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 anxiety 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 first-year and transfer students. From basic questions to 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. One notable initiative that was established more than three decades ago is the African-American Peer Advising Program, which pairs upperclass students with new students. Similar programs serve transfer students or encompass peer mentoring around academics, careers, and health. The College Council, for example, provides peer academic advising.
- Student Affairs Staff: Students can find a range of help from faculty and staff in the division of Student Affairs. From help in navigating the University to career counseling to a kind ear, your student can find assistance here. 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 a transfer student, student-athlete, or Echols Scholar. Students keep the same association dean for as long as they remain in the College.
- Counseling and Psychological Services: If your student is feeling stressed, down, or worried, she or he can find help at CAPS, a center based in Student Health.
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. Medical services include the CAPS, 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 434.972.7004 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: 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 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?
In addressing the issue of sexual violence, the University has taken several major steps, including implementing a new policy and training programs in 2015.
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 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” for an overview of key activities during all four years. The timeline highlights social events as well. You know your student best, but these are occasions when a simple but direct message from you about safe, sensible celebrating may be important.
Q: When you say “social events,” what do you mean?
A: Halloween, the last home football game, St. Patrick’s Day, and Foxfield are occasions when students tend to celebrate, sometimes to excess. The University offers a variety of education and prevention programs around these times. Parents can be supportive by talking with their students about the importance of being responsible. For students not from Virginia, it is important for them to familarize themselves with state laws concerning alcohol.
Q: Any pointers on how to talk with my daughter or son about alcohol use?
A. Yes, see the column, “Alcohol Use among Students: How Parents Can be Partners in Prevention.” Susie Bruce, director of the Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, offers practical tips on how to approach these important conversations. She also discusses some of the misperceptions, especially among students, about the prevalence of drinking among their peers. A 2015 UVA study, for example, found that on a typical Saturday night, a majority of students either don’t drink or consume no more than three alcoholic beverages.
Q: What is Foxfield?
A: The Foxfield steeplechase races is a popular spring event with many students from UVA as well as from other schools in Virginia and nearby states. Held at a racetrack several miles from the UVA Grounds, the races are not sponsored by UVA. The presence of law enforcement is significant, and it is not unusual for a handful of students to be arrested for alcohol violations, especially underage possession. Both student peer groups and University officials communicate safety messages to students prior to the event. It is especially important for students to find safe transportation to and from the event. Parents can help reinforce the importance of planning to have a fun, but safe time.
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, and in a very small percentage of cases, roommate assignments do not work. 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. If your student is having roommate concerns, encourage her or him to try to work it out together with the roommate. If that is not successful, your student should contact her or his RA who will help or refer the situation to an assistant dean or area coordinator in Housing & Residence Life. The ability to change rooms 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 her or his 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 she or he feels is best.
Of course, there are times when it is important that a parent call the University directly to partner on a problem. For instance, if you believe that your student is unable to seek her or his 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 Transportation beyond Grounds 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 fall semester of her or his second year.
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 her or his 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. 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 direct student services, programs, and career fairs for students beginning in their first year. Encourage your student to visit the center early and often.
Students can join one or more of six Career Communities through the center. The communities offer specialized advising, programs, and handpicked job and internship opportunities.