Getting the Conversation Started with your Student
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The transition from the home environment to university and then back home for visits/breaks can be challenging. As your student begins to spread their wings, you might find it difficult to get the conversation rolling. Relax, this is normal! Here are what we hope are some helpful conversation starters as well as some examples for you to explore as you make the transition with your student.

Budget and Finances
Many students come to university and will begin experimenting with credit cards, student loans and other budgetary items for the first time. Before your student leaves for university, it might be helpful to sit down with them and discuss financial basics and practices including:
  • Credit cards and student loans are not free money. Talk with your student about their financial aid package, demonstrate for them how to budget money each month for expenses, and show them how to review a bank or credit card statement.
  • It is important to pay credit card bills in full so they should only charge what they can pay back in the immediate future.
  • They should keep a record of purchases and reviewing bank and credit card statements for accuracy. They should also shred credit card offers, receipts, and statements that have account numbers printed on them.
  • Encourage your student to keep PIN numbers confidential. They should not give them out to anyone even close friends or roommates.
  • Bills that are paid late will result in a financial penalty being incurred. Also, loans and unpaid balances on credit cards accumulate interest that must be paid.
Conversation starters:
  • How and what have you decided to spend money on?
  • How do you decide how much to save? Are you able to do this consistently within your budget? What are you saving for?
  • Where are you with your student bill in SAS?
  • Have you filled out all of your paperwork to receive your financial aid?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Student Administrative Services – Burpee, 1st floor


Classes and Grades
As your student begins to get settled into their academic courses and schedule it is natural for apprehension to take hold. Studying for the first round of exams or turning in their first paper may not always yield the results they were hoping for or that they are used to getting in high school. This is normal, but the earlier your student can identify the additional steps they need to take to succeed the better they’ll be. Rockford University faculty and staff are always willing to work with your student to help them succeed academically, but your student must seek out the assistance and follow through on their recommendations. Here are some signs to watch for:
  • Workloads for each class can vary depending on the course and the instructor. Encourage your student to look at each course, due dates for assignments, and figure out a schedule that will help them avoid pulling "all nighters” or getting behind in their readings
  • Students should meet regularly with their assigned academic advisor to discuss the courses they are currently taking and what courses they should be looking for in the upcoming semester(s)
  • If your student hasn’t decided on a program of study, they should also meet with faculty and their academic advisor to discuss areas of interest and what Rockford University can offer them
  • The further along in a program of study the higher degree of academic challenge. As students move into upper level course work, their work load will also increase. Students may find it more and more difficult to balance all that they want to do with what they need to do
  • Graduate school exams and job searches can sneak up on students. It is best for them to take advantage of the programs and services offered by our Career Services Office and in internships through their program of study
Conversation Starters:
  • How do you feel about the courses you are currently taking? What’s coming up that you’re excited about?
  • Have you discussed with your professor their comments on your last paper, or the questions you missed on your last exam?
  • What are you enjoying about your classes this semester? What is difficult about your schedule and coursework?
  • What kind of research projects are you working on? Are they group projects? How is that process going?
  • What activities are you involved in outside of the classroom? How do they relate with what you’re learning inside the classroom?
  • What programs have you attended or participated in? What was the issue they were discussing?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Their professors!
  • Faculty advisors
  • First-year advisors
  • Office of Student Retention
  • Rockford University Learning Center
  • Counselors at Lang Center for Health, Wellness, and Counseling
  • Writing Center, Math tutors, and other tutors for their course work
  • Student Government Academic Affairs Committee 


Mid-Term Exams
Mid-term exams will generally hit midway through the semester. They are often marked on the syllabus by the professor. This can be a stressful time for all students as it may be the first time that they become aware of where they really are grade-wise in their classes. Inquiring with the students a few weeks out can help make sure that they manage the stress brought on by exams better, as well as make sure that your student is planning adequate time to meet mid-term demands.

Conversation Starters:
  • Mid-term exams should be coming up soon, what does your schedule of work look like?
  • What are some exams or projects that you are worried about?
  • Have you checked out any resources like the writing center or tutors to help you prepare?
  • How are you studying for the exams? Do you have a quiet study area?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Professors
  • Academic Advisors
  • Writing Center
  • Tutors and study sessions put on by professors
  • Counselors at Lang Center for Health, Wellness, and Counseling
  • Rockford University Learning Center
  • Residence Life Staff


Final Exams
Final exams can sometimes become the last effort by a student to bring up their grades. Preventing this kind of stress at the end of the semester is important. Helping your student brainstorm ways to avoid the stress or pressure that comes with final exams can assist them in better managing the workload. It is important that the conversation not focus in on grades, but rather how the semester went, what they anticipate the result to be, and what they’ve learned about themselves that semester.

Conversation Starters:
  • How do you feel about how you did this past semester? Any surprises?
  • When do you expect grades to be posted, I understand you can access them online?
  • What classes went well? Why?
  • Were there some that you didn’t enjoy? Why?
  • Is your professor holding any study sessions that you can take advantage of? Have you sought them out for additional help on the side?
  • How are you studying for the exams? Do you have a quiet study area?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Professors
  • Academic Advisors
  • Writing Center
  • Tutors and study sessions put on by professors
  • Counselors at Lang Center for Health, Wellness, and Counseling
  • Rockford University Learning Center
  • Residence Life Staff


Getting Involved
A major part of the university experience is the opportunity and ability for students, residential or commuter, to take part in organized activities. Whether they are involved in a student club/organization, student government, hall council, athletics, service projects, or other programs, there is an unlimited number of opportunities for your student to connect in-class material with their out-of-class experiences. Academics do come first, and so it is important for your student to understand how to manage their time.

Conversation Starters:
  • What clubs or organizations have you seen that interest you?
  • Have you visited the Student Activities office to find out what’s going on?
  • What types of activities and programs (dances, concerts, game nights, etc) have you attended recently?
  • I heard that there is always a pre-planned program going on at the Lion’s Den at night, have you checked any of those out?
  • How did your first residence hall meeting go? What did you discuss?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Student Activities
  • Jane Addams Center for Civic Engagement
  • Student Government Association
  • Athletic Department
  • Resident Advisor or other member of the Residence Life staff
  • Professors


Maintenance Concerns for Residence Hall Rooms
Your student may have questions or concerns about their residence hall room. The first person that the resident should speak with is their Resident Advisor. If University property is broken, or in need of repair, the resident advisor will assist your student by filling out a work order that will alert maintenance to the area of concern. The Residence Hall Director or the Director of Residence Life can also assist your student if they are unable to locate their RA.

Please remember that your student is responsible for any damages to Rockford University property. When your student moves into their residence hall room they will be asked to fill out a Room Condition Report (RCR). This report is for them to mark any damages to the items provided to them by Rockford University. When your student moves out at the end of the academic year, the RA will go through their room and determine if any property is damaged beyond what is marked on the RCR and will report it to the Director of Residence Life who will assess fines as needed. The University is not responsible for any damages to your student’s property. We encourage all residents to obtain additional insurance for personal items. If you are able to claim the student as a dependent, their possessions may be covered while at the university; however, it is important to check with your homeowner’s policy.

Conversation Starters:
  • Have you alerted your RA to the problem?
  • Are there any damages to Rockford University property that you might be fined for?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Resident Advisor
  • Other members of the Residence Life Staff


Roommate Conflicts
One of the great things about living in a residence hall is the opportunity to meet new people and learn to live in a social, communal setting. As in any living situation, conflicts can arise over topics like noise levels, guests, cleanliness, food and even personalities. The Residence Life staff is trained in assisting residents in mediating conflicts between roommates and other residents. Our goal is to help your student and other residents learn how to successfully communicate their needs and respect the needs of others. This can take some time and patience. Families can help their students navigate these relationships by supporting and coaching their student in developing their conflict resolution skills by letting them take control of the situation.

Conversation Starters:
  • How are things going with your roommate? What have you found that you have in common?
  • Have there been any conflicts between the two of you? Anything that’s getting on your nerves?
  • Have you let your roommate know what your expectations are? Have you asked about theirs?
  • How have you addressed these issues with your roommate? Were you able to achieve resolution?
  • I understand that your RA has been trained in helping to resolve these types of situations. Have you sought out their assistance?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Resident Advisor
  • Other members of the Residence Life Staff


Alcohol Use
Some students choose to consume alcohol when they go to the university while others do not. Residents at Rockford University are allowed to consume alcohol in their rooms if they are 21 years of age. It is important that as a parent you are familiar with the alcohol policy so that you can speak with your student about the University’s expectations as well as your own. Rockford University offers alternative on-campus activities almost every weekend for all students that are alcohol-free. There are also plenty of students in the residence halls who choose not to consume alcohol.

Families should also be aware of the difference between high-risk drinking and low-risk drinking. Getting to know more about alcohol use and abuse can assist you in shaping your conversations with your student about their alcohol use. Here are some tips:

Low-Risk Drinking:
  • Thinking about what and how much you plan to drink before going to a party
  • Making sure to eat a full meal before starting to drink
  • Keeping consumption down to 1 drink per hour
  • Mixing in non-alcoholic beverages throughout the evening like water
  • Making plans with friends ahead of time as to what parties they will or will not be attending, designating a driver (if heading off campus) ahead of time, and sticking together as a group
High-Risk Drinking:
  • Planning to get drunk
  • Playing drinking games
  • Drinking too much, too fast. Doing shots
  • Consuming alcohol while on any type of medication
  • Drinking and driving while under the influence, or getting into a car with someone else who has been drinking
Conversation Starters:
  • What is the Rockford University environment like when it comes to parties with alcohol?
  • How will you decide whether or not to drink?
  • What will you do (or have you done) if your roommate feels differently about partying and drinking than you?
  • What else is there to do on-campus besides go to parties on the weekends?
  • What will you do if a friend of yours wants to drive home and they are intoxicated? What if they don’t listen to you?
  • What will you do if your designated driver has been drinking that night?
  • How can you go to the parties and be social without having to drink?
  • What are the campus resources to help you or a friend if you have concerns about alcohol?
  • Are you aware of the Rockford University alcohol policy and potential consequences?
  • What’s your plan if you or a friend get in over your heads regarding alcohol, will you agree to contact us no matter what? A member of the residence life staff?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
  • Campus Safety and Security
  • Residence Life Staff
  • Professionals from Lang Center for Health, Wellness, and Counseling (nurses and counselors)
Additional resources are available to parents and students at the following Web sites:
Be Responsible About Drinking (BRAD) - www.brad21.org
AlcoholScreening.org - www.alcoholscreening.org
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention - www.samhsa.gov/centers/csap/csap.htm
Bacchus & GAMMA Peer Education Network - www.bacchusgamma.org



Physical and Emotional Health
Rockford University provides health service to all enrolled students through the Lang Center for Health, Wellness, and Counseling. Students can experience a variety of personal, social, academic and relational issues during university that they cannot resolve on their own. Our professional counseling staff is a great resource for students to talk about their concerns.

Please take the opportunity to visit their Web site to learn more about health services offered at Rockford University: http://www.rockford.edu/lang/index.asp.



Coming Home
As your student prepares to return home for the first time or even after a challenging semester, there can be, and often is, a period of re-adjustment for the student and their families. It is important to talk with your student ahead of time about your expectations as well as theirs. Students are often times on a completely different sleep, social and even meal schedule than their families back home. Talking ahead of time about those boundaries and expectations can aid in making the transition much smoother as they return to your home.

Conversation Starters:
  • What are your plans while you’re home? Are you looking to reconnect with friends from high school?
  • What are your expectations for social activities while you’re home? Do you remember our family rules (i.e. curfew, guests, drinking, etc.)?
  • Are you thinking about bringing any of your university friends back with you for the weekend? What is their understanding of our house rules?
  • What time do you plan on arriving home? When do you plan on heading back?
  • Are you bringing home any laundry?
Rockford University Resources for your Student:
Residence Life Staff
Lang Health Center Counseling Staff
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