Starting college is a major transition not only for your student, but also for you as a parent. It’s normal for many questions to arise as you begin this journey, whether you are undertaking it for the first time or the fourth.
Time of Transition
Throughout life, transitions mark endings and beginnings. They usher in periods of forward movement and backward slides. Transitions bring both anxiety and excitement, uncertainty and sureness.
As you begin the college transition with your daughter or son, having answers to your questions can help alleviate the uncertainty so you can enjoy the excitement.
Below are some of the questions most commonly asked by parents of new UVA students. You will see references to subsequent handbook Web pages that provide more detailed information.
Every fall, the University undergoes its own transition with the arrival of new students. Along with you — their parents and families — the UVA community continues to grow and change in exciting new ways.
Q: What should be my role during this time of transition?
A: Starting college is a major step toward independence. You can help foster this independence by allowing your student to make decisions around things big and small. Selecting classes, for example, is a major way for new students (when the curriculum is not preset) to establish a sense of autonomy and engage directly in a process that will occur numerous times during their years at UVA. In her “Top Ten Tips for Parents,” Associate Dean Rachel Most describes ways to support your student in the journey to becoming more independent. She says, “your role is changing from coach to cheerleader."
Q: Who will help my daughter or son become acclimated to UVA?
A: Many individuals are available to help new students find their way. They include:
- Resident Advisers: The RA is one of the best resources readily available to all students living on Grounds, especially to incoming students. From answering basic questions to offering advice about classes or other aspects of University life, RAs are trained to help students.
- Peer Advisers: Upperclass students often serve as peer mentors to new students in areas such as academics, careers, and health. Notable programs include the African-American Peer Advisor Program, the College Council, and programs serving transfer students.
- Student Affairs Staff: Students can find a range of help from faculty and staff in the division of Student Affairs. The Office of the Dean of Students is a good place to start.
Association Dean, Academic Deans, and Staff in Individual Schools: Each school has deans and staff in place to help students. In the College of Arts & Sciences, students should look to their association dean for academic assistance. College students are assigned to an association dean based on their first-year housing assignment or their status as an Echols scholar, student-
athlete, or transfer student. Students keep the same association dean for as long as they remain in the College.
Health and Safety
Q: What if my student gets sick?
A: Students should consider Student Health as the primary option for their health care while at UVA. Services include Counseling and Psychological Services, General Medicine, Gynecology, Health Promotion, the Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the Student Disability Access Center. After hours, for urgent health concerns, students can call the answering service at 434.297.4261 to be connected with an on-call care provider. In an emergency or life-threatening situation, students should always call 911.
Student Health's services, including information about health insurance requirements, are described on Health and Wellness.
Q: Any pointers on how to talk with my daughter or son about their health and safety?
Q: Is it possible to get prescriptions filled on Grounds?
A: Yes, Student Health has a pharmacy that will fill all prescriptions (even those not written by Student Health), and a UVA licensed pharmacist also is conveniently located inside the UVA Bookstore on Central Grounds. In addition, a retail pharmacy is located on the Corner.
Q: What safety measures are in place for students?
On any given day, as many as 33,000 students, faculty, staff, and visitors come to the Grounds and surrounding area. Everyone plays a role in creating a safe community. Students are urged to be aware of their surroundings, to watch out for one another, and to always call 911 if they need help or see a person or situation that seems suspicious.
Q: So calling 911 is not considered “bothering” the police?
A: Absolutely not. University Police and local police would rather come and check out a situation than not have the opportunity to intervene in a potential harmful situation or stop potential criminal activity. Emphasize to your student that calling 911 is the fastest way to get help.
Cycles of Student Life
Q: How can I keep track of what is going on in my daughter or son’s life at UVA?
A: Certain events, such as midterms, occur at predictable times during the academic year. A number of UVA traditions, such as the Third-Year Ring Ceremony, also occur at set times. See Student Timeline: What Happens When.
Q: My son is disappointed that he did not get the classes he wanted during registration at Orientation. What can he do?
A: First, you and he should not worry. Course registration reopens in August, and students can add and drop classes then. During the first week of classes, students also can attend different courses even if they are full, and sometimes professors will allow more people to take the class.
Q: Things don’t seem to be going well between my daughter and her roommate. Can she switch to a different room?
A: For many students, this is the first time they have had to share private space with another individual. This experience can be a tremendous learning opportunity, bringing self-knowledge and life lessons in compromise, communication, diversity, and assertiveness. Encourage your student to enter this new relationship with a sense of adventure and patience.
Occasional conflicts are to be expected in such a relationship. Because the University believes the experience of living with a roommate is a valuable one, it is expected that first-year students make a good faith effort to resolve roommate conflicts before a room change is considered.
Upon arrival, roommates create and sign a contract with their RA. The contract serves as a guide to prevent issues between roommates before they develop. In addition, many resources are available for addressing roommate conflict, including formal and informal mediation processes. Students having roommate concerns are encouraged to work out challenges together with their roommates. If this attempt is not successful, students should contact their RA who will help or refer the situation to an assistant dean or area coordinator in Housing & Residence Life. Changing rooms, which is not common, depends upon the situation and the spaces available.
Q: It’s February, and my first-year son just does not seem to be adjusting to college life. What can I do?
A: Sometimes parents feel that their student needs help. It is strongly encouraged that you guide your student to seek out that help on their own. By dealing directly with the student, the Housing & Residence Life staff are able to develop a relationship, ascertain the student’s needs, provide your student with an experienced perspective, and allow your student to choose the option they feel is best.
Of course, there are times when it is important for a parent to call the University directly to partner on a problem. For instance, if you believe that your student is unable to seek their own help (such as in cases of severe depression), if you are unable to reach your child in an emergency, or if you believe someone may be in danger, please call Housing & Residence Life (434.924.3736), the Office of the Dean of Students (434.924.7133), or the University Police (434.924.7166). Someone is available 24/7.
Q: What’s the easiest way for my daughter or son to get home?
A: Depending on where you live, transportation is available through the Charlottesville Airport, Amtrak, Greyhound, independently owned bus services, and ride-sharing. See Parking & Transportation for more information.
Q: How do I send mail to my student?
Q: How can my student plan for studying abroad?
A: Although students may prefer not to miss a semester at UVA, many options are available for education abroad. After the acclimatization period of first semester, encourage your student to attend the Education Abroad fair in the spring semester or in the following fall semester.
The most popular times to study abroad are second and third years. As an initial step, students should meet with an education abroad adviser and with their academic adviser early in the semester to discuss academic requirements and deadlines. Students should be aware that there may be a great deal of paperwork involved, so planning early will help facilitate the process. Many deadlines are in October for the upcoming spring, but as early as September in some cases.
In addition, if your student will be studying in or traveling to an under-resourced area, they should visit the International Travel Clinic at Student Health four to six weeks prior to departure to ensure that they receive any necessary vaccinations.
See Other Academic Opportunities for more information about Education Abroad, as well as other academic opportunities, such as January Term and Undergraduate Research.
Q: What help is available for students to find internships and jobs?
A: The University of Virginia Career Center provides individual student counseling, career-related programs, mentoring and networking events with employers, and career fairs for students beginning in their first year. Encourage your student to visit the center early and often.
The Career Center offers programs and activities to help students explore career interests and majors. When students are ready to seek specialized resources, the Career Center offers six Career Communities, which bring together employers, alumni, faculty, and career center staff to assist students in their career search. The communities offer specialized advising, programs, and handpicked job and internship opportunities.