Family around the Thanksgiving Table

The holidays are a great time to have an intentional conversation with your Sacred Heart Freshman about their semester. We’ve provided some conversation prompts (and supporting information) to help you talk about common student experiences and set some goals and expectations for next semester!

“With final exams, papers, and presentations coming up, how are you using the resources in the Success Center?”

  • Students are able to submit papers electronically to the Online Writing Lab to get feedback from writing faculty before handing them in to be graded! Students will get papers back within 36 hours, full of feedback on how to improve them. Ask your student: “Why write a paper and hand it directly to the professor for a grade when you can submit it online to improve it first?”
  • This semester, 35% of freshmen currently use tutors for assignments and tests as they navigate freshman year. The average midterm grades of these students are almost a full letter grade higher than the students who have not used tutors!
  • Don’t let them say: “There aren’t any tutors for my class.”  The Success Center has student and professional tutors for all courses. Students can book an appointment here. Any student having difficulty coordinating a tutoring appointment can request a tutor here, and one will be assigned at a time that works for them.  

“How are your friends contributing to your success?”

  • Freshmen often settle for the first friend group that accepts them, which may not always be the best one. Students in campus clubs and organizations will have shared interests with your student, and are demonstrating positive behaviors by engaging in university activities. Ask your student: “What clubs or organizations would be fun for you?”
  • Student success research identifies “social cohort” (friends) as one of the most significant factors to influence success. Have they found friends who encourage studying, friends who understand the importance of balancing academics with social activities, and friends who value your student?
  • According to research conducted by our office, over 2,000 college seniors were asked when they met their best friends in college. 88% said they met their best friends after freshman year. 98% said their friend group includes people they met after freshman year, and 99% said they no longer speak to some people they met during freshman year.
  • Don’t let them say: “Everybody” or “Nobody.” Students often feel there was an imaginary deadline to find friends, and they somehow missed it. We hear them say things like, “Nobody has anything in common with me,” or “Everybody already has all of their friends.” Remind your student that each semester is like a time machine that allows them to start over with a new routine, new classes, new professors, new classmates, and new opportunities.

“How are your relationships with Faculty?”

  • Students have (on average) 5 professors each semester. Your student should be meeting with 2 professors each week during their office hours. Every week. Discuss assignments and expectations. Discuss topics you enjoy, or topics that may confuse you. Students should be comfortable getting to know their professors. The more a professor knows about your student, the better equipped professors are to teach them! Ask your student: “Tell me something interesting about each of your professors.”
  • Your student should have a very good relationship with his/her Academic Advisor. This person plays a crucial role in a freshman’s success.
  • Don’t let them say: “I’m too busy.” Time management is a critical skill for success, and coordinating conversations with important resources (like professors) should be a priority.  “My professor isn’t around.” All faculty have office hours. If a student’s schedule conflicts with these hours, speak to the professor after class to see if another time can be worked out.“I’m too scared/nervous to talk to my professor.” Students have shared with us that if it’s uncomfortable, they won’t do it.

“Now that you almost have a semester of experience, what do you plan to do differently in the spring?”

  • Treat each semester like an opportunity to start over, only better. Students can identify bad habits and influences and eliminate them. Students can identify good habits and continue them. Students can learn about new ways to find success. Ask your student: “Name one thing that held you back from achieving your goals this semester, and name one thing that helped you.”
  • Opportunities for your student are everywhere, and they may not know about them. Students can become research assistants and work alongside of professors on scholarly research in their field of interest. This often exposes students to answers about career options and academic goals.
  • Work Study, internships, and shadowing opportunities are everywhere. It’s never too early to start these, and your freshman student should talk to professors and the office of Career Development about opportunities to explore these experiences.
  • Don’t let them say: “I don’t know.” This is the most common answer from students. It is a simple way to say “I’m not going to think about it.” Remember, a student can’t reach their own expectations if they don’t have any!

“Let’s talk about your classes.”

  • Believe it or not, this is NOT the most important part of freshman year. Students (and sometimes families) put emphasis on this measurement to evaluate success. The first semester of college statistically the worst one for student GPAs. Focusing too much on this causes anxiety and stress for a student, and it can send the wrong message. Ask your student: “What classes do you enjoy the most?”
  • If low grades are jeopardizing scholarships, know that scholarships are based on cumulative GPA for the year, not just one semester. So a struggling student can work with the University resources and bring a GPA up in the spring. To see scholarship requirements, a student can click on “My Awards” in the MySHU link on Sacred Heart’s website.
  • Freshmen should also not be pressured into choosing a major and career at this point. Parents can sometimes feel like time is being wasted if a student is exploring options. This is what college is designed for. Just make sure they are actively exploring by doing the things listed throughout this FAQ, and not waiting for the answers to come to them.