healthy Choices
Pay attention to your physical and emotional health. “You plan for academics, and you need to plan for health,” says Elise Phillips, director of Health Promotion, who advises eating healthfully; staying hydrated; maintaining regular wake and sleep patterns; and being physically active, whether that means walking, running, biking, working out in the gym, or playing team sports.
Tip #3: Build Relationships
Developing relationships with both peers and faculty mentors will give your student a strong social network to fall back on. Dropping in on a professor’s office hours, attending faculty lectures, and participating in extracurricular activities are good ways to build a network. “Spending time doing something you love, with people who are just as passionate as you, can be one of the most amazing and memorable experiences at BC,” says Nanci Fiore-Chettiar ’15, a sociology major who is president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College.
Tip #4: Smart Time Management and Planning
Focusing on priorities and making good use of time are key on a campus that offers academic, social, and cultural stimulation at every turn. Students should keep a calendar and be encouraged to develop a time-management system that works best for them, for work as well as play. Fiore-Chettiar recommends that as they adjust to college, students limit themselves to a few activities and advises, “don’t be afraid to switch if your interests change.”
Tip #5: Seek Help
Times of transition such as arriving for freshman year, choosing a major, or anticipating graduation cause much stress and anxiety. Students can turn to a number of people and places for help: residence directors, academic advisors, clergy members, and University Counseling Services are dedicated to helping students make the best of their undergraduate lives. “We at Boston College all work closely together so the student will end up where he or she belongs,” says Thomas McGuinness, associate vice president for Student Affairs and director of University Counseling Services.
Tip #6: Make Time to Reflect
Reflecting on one’s life and purpose is not only a core aspect of the Jesuit tradition, it’s a good way for your student to stay focused on what is really important. Boston College provides a rich array of opportunities for students of all faiths to look inward, from quiet spaces across campus, to several popular retreats, to a weekly drop-in program at the Multi-Faith Center, to “capstone” courses that allow students to ponder the meaning of their college experience.
By Debra Ruder and Tim Czerwienski