Points for Parents of Freshmen

Frequently Asked Questions

Most first-semester freshmen take five academic courses amounting to between 15-18 credits, depending on the credit value of the courses.

The courses will be a blend of:

  • Courses we require of all freshmen (our First-Year Seminar course is one example; “The Art of Thinking” is another; Math is also another)

  • Courses appropriate for a student’s major and/or pre-professional interest
  • Courses for our Common Core or our Elective Core
  • When appropriate, other elective courses

Students and parents can check our Core and major requirements on the Registrar’s website under Major Checksheets.

There are many variations, but for most freshmen, the schedule will be something like this:

  1. One of our FY 125 courses (First Year Seminar) OR our FLO 125 course (The Art of Thinking)     3CR
  2. A common core course (HICC 101 or ENCC 102)     3CR
  3. A math course (by department placement)     3CR or 4CR
  4. A course for intended major/core     3CR or 4CR
  5. A course for major/core     3CR

One first semester course will be taught by the student's freshman academic advisor.

These two courses constitute a new direction in our freshman programming, and as a University, we are eager to begin our third full year with this innovative and unique curriculum.  We hope the courses will challenge and excite our freshmen at the same time while introducing them right from the start to the realities of college-level work.

The FY 125 courses are developed and taught by selected full time faculty members in a variety of disciplines on topics that are innovative and pertinent to the lives of our students. These courses will be taught to classes of limited size (15/16 students per section) and since they reflect the interests and passions of our faculty, they should be exciting and eye-opening.   The courses embrace the seminar format and call for a high level of participation from the students. The courses are also intended to develop the writing, oral presentation, and research competencies.

Our FLO 125 course is designed to develop and enhance the logical thinking skills of our newest students, to allow them to enter into mature and well-thought out discussions with their faculty and fellow students, and to offer them a solid foundation for their written and oral assignments during freshman year and beyond.

Freshmen take one of these courses in the fall; the other in the spring of freshman year.

Most three-credit courses meet for 150 minutes per week—either in two 75 minute sessions or three 50 minute sessions; four-credit courses typically include three 75 minute sessions; and science labs meet for three hours once per week.

Unlike in high school, college classes meet at times that are often spread out over a week.  Our classes begin at 8:00 AM on Monday and end with 3:30 classes on Friday; we even have classes in the early evenings (5:00 PM classes). Freshmen fit into all of these time slots. So there are often substantial gaps between classes along with some “light” days and some “heavy” days.  Freshmen—and their parents—need to get used to this fundamental change, and new college students must learn to make effective use of the “gaps” and of some prime studying hours during the day.

On the second day of each June Orientation, advisors will meet individually with each incoming freshman to discuss the required courses and options for the fall.  Each student will leave with a good idea of the courses he/she will take for the fall, but NOT the days and times. An actual schedule, complete with days and times, will arrive via mail in July.

That’s where we come in as academic advisors.  Each freshman will sit with an advisor, who has the student’s academic folder and other details from forms the student has completed while here. So we have a great deal of relevant information about a freshman’s academic interests that allows us to work individually with him/her to select the appropriate courses.

Our Academic Advisors also know our University Core requirements along with the requirements and suggested sequences for each major and pre-professional program. All of this allows us to assist the student in selecting courses that fit his/her plans, interests, and academic capabilities.  

Students leave with some paperwork that should be explanatory, and students and parents can always refer to, as I said earlier, our Major Checksheets. We advisors use them, and we encourage our students to do the same.

The level of choice varies depending on the kinds of courses and their importance to an individual student, but freshmen have less choice now than they will in later terms.

  • We assign freshmen to their required first semester courses in Freshman Year Seminar/Art of Thinking, Math, and Common Core—no choice here;
  • Students are assured of a spot in any course needed for or appropriate for their major or intended major (so, for example, a Communication Studies/Media Arts major willget CM 101; a Psychology major will get PS 110; and an Exercise Science major will get BI 111/113);
  • For any remaining courses, students will be asked for their “area” preferences and for alternatives (Foreign Language; Studio Art; Humanities; Social Sciences; Sciences; Religious Studies/Philosophy) within our Elective Core. There is little choice of a specific course; we will assign a course within the appropriate area.

The Math Department’s placements are based on a student’s entering academic profile in Math (SATs, Grades, GPA, Rank in Class) along with the analysis of our SHU Math Placement Assessment, which freshmen must complete on-line prior to Orientation.  In addition, Math placement considers which Math course is appropriate for a particular major/pre-professional program. So a potential Business Major will take a different starting Math course (probably MA 106, 109, or 110) than a Biology major (probably MA 140 or 151). The placement considers capability as well as the student’s area of academic interest.

Foreign Language
Freshmen who wish to continue a Foreign Language they have taken in high school must take the Foreign Language Placement Exam online prior to Orientation.

The Core Curriculum—known in some institutions as the General Education Requirements—consists of those courses/requirements that every SHU student must fulfill regardless of major/area of interest in order to earn a degree. Usually, students create their schedules each semester to blend courses for the Core Curriculum with courses for their major. Our Major Checksheets demonstrate the Core and its application to each of our majors, but here is a quick explanation of its three components.

The Foundational Coreconsists of THREE courses that are almost always completed by the end of Freshman Year:

  • FYE 125, First Year Seminar     3CR
  • FLO 125, The Art of Thinking     3CR
  • MA___, A College-Level Math Course     3CR or 4CR

The Common Core is a sequence of four courses—“Common Core: The Human Journey”-- that begins in a student’s freshman year and extends into a student’s junior or senior year.

The four Common Core courses are HICC 101 (History); ENCC 102 (Literature); CC 103 (one of the Social or Natural Sciences); CC 104 (Philosophy or Theology/Religious Studies).

The Elective Coreconsists of eleven courses in four areas:

  • Humanities, (9CR/3 courses)
  • Social/Behavioral Sciences, (9CR/3 courses)
  • Mathematics/Sciences, (6-8CR/2 courses)
  • Religious Studies or Theology/Philosophy (9CR/3 courses)

Prior to their initial semester, freshmen cannot make schedule changes on their own. Once schedules are developed, there is only limited opportunity for changing courses, days, and times. Our Registrar takes great pains to devise a schedule that fits each student’s needs, but there are only so many classes offered and a finite number of seats in each room. Of course, I will be glad to try to help any freshman with a legitimate need to adjust his/her schedule, but I am limited by course and room capacities. Once the semester begins, there is a brief—one week—period to Add/Drop classes. It’s NOT like high school where a student might change “levels” or teachers deep into the semester.

Absolutely, we are particularly proud of our Freshman Academic Advising Program, and we feel that the Freshman Academic Advisor should play an important and supportive role in each freshman’s first year in college. As he/she begins the first year at Sacred Heart, each freshman will have an academic advisor in our Freshman Academic Advising Program, and that advisor will be a member of our full-time faculty.

Our Freshman Academic Advisors are poised and ready to assist freshmen with the transition to the academic realities of college; to help with decisions about courses, majors, and programs; to monitor and support their academic progress; and to offer a concerned and informed person to contact and consult. It’s important that freshmen meet regularly outside of class with their academic advisor; so much depends on a new student’s willingness to take the initiative to seek out and work with his/her academic advisor. We’re there to help, and we hope that the relationship becomes a profitable one.

A unique feature of our Program here at Sacred Heart is that a freshman’s academic advisor will also be a professor in one of his/her first semester academic courses (our advising sections are limited in size), so every freshman will have instant and frequent access to his/her academic advisor throughout the crucial first semester. We are particularly proud to announce that our Freshman Academic Advising Program was selected as a recent recipient of a NACADA Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Certificate of Merit by the National Academy of Academic Advisors.

A great deal of academic support is available for freshmen and for all other students as well.  The location for most of this support is our Jandrisevets Learning Center, located in the lower level of the Ryan-Matura Library. The Center provides—at no charge—tutoring in all academic subjects and a support center for students with physical and/or learning disabilities. The Center also offers relevant academic workshops (Study Skills, Time Management, Essay Writing, and Note-Taking, for example) throughout the year. Finally, the JLC, as students call it, also features online tutoring services in both English and Math. We strongly encourage our freshmen—and all of our students—to take advantage of this resource.

In addition to the JLC, many freshman courses feature CLAs (Classroom Learning Assistants), selected and trained upper class students, who work with the professor to offer tutoring, help organize study groups, and prepare students for exams and papers. And, of course, students should always feel free to go directly to the source—their professors—with any questions or concerns.  And...don’t forget the academic advisor.

We award Advanced Placement credit if a student has taken an AP Exam and scored a 4 or higher. The SHU faculty determines how that credit is applied to a student’s Sacred Heart record. We accept IB credit with an appropriate score only for IB HL courses. Students and their parents should be sure that the Official AP results—the College Grade Report—and any IB results have been sent to Sacred Heart.

We also award credit for college courses taken at another institution if the student has received a C or higher. Again, Sacred Heart decides how that credit will be applied and how it affects the courses a student must take at Sacred Heart. In order to record credit, we must receive an Official Transcript from the college that awarded the credit—NOT from the  high school. Contact the college Registrar and ask to have an Official Transcript (not a copy) sent to Sacred Heart. I suggest that you address it to me (Michael Bozzone, Assistant Dean, College of Arts and Sciences). I will forward it to our Registrar for appropriate crediting.

Sacred Heart does not have a University-wide attendance policy. Each individual professor, however, does have one (see his/her syllabus). Some are relatively liberal with their policies while others are quite strict, with clearly stated limits on missed classes. Students must be aware of each professor’s policy and of the consequences for violations. Students can fail—and have failed—courses for attendance reasons.

I must emphasize, however, that students should attend all of their classes—not some of them, not most of them, not just the ones they like, not just the easy ones or those that meet at the best times—but all of them. Class attendance is a major predictor of success, and perfect attendance is well within every student’s reach. If a professor allows a number of missed classes, students should use them for legitimate reasons, not to catch a few hours of sleep or to watch a favorite TV show. Too often a student will “use up” his/her permitted absences unwisely and then need to miss due to illness or some other legitimate reason. While most professors are sensitive to reasonable excuses, there comes a point when a student has just missed too many classes to merit a passing grade. In short, students should do their best to attend all of their classes and avoid falling behind. And missing a class is not a reason/excuse for being unprepared for the next day’s work.  It’s college! 

Finally, if a student must miss a series of classes, he/she should contact my office (Assistant Dean, Arts & Sciences), and we’ll inform the professors. The student must, however, check with professors to make up any missed work.

Only a student’s final grades for each semester appear on his/her transcript.  Unlike in high school, there are no quarterly report cards to review, sign, and discuss with your son or daughter; so I encourage parents and children to talk beforehand about when and how you will discuss “how things are going.”   Although only the final grades “count,” Sacred Heart does issue Mid-Semester Advisory Grades, which indicate how a student is progressing at this point in the semester. Any student who receives one or more mid-term grades below C will receive a Mid Term Warning email, which is also copied to his/her Academic Advisor for follow-up with appropriate support and referrals.

At any point during the semester, students doing poorly may receive an Academic Warning Notice email, alerting them and their Advisors to a potential complication. Parents should be aware that students can access Final Grades, Mid-Semester Grades, Early Warnings, and other important information through our WebAdvisor system. Learn about Web Advisor!

As with attendance policies, grading policies vary with individual professors.  Some offer only two exams per semester while others offer multiple grading opportunities in the form of tests, quizzes, papers, oral presentations, etc. Some professors count things like class participation and attendance while others don’t. Professors detail their grading policies in their course syllabi; it is each student’s obligation (and it makes good sense as well) to know each professor’s policy—wise students keep—and consult--their syllabi!

Since the minimum graduating grade is 2.00 (a flat C average) that’s one to keep in mind for the long haul, but only as an absolute minimum. Let’s be positive first; to qualify for our Dean’s List, a student must achieve a 3.60 Grade Point Average or above in a particular semester (see our Catalog for additional requirements). At the other end of the spectrum, a first semester average below 1.80 places a freshman on Academic Probation, while a first semester average below 1.00 (a straight D average) can lead to immediate Dismissal. The standards rise as a student moves beyond his/her first semester, and our Undergraduate Catalog contains these standards and other important information.

Our semester runs from September to December, and students will be choosing and registering for spring 2015 classes in November 2014. It all moves very quickly.

There is no all-purpose answer to this question, but since it will be an important decision in each student’s academic life, we do ask our freshmen to begin thinking about a major right away. Some freshmen enter Sacred Heart firmly committed to a major; others are interested but uncertain; still others have no idea about a major at all.  Each of these positions is valid and appropriate, and we are ready to work with them all. We offer freshmen opportunities to declare a major at a variety of points, and the first comes early in the second semester, as part of a transition meeting with their Freshman Advisors. Many/most freshmen do declare at this point. If I had to offer a point at which a student “really must” have a major, it would be no later than the registration for his/her fourth college semester. At that point, a student is “running out of” Core classes; delaying beyond this point might cost students—and their families—time and money.

Except for during his/her first semester at Sacred Heart, once a student declares a major officially, he/she is assigned a new academic advisor in the chosen discipline. In the meantime, contact persons are available in each Department for freshmen who want to learn more about a major. Students and parents and anyone else can check the requirements for each major—and the suggested course sequences—on the Registrar’s website at Major Checksheets.

Yes, there is. We are asking our freshmen to read Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel, a challenging and thought-provoking work that asks us to examine our values and to think seriously about the reasons behind our decisions. We want our freshmen not simply to succeed in their courses but also to develop a sense of right and wrong—a sense of “Justice.” The freshman class will participate in a series of meetings and seminars regarding this summer reading on the Sunday prior to the start of the semester. And we are proud to announce that Professor Sandel will be speaking to the freshman class here at Sacred Heart in September. The book is available at the Sacred Heart Bookstore, and we ask our freshmen to read the book carefully and bring it with them in August.

The largest change by far is just in the way we do things in college. There is much more freedom—in every sense of the word—and correspondingly far more individual responsibility—academically and personally--than in high school. Each student now has the primary responsibility for his/her success or lack thereof. I can’t emphasize that enough. While circumstances can certainly play a contributing role, a freshman’s habits, dedication, and attitude are the controlling factors in how well he/she does in college. The student is the key. 

A college student must motivate him/herself, use his/her time wisely and productively, and regulate his/her life, for the most part, without the familiar support of family and friends. The need becomes clearest when you consider the amount of time a typical student spends outside of a college classroom—roughly 150 hours out of a 168 hour week. Experts tell us that a college student should be devoting two hours of work outside of class for every hour in class. So a student with 15 hours of in-class time should be spending somewhere near 30 hours outside of class on his/her academic work.

Those who quickly establish priorities for those 150 hours and make wise choices invariably succeed; those who squander their time and choose unwisely frequently encounter trouble. There is plenty of work to do, and even the busiest freshman has time! Unfortunately, freshmen can and do underestimate the amount of time and work needed outside the classroom.   Remember; the object is to”get smart not just get by.”

Secondly, college is a performance-based environment. In short, a student must achieve the goals of the courses and measure up to the standards set by the professors for success. It’s not just about putting in the time; it’s about achieving. It’s not just about being in a class; it’s about doing well enough to earn the grades that mark success.

In college, we expect freshmen to “know stuff” on their own—not secret, hidden rules or policies, but important relevant information about classes, exams, dates, requirements, etc. For example, freshmen need to learn quickly about our WebAdvisor service, where they can access their schedules, room assignments, transcripts, and even their mid-term and final grades. Students actually register for courses through WebAdvisor. Students also need to be alert to announcements and communications through our email system and Blackboard. Each professor’s syllabus details important dates, policies, and assignments within an individual class. Our Student Handbook and our Catalog are both available online as are Checksheets for each major. The wise student, simply put, stays informed! We want our freshmen to discard the old “high school excuses.”  “I didn’t know” or “I forgot” doesn’t work well in college—or in life as those of us who are a little older can testify. In short, this is an adult-oriented environment—not an extension of high school.

Young people away from home or out of their familiar surroundings need to become socially comfortable as well. Residential students may be sharing a room for the first time; our commuters, while still occupying the same room, are, nonetheless, experiencing a large-scale change as well. There are new friends to meet and make, and adjusting to a new environment doesn’t always go smoothly at first. It takes time to “feel at home”—academically and socially. While the double-edged swords of Instant Messaging, Facebook, Twitter and Skype provide comforting and supportive contact with old friends, they can also slow down the process of embracing a new environment by lingering too long in a “high school” world that has already changed and, in fact, no longer even exists.

Homesickness, problems with roommates, making new friends (and dealing with old ones), etc. can make the early going difficult for some. The good news is that most survive and thrive. Complications arise when any of this causes new students to neglect assignments, miss classes, or otherwise fall behind. Staying up late talking with new friends can be exhilarating but not if you miss your 8:00 AM Common Core class or neglect to hand in your Seminar essay as a result.

There are five primary causes and probably a thousand smaller ones as well, but the ones I notice most are:

  • missing classes (usually the early AMs)
  • using poor time management
  • doing work at the last minute
  • socializing too much
  • and falling back on high school habits.

Add to this the incredible amount of time young people spend at their computers, tablets, and phones, playing games and, especially, texting their friends or trolling through Facebook and YouTube. It’s natural that college freshmen at first try the same techniques that got them through high school. Those who worked purposefully, had logical priorities, and budgeted their time well have those solid habits to fall back on. They usually adjust well to the increased academic demand. But others who did their work at the last minute, managed their time ineffectively, often with their social life at the forefront of their priorities, or relied on “high school excuses” will be faced with a more severe and demanding transition to college. 

It is a major transition for a college freshman, not just as a student but as an evolving person as well. So there is a great deal of support available to address personal and social issues that can have an impact on a student’s success and enjoyment here at Sacred Heart. 

Our University Counseling Center and Health Services Office offer medical and personal/emotional support; we have a very active Campus Ministry to enhance a student’s spiritual development, and our Residential Life staff helps students adjust to their new living environment. We have a Career Development Office that students can take advantage of at any time—as early as freshman year. These are just some of the services available, and we urge our students to make use of them. Most importantly, we encourage students not to allow a problem to linger—see someone; start anywhere—we all work very well together, and we can usually find someone who can help.

There is no simple answer to this question, but I’ll try to offer some suggestions. Point number one is to walk the slender tightrope that requires you to be supportive without being intrusive, sympathetic without being enabling. Answer the phone calls, emails and text messages; give news from home (details, details); ask questions without prying too much; and just be mom and dad. Trust yourself to know a crisis from a minor problem—“I have a 105 fever” is different from “My roommate plays the radio too loud.”

Point two is to allow your son or daughter some room to grow (there is even a book for parents entitled Letting Go, an admittedly difficult task) and to learn to solve his/her problems. I think you do this by being a good listener, by being appropriately sympathetic, and by trying to turn complaints and dissatisfactions into problem-solving discussions. Help your son or daughter learn to confront an issue or address a problem—on his/her own but with your support, advice, and encouragement. Sure, you are older, wiser, and more experienced, but part of growth is learning to deal with people and circumstances on your own. This year is a major step toward independence and maturity. It’s time!

Encourage your child to focus on his/her studies—that’s why he/she is here, right? A new student should be expected to attend every class and do the required work—that can be the center, the steadying point in a new student’s life. Even a student who has some initial trouble adjusting to college can set those two goals as fixed priorities. Once things settle down—and they invariably do—the new student is on pace with his/her studies and ready to “enjoy” the exciting and eye-opening world of college. So if the start seems a bit rocky, emphasize your child’s strengths, be understanding, and be reasonable with your suggestions and expectations. Advising and encouraging your son or daughter to go to class, manage time wisely, get enough sleep, eat sensibly, and do some studying during the day makes sense—even to an 18 year old.

Initially, the freshmen—almost to a person—miss home and the people at home very much; they miss the comfort of familiar surroundings, the safety of their routines, and the daily, often unspoken, expressions of support and love from those closest to them. But they invariably reach a degree of satisfaction and comfort in their new environment once they realize that in coming to college, they haven’t lost the essentials of what they have left behind. They just need to settle into an effective routine, and it can be difficult at the start.  And if they know—sense, feel—that you love and support them, that’s a major part of the struggle.

Right now, you might encourage your son or daughter to start getting ready—at a reasonable pace, for sure—for the fall. If the opportunity arises, see if you can have a conversation about his/her expectations and concerns; it might be a good time to reassure him/her that you’re still “around” for advice and assistance. It may not be possible, but try not to shop in one hectic spree at the end of August; doing things gradually lowers the tension level and shows by example how to handle multiple tasks in a calm and organized way (that presumes that you will, in fact, be “calm and organized”—or at least pretend to be).

Suggest that your son or daughter take some time over the summer to become more familiar with Sacred Heart, even from a distance. Take a look at the Sacred Heart website; there is a great deal on information there.  And if they are able to access WebAdvisor, they can view their classes, schedules, etc. Encourage them to do the Summer Reading and to think about the book and how it might inform their lives. 

Finally, just be patient, understanding, and supportive. Yes, it’s a summer of transition, but generations of college freshmen—and their parents—have survived before you, so be positive and take heart.

Good luck to all the parents—I know it’s a transition for you too. If you need me, I’m at  203-365-7648 or via email at bozzonem@sacredheart.edu. Thanks and enjoy your summer.