Housing and Residence Life Offers Back-to-School Tips for Students and Parents

Posted: August 14, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Whether it is a student’s first semester in college or he or she is well on the way to graduating, the first few days can be a bit stressful for both students and parents.

With the start of a new academic year just around the corner, Scott Francis, associate director of Mason’s Office of Housing and Residence Life, offers a list of back-to-school tips to help ease some of the anxiety families go through around this time of year.

Managing credit cards responsibly

If a student decides to get a credit card, they should use it to establish credit, to handle emergencies, and to get whatever reward they sign up for. It is important to make it a rule to only charge what they have money for at that moment. Credit cards don’t make people go into debt; people who use credit cards and don’t have the money to pay the bill will go into debt.

Respecting roommates and making rules before they are needed

Even the most compatible roommates will have disagreements, but it is how a student and his or her roommate deal with the unavoidable conflict that makes the difference. If a student wants to get along, and the roommate wants to get along, they’ll get along. Ultimately, keeping the lines of communication open is the most important key.

Talking to parents about communication

Parents’ communication with their college students can range from never leaving their student alone to never calling or e-mailing. Before leaving for school, students should work out a plan for when they are going to talk to their parents and understand that this is a transition for the parents, too.

Being responsible about what is put on the Internet

Online networks such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com, which millions of people use every day, make it easy for people to communicate with one another. However, most students don’t realize the opportunities for misuse of these networks. Students should be responsible about what kind of information they post online because inappropriate postings or pictures can become collector’s items for classmates, friends, parents or future employers. Students should avoid posting particular specifics like phone numbers, addresses and class schedules.

Getting involved

It is important that students get involved in as many clubs and activities as they can sooner rather than later. It is a great way to make friends, branch out, discover new interests, get to know professors and become familiar with the campus. Students shouldn’t be afraid to go to events and activities by themselves, and they should make a point of talking to at least one other person while there.

Learning to cook and do laundry

Instead of eating out all the time, students should learn how to make their own food at home. Always using coupons and shopping around for the best deals are great ways to save money. Students should also learn how to do their own laundry and never leave it unattended in the laundry facility.

Being patient

Most first-time college students want friends, grades and the “good life” right away. Students need to appreciate that it takes time to learn their way around a new campus, meet new people or find professors they like. Having patience and heading to school with a plan will make the adjustment easier.

Learning how to manage time effectively

Time management isn’t just about allocating a few hours a day to study. Once students have developed a routine, they should figure out how much time they are going to need for each activity — studying, working, having fun — and write it down in a planner. Once they have established a good balance, they will have time to do the things that are important to them.

Avoiding the habit of skipping classes

Deciding whether or not to go to class is a new freedom students have in college, but they should be aware that this choice comes with consequences. By deciding to sleep in they could be missing essential material that might be on the next exam or a pop quiz, and consequently get poor grades and fail the class. For those times when students really can’t make it to class, they should let the professor know and find a way to get the notes they missed.

Staying safe

Although most students might not think so, crime occurs everywhere, even on college campuses. To decrease the risk of theft or another crime, students should always be aware of their surroundings, stay in areas with a lot of people and always walk in pairs or a group. If a student feels unsafe in a campus area, they should leave immediately.

For more information, contact the Office of Housing and Residence Life at 703-993-2720.

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