What to Expect

UChicago’s students share an intense interest in learning. They demand much from themselves, from each other, and from the College. Students begin college with great expectations. Whether they acknowledge it or not, however, they are also apprehensive about challenges they cannot anticipate. As they strive to adapt to powerful academic expectations, students also confront major emotional adjustments—assuming responsibility for their day-to-day lives, perhaps for the first time; making new friends; developing adult identities. Each student is different. Some students adjust quickly, and some take time to adjust to campus life. There are a number of activities for students to help them acclimate to their new environment. During Orientation, students are strongly encouraged to participate in all activities, as they are meant to help ease the transition into college.

Many students become homesick at some point during the first year. Looking back on this experience, upperclass students indicate that it helps if family members keep in close contact by phone, by email, or by sending care packages and letters. Learning to live with a roommate and all aspects of sharing space—especially if the student is accustomed to having his/her own room—are other common adjustments. Almost all new students at Chicago need to hone their time-management skills. Study techniques that worked in high school may not work in college. It also takes time to figure out how to use unscheduled time during the day. Parents should keep in mind that each student adjusts differently. Some students adjust quickly, and some take time to adjust to campus life. Finally, given all of the adjustments your student is making to college life, it is understandable that returning home represents another adjustment.

Supporting Your Student

Parents can support students by acknowledging that mastery of the college experience, academically and socially, takes time. Assure your student that he or she possesses the intelligence, character, and strength to succeed and, in time, to feel at home at the University of Chicago. Encourage your student to talk with academic advisers, residence hall staff, and faculty members. Knowing when and how to seek advice fosters maturity. Feeling confident about one’s ability to find and use internal and external resources is a major developmental goal for the college years.

Be patient and supportive. The college years are an appropriate time to change plans, examine new ideas, explore academic and career goals, and test abilities. Parents who fear that a student will permanently abandon family values may find it useful to think of the college years as a time when students try out new ways of being. Parents who keep a sense of humor, while reassuring and encouraging their student, will likely find that the person who emerges into adulthood remains the person they loved and nurtured through childhood.