Amid the lighthearted and festive whirl of photos on College T-shirt Day for the Class of 2019, the seniors received some serious advice about the adventure ahead, with the “Transitions” program organized by NA’s College Counseling team.
The program, designed to prepare the Class of 2019 for the independent decision-making of college life, included a keynote speech and small group discussions, as well as a college-themed lunch in the refectory, where serving stations were draped with collegiate banners and college shirts.
Dr. Kevin Hughes, who serves as Christopher Newport University’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, gave the keynote address, which used titles and lyrics from popular songs as hooks for his many tips for success. Quite a few of those suggestions involved conversations with parents to get advice or set some ground rules, including the following:
- Learn how to manage multiple accounts on your debit card so you don’t overspend. College students receive a barrage of credit card offers; “don’t get sucked in by offers of a hat that you want” and ignore the fees and high interest rates, he said.
- Make plans for managing your personal health; if you take prescription medication, establish a plan for making sure you take the medications without parental reminders. If you don’t understand the vast array of over-the-counter medicines that might be necessary to deal with more routine illnesses, get an understanding of the basics before you go to college.
- Consider ways to be a thoughtful roommate, since that is often required in college dorms; it may be a challenging experience for those accustomed to a solo bedroom at home. How will you and your roommate handle guests? What arrangements will you make for sharing food and the X-Box? How will you keep the room clean? Hughes suggested that a roommate contract could be helpful, but in any case, conversations upfront are important.
- Joking about his own love of fried chicken and fries, Hughes worked in advice about making choices at the all-you-can-eat buffets featured in collegiate dining halls to avoid the dreaded “freshman 15.” Make smart choices, he said, “and don’t gorge on all that stuff every day.”
Many of his tips involved preparation for college-level academics. Students need to read course catalogs and syllabi carefully; set reminders in calendars for work that is due, because professors typically give a due date just once; understand that extra credit and test corrections aren’t an option at college to remedy a low grade; and be prepared to learn between lectures, by doing the reading and lab work. Hughes emphasized his “Golden Rule” —-prepare to spend 40 hours a week on academics.
“No” was the key to two tips—-one for students and one for parents. Students need to learn about saying “no” to some social events and extracurricular activities, in order to avoid getting overextended; you just can’t do everything.
And parents need to say a firm “No” if their child calls to say, “I miss you. I want to come home.” Instead, Hughes suggested, send a care package. It will provide comfort from home and tantalizing items—such as home-baked cookies—that a college student can share, and thereby make some new friends.