The Department of Residential Living is delighted that your son or daughter has chosen
Western Carolina University for his or her academic pursuits. For many parents, sending
a son or daughter off to college can be a traumatic experience. There will be times
when you will want to know what you can do and what your role is in helping your student
to have a positive college experience.
While every family is unique, there are certainly common events that students encounter.
For this reason, we have attempted to outline some of these below to enable you to
assist your student when situations arise. Hopefully, you will find some of our suggestions
helpful. If, however, you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.
Transitioning to College Life
Because college is a period of transition for your student, he/she will benefit from
your support and trust, while encouraging independence. You won't know every detail
of your student's life like you did when they lived at home in a somewhat structured
environment. Although your student may never have lived away from home before, going
to college is an exciting and important step in his/her maturation process. The values
and ethics you have instilled will help your student make good choices and decisions.
It is extremely helpful for you to talk about this with your student throughout their
first year at Western.
Although college will at first seem like a large place, very different from home,
your student will actually be living in an environment where our staff members are
trained to understand the transitional issues experienced by college students. They
are readily available to assist students in the adjustment to life at Western. Our
staff will depend on your student to come forward should he or she need assistance.
Helping Your Student Manage Concerns
Learning to successfully manage one’s own concerns is an important part of becoming
a responsible adult. If your student confides that he or she is experiencing difficulties
associated with residence hall life, we would urge you to encourage him/her to take
personal responsibility for seeking a resolution. Although you have always been there
to assist your son or daughter in making decisions and choices, as a college student,
your young adult will need to be more independent and self-sufficient. Handling difficult
situations for them only impedes their development. Since students can and do resolve
most of their own concerns, and their Resident Assistant and other building staff
members are readily available to assist your student, parental involvement is usually
not necessary. Although they will still want to talk about their experiences, you
need to empower your student to solve their own problems by offering guidance, encouraging
independence, and trusting in his/her decisions. If, however, there is a time when
you need to become involved, please feel free to contact our office by calling 828-227-7303.
Our staff will direct you to the person best able to respond to your questions. If
we are unable to accommodate a special request, we will provide an explanation of
our policies and procedures.
Conflicts With a Roommate
One of the most important life skills your son or daughter will attain during his/her
college career will be learning to live with a roommate. At some point during his/her
residential experience, he or she may well experience a roommate conflict. Please
be assured that roommate conflicts, although often unpleasant, are perfectly natural
and actually quite healthy. Any experience with conflict will help your student to
learn essential life skills such as effective communication and boundary setting.
We have systems in place to help your student address roommate concerns. Your role
in this process is to challenge your student to actively work through the issues,
instead of avoiding them or looking for easy answers. Changing roommates is often
not the best solution, so helping your student seek alternative solutions, will enhance
the learning that can come from this experience. The Resident Assistant (RA) who lives
on your son’s or daughter’s floor has been trained to handle roommate issues. If the
conflict goes beyond the RA’s expertise, he/she can also ask for assistance from the
Resident Director or the Assistant Director for Residence Life when necessary.
As a parent, homesickness is one of the hardest things to see your student experience.
For your son or daughter, life has suddenly changed and will never be the same. During
the first two weeks of the academic year, however, there will be many activities that
help students get connected. Taking advantage of those opportunities will assist
your student in becoming a successful member of his or her new community. You can
show your support and concern for your student throughout the year by writing letters,
and sending food and care packages from home. You have no idea how excited students
get when packages and letters arrive from home. Don't hover over the mailbox waiting
for a letter in return, however. Although students are curious about what’s going
on at home, they are far less inclined to let you know what they are doing. It is
not unusual for your student to want to come home occasionally during their first
year, but if they want to come home every weekend, try to find out why. They may be
struggling with the social aspects of on-campus living. Encourage them to give it
time and get out and meet people.
Helping Your Student Stay Informed
The primary means of communication at Western Carolina University is email. Various
campus constituents will utilize email to notify your student of important dates and
events. In order to avoid missing critical announcements, please remind your student
to pay special attention to emails sent to their Catamount email account.
Community Expectations at Western
Many parents and students come to Western with preconceived notions of campus conduct,
university regulations, and the law. These preconceived notions are often based on
media accounts, someone's memories, and assumptions. Every university must abide by
federal regulations, as well as state and local laws. Additionally, each university
has its own traditions, regulations, and institutional integrity. If parents know
something about institutional and legal expectations, they can reinforce the positive
teachings of Western and help their students avoid complications. Rules and regulations
are designed to protect the rights of students and encourage individual and community
responsibility. They exist to:
- Support the requirements of local, state, or federal laws
- Provide for the health, safety, and security needs of residents
- Allow students the opportunity to sleep, study, and pursue their academic endeavors
without undue interference from disruptive community members.
Academic Life at Western
Your student has joined the ranks of the university where academic expectations are
rigorous. While they were in high school, you were there to monitor how much time
was spent on academic work. Because they are now responsible for their own schedule,
talking with them about how they plan to balance this newfound freedom will help to
ensure that they succeed academically. Let them know that you want them to be involved
and enjoy their college experience and that you are there to help them succeed socially
and academically. Make sure to ask very specific questions that demand a greater answer
than "things are ok." Although your student may not tell you everything that is going
on, if you continue to show interest, they will know that you are there and will come
to you when the need arises.
It is quite normal for high-ranking high school students to see their grades drop
a little once at college. This may come as a shock to both you and your student, given
that they were always one of the best in their high school. Try to remember that your
student is experiencing a life-transition from high school to a university, and for
many students, a temporary drop in grades is typical. Don't let your student get depressed
or discouraged; instead encourage them to get help. Tutoring, study skills workshops, and other academic support is readily available for first-year students. Students who seek assistance from the
various campus resources typically get back on track and do well.
"The Phone Call"
Be prepared for "the phone call." It often comes just after midterms or near the end
of the first term, when work is piling up, or grades are lower than expected. Your
student may feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as well as they did in the past. Your
student may be upset, and chances are, he/she will call you. It's important not to
panic; remember that this is normal, and as much as you'd like to alleviate the stress,
you can not (and should not) "fix this" for him/her. Your student will rely on you
to be calm and reassuring about their ability to successfully work through the challenges.
Encourage your student to seek help from the campus resources that are available.
Because your student has become accustomed to life on his/her own for the last several
months, and only having to consider his/her own daily routine, he/she may have difficulties
returning home for holidays. Your student has not been living under your house rules
for several months and may come home with new expectations for family members. Try
to remember that this time of transition affects not only your student, but everyone
in the household as well.
And Finally …
Familiarize yourself with the campus resources that are available to your student.
Visit the WCU website often, read the materials that came to your home as your student
was preparing to attend Western, check out the Events Calendar for upcoming events at Western, and browse this website.