Transition – First Days, Weeks

It’s been 2 days since you moved your student into their new house off-campus or into residence at McMaster and you haven’t heard from them. You are so worried about them. Are they doing okay? Are they safe? Do they have money? Are they behaving or getting into trouble? Who is looking after them like you have for the past 18 years? Why haven’t they called home?

These are all very common questions and concerns parents have during the first week of sending their son or daughter off to university and it’s natural to be worried. You are experiencing a big change not having your child at home where you can protect them and help make decisions. We spend a lot of time talking to students about the transition they’ll need to make to have a successful first year, but it’s important to talk to parents about their transition as well. We want to support you so you can continue to support your student and be the loving, knowledgeable parent they need.

What is happening at McMaster during the first week?
McMaster Welcome Week 2015 begins on Saturday September 5 and hopefully your student purchased a MacPass so they can participate in all events. Welcome Week is part of the orientation program at Mac. It provides opportunities for students to get to know other students, familiarize themselves with the campus and buildings, meet professors and staff from their Faculty Program Office and learn about the many clubs, student organizations and support services available to them. There are activities and events planned that will help students integrate into the university community. They will go on tours showing them where their classes will be and where the library is that they will need most. Students will play fun games with each other and attend social events as they get to know other students in their residence or neighbourhood and their program. They will be introduced to the over 150 clubs on campus and learn about other opportunities to get involved in campus life. They will attend their first set of classes at the end of the week and be introduced to large lecture halls or laboratories that are different from the science room in high school.

And they will be completely overwhelmed and tired by the end of the week as they try to take it all in and comprehend what a big change they are experiencing!! But they will be having fun and learning what it means to be independent.

How will I feel?
It is normal for parents to feel a range of emotions as you send your child off to university. On the one hand, you may be very excited for your daughter or son as you watch them grow and become a young adult, capable of handling the increased responsibilities. But you may also experience a sense of loss and separation, as you have been a significant presence in their life while they lived at home and now you are not included in their daily life in the same way. You may not see or talk to your child every day, even if they continue to live at home and commute to school. There is a shift in the level of control parents have and the way in which you communicate with your student may change. They are growing and becoming an adult and how you relate to them will need to reflect that. Parents will continue to be needed as a source of support for students (financially and emotionally), but the level of support needed may change.

How can I prepare for this transition?
Talk, talk, talk!!! Talk to your student about what they are feeling and the changes they anticipate going through. Share your feelings and fears, too. It can help to talk about specific situations you each think might come up and how they could best be handled. This will give you a chance to discuss what both of you expect of each other and to give your student the confidence to know they are making good decisions when you are not with them. Topics you could cover include: academic expectations, living with a roommate or set of housemates, relationships (with friends or intimate situations), alcohol and drugs, frequency of communication between yourselves. You could also address more practical topics such as how to manage money for the year, how to pay bills and how to do laundry. Another thing students often appreciate help with before they arrive is making special arrangements, ie. special dietary needs can be accommodated by contacting Hospitality Services (hospitality@mcmaster.ca) or for a student with a known disability, accommodations can be made through Student Accessibility Services.

Who can I contact during the academic year with any concerns I have or to get information?
For a full listing of Student Affairs (Student Services) departments, visit Services Overview . Here you will find a link to the specific web site of the service you are looking for. There are also services offered out of each Faculty Program Office and these offices are listed alphabetically in the A-Z listing found on the quick links button on the McMaster home page. If you are seeking information about the service on behalf of a student we encourage you to consider having them call for themselves. This is one way to support their growth and independence. In some situations, where information is specific and of a personal nature to a student, we are unable to provide it to anyone else – even a parent or legal guardian. If you still feel it necessary to call the university, but are unsure of where to go, you could try one of the three following places:

  1. Office of the Dean of Students at (905) 525-9140, ext. 27455 / ext. 24432 or Student Affairs website
  2. Security Services at (905) 525-9140, ext. 24281 or Security Services website
  3. Student Success Centre at (905) 525-9140, ext. 24254 or Student Success website