It's been just a few days since your son or daughter began their Florida Tech experience. We know that this freshman year will be a time of significant personal growth and development, as young men and women make the transition to "adulthood."
Our goal is to do all that we can to provide the "right" balance of structure and freedom, and challenge and support, to create a campus environment that will enhance the personal growth of our students. We also know that one of the key factors in a successful freshman year is to ensure that parents are partners in this process.
You, like your son or daughter, are now members of the Florida Tech community. We welcome you, and hope that this short booklet will be of some assistance as we begin our new relationship. If we are all successful, we know that when you attend commencement, four short years from now, you will have made an investment that has not only resulted in a graduating senior that has learned "how to make a living, but also how to make a life."
Going away to college may be the first time your son or daughter has spent any time away from home. The added anxiety of sharing a room with a stranger-the new roommate, who is also away from home for the first time-can prove to be challenging for everyone involved.
Sorting out the lifestyle differences can be overwhelming. Everything from room decorations, to study times, socializing, music preferences and other interests may cause roommate conflicts. Students tell us that the best roommate relationships come when they first meet and take the time to talk about what's important to them and set guidelines.
However, when unsolved issues surface, you are likely to get a call saying "I hate this place, I hate my roommate (he or she is a real slob), nothing is going right and I want to come home." Not to worry, that's not an uncommon call during the first week or so in the semester.
It's very important to listen to what is being said and express your understanding and concern about the difficulties, but it's even more important to encourage your son or daughter to be patient and take the initiative to solve the problem. For students to understand, tolerate and negotiate with other students whose values, habits and cultures may be different is a large part of the "out-of-the-classroom" experience that is an important part of "growing-up."
Over the years, we've found that Florida Tech's policy that precludes roommate changes during the first two weeks, gives students time to truly learn if they can find common ground and enjoy each other's company. And more often than not, those roommates who couldn't stand each other during the first week of school, grow into life-long friends.
Every student will need a little extra help from time to time to adjust to life away from home. Florida Tech has a staff of Resident Assistants (RAs) that live in the residence halls and are trained to deal with personal problems, roommate conflicts and many other concerns associated with college life. They work with the students to develop and maintain a comfortable environment by being a resource for information and support. RAs have the training and resources to point your student in the right direction to get most situations resolved.
Other areas of students' lives that were taken for granted at home may also cause distress for the new college student-like missing Mom or Dad's home-cooking. The university's food service is designed to help meet whatever special needs our students have. Students can select anything from full-service dining to a quick deli sandwich, pizza or salad. A wide variety of choices are always available, with their favorite "comfort foods" (mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, etc.) as part of the daily menu.
Freedom and Responsibility
While many students have dreamed about the freedom and independence of college life, they quickly discover that with that freedom comes responsibility. "Familiar" parts of their previous lives that never required a thought now become decisions. Things such as when to do laundry, when to get up, when to go to bed, when to study, and when and what to eat will become "automatic" as students become more independent.
However, in the first few weeks these are all new decisions to be made. Even if those "little decisions" are good ones, it is safe to say that the first few days (if not weeks) of the freshman year are described by our students as a time when their world has been turned upside down. That can be exciting and frustrating, and will surely be a time when students "experiment" with what works for them.
These "adventures" outside the classroom often become the most significant part of the freshman year experience, and that is precisely why we work hard to create opportunities for freshman to share their concerns, and not just "survive," but thrive in their new environment. The University Experience class, taught by faculty and staff, is an example of a wonderful opportunity for freshmen to meet new friends and develop close relationships with an "adult" on the campus, in a structured environment.
There will no doubt be "bumps in the road," but we've found that not only do most of our freshman successfully "navigate" through this period, they quickly adapt to both the new freedoms and responsibilities that are a part of their lives.
Homesickness is Natural
Homesickness is painful, it hurts and it is very common among first-year students, but this too will pass. In fact parents also sometimes feel pangs of loneliness, especially if you have not been previously separated from your child. Your son or daughter may hint about transferring closer to home "for your sake" or suggest coming home on weekends to help you.
For several reasons, we recommend students stay on campus during weekends, particularly the first few weekends. They are more likely to make friends and take part in college activities; otherwise, this lack of involvement can make the adjustment to college life more difficult. If he or she insists on seeing you, you may want to suggest that you come to campus for a visit. This family visit will give your son or daughter a chance to show you around their new home and introduce their new roommate.
During these times, your son or daughter may show exasperation when you ask questions about their lifestyle, but be assured, he or she still wants to know that you and the family are interested in all of their college experiences. It is a curious paradox: if parents ask too many questions, they are prying; if they don't ask enough questions, they don't care. Finding that delicate balance is not an easy task, but an important and worthwhile one. It is clear that all students crave news from home and family. Letters or a subscription to the hometown newspaper, cards, pictures and cookies on a regular basis are all good way to help students feel in touch.
College is a time for discovery. Within the first year, students gather knowledge, develop coping skills and formulate new ideas to shape their futures. During this initial period, students need time to adjust to the differences between the demands of high school versus those of college. Many good students discover their high school study habits are not adequate to succeed at the same level in college.
Therefore, it is not unusual for an "A" high school student to receive a "B" or "C" in college. That's why it is so important to Florida Tech that all freshman get started on the right path, both academically and socially, and we offer many programs to help students succeed.
As a parent, you may feel that something is wrong if your son or daughter begins to question their major. It is however, not unusual for a student to change his or her major after the first semester. After all, how many of us knew definitively "what we wanted to do when we grew up," when we were 17 or 18 years old?
Because we recognize this, the university offers degree programs with similarities in the core courses to allow students to make a change, if necessary, without falling behind schedule. If students become undecided about their major, there are numerous resources at the university to help them make a decision-advisors, career management services, professors, special interest groups and clubs.
And, last but not least, when you want information about your student's grades or academic progress, the most effective way to get that information is to ask your son or daughter. That's an important element in your positive involvement in their academic experience. Any information that is released directly by the university to parents is limited by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. However, if you're ever concerned about any aspect of your student's life, we want you to call. We rely on our parents to help us identify students who need a little extra help or encouragement.
A Final Word
The journey has begun and it will no doubt be exciting. Revel in the successes, take heart when there are periodic problems, and know that as partners in this process we all have common goals: we want our freshman to be happy and successful, self-confident, and self-reliant. Enjoy your trip!
Need More Help?
During Freshman Orientation, all students received a Student Handbook that lists where to go for the answers to problems. We thought it might be helpful for you to have the following quick-reference list as well.
Academic Issues 674-7110
Family Crisis 674-8131
(Emergencies, family illness, etc.)
Financial Aid 674-8070
Food Services 674-8076
Health Insurance 674-8076
Health Issues 674-8078
Housing/Residence Life 674-8080
Learning/Physical Disability 674-8100
Student Counseling 674-8050
Safety and Security 674-8111