Hartwick Landscape

Orientation & Transition Information for Families

As the family member of a new student, we welcome you to the Hartwick community.


Throughout your family’s transition to college life, keep in mind that this period of change can provide opportunities such as:

  • A chance to know each other on a different level and find new means of communication;
  • A catalyst for healthy, sometimes necessary, sometimes difficult conversations;
  • An opportunity for you both to try new things and stretch beyond your comfort zone; and
  • An opportunity to miss (and gain a renewed sense of appreciation for) one another.

Allowing the relationship between you and your student to evolve will require flexibility, trust, compromise, and support. It will be a transition that will be worth the growing pains.

– Maintain conversations as a family that have a balanced mixture of what’s happening on campus and what’s happening at home.

– Encourage self-advocacy as students seek out staff and faculty for personal and academic support.

– Know that mistakes happen. Part of this newfound sense of independence involves the inevitable making of mistakes as students take risks which often lead to growth.

– As a student, get involved in clubs and organizations, contribute to the community, and seek out experiential learning opportunities.

– As a parent, believe in your student. As your student tries new things, develops an expanded worldview, and questions assumptions, their perspective may change. Students will experiment because, at the root of it all, they know that someone back home believes in their intelligence, their initiative, and their ability to make good, informed decisions.

– Encourage co-curricular activity. Campus involvement builds lasting friendships.

– Help identify networks of support. Allow your student to develop self-advocacy skills.

– Emphasize the need for communications with professors. They are not the enemy.

– Allow for independent decision making. Allow for failure too.

– Encourage balance. Mixing work and play reduces stress.

– Understand that roommate conflicts will occur. Learning to work out differences is an important growth opportunity.

– Encourage exploration and the use of advising resources. No major? No problem. Now is the
time for considering lots of options.

– Promote the pursuit of internships. Internships increase hiring power.

– Advocate for off-campus experiences. They put the liberal arts experience into practice and provide life-changing experiences.

– Suggest your student draft a resume in the first year. Career development begins early.

The majority of college students suffer from homesickness, typically during the first semester. Despite the excitement of making new friends, it’s common for students to miss old friends, family, and the security of home and a familiar community.

The fact that everyone feels this way doesn’t make it any easier, but as a family member it’s important to recognize that this common complaint is part of the growth experience. It may be tempting to encourage your student to come home for a visit, but the best way to overcome homesickness is to stay on campus, get involved, and grit one’s teeth until the uncomfortable feelings give way to a new sense of independence and belonging.

Time Management may very well be the number one challenge for new (and continuing) college
students. High school is structured, with blocks of time during the day pre-scheduled for students. College life is different. Course schedules vary from student to student, from day to day, and from semester to semester. Students may have more classes on certain days, with more free time on others. Overall, college students spend significantly less time in the classroom than they did in high school.

However, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be working more. There is much more “out-of-
classroom” work expected in college, which means that students need to make sure they are scheduling enough study time to support their in-class work. Students struggling in this area are encouraged to talk with their Guidance Team.

With increased academic responsibility, lots of social opportunities, and a communal living environment, it can be challenging to find enough time to sleep. Having a roommate usually only intensifies the problem. Making sleep a priority will go a long way to ensuring overall health and well-being. We suggest that a student seriously struggling with sleep issues visit with our Wellness Education professionals for helpful advice.

While students are sometimes skeptical about living in a residence hall, they quickly find out that residential living provides social interaction, special programming, and even leadership opportunities. Residential living is an important part of the development process that enhances the overall educational experience. When challenges arise, particularly due to lifestyle differences, it’s best for students to work through them by talking to the roommate and, if needed, discussing concerns with their residential advisor.

Perhaps you are a family member who worries because you don’t often hear from your student.

If so, you might feel rejected because your student seems not to need you, your advice, or your “helicopter landings” any longer.

Maybe you’re a family member who receives texts all day long from your student with play-by-play reports of every challenge and decision they are facing.

Both situations are very common. Although it can be painful for family members who want to remain as involved as ever in the lives of their student, they must realize that the student is becoming an adult and needs to exercise an evolving sense of independence in order to experience true growth. As such, they need to develop independent-thinking and self reliance.

Of course, even the most prepared students make poor decisions, stumble, and struggle with the consequences of their newly independent (but maybe not-yet-so-wise) thinking. If you fear your student is making poor decisions that threaten his or her well-being (as well as satisfactory academic standing), you must intervene.

But also realize that some poor decision-making is normal and is part of the learning experience. It is yet another unavoidable marker on the journey to adulthood!

Student Struggles

Seeing your student struggle or fail at something is difficult, and the instinct to try to solve their problems is natural.

Keep in mind, however, that sometimes the best learning experiences occur through challenges. Often it takes a measure of failure before a student is ready to reach out for the help and support she or he needs.

Learning to identify needs, and understanding the importance of seeking out resources, is an important skill – it is the key to success. If you suspect your student is struggling, reinforce the message that we give incoming students: “Utilize College Resources”.

Hartwick offers students multiple points of support, but students must avail themselves of these resources. Here are some resources for the following difficulties:

– Professor (communicating with the professor is extremely important)
– Tutoring (available in the Center for Student Success)
– Study Groups (contact professor or form group with other students)
– Study Skills Workshops (available in the Center for Student Success)
– Writing Center (for assistance with writing projects)
– Quantitative Literacy Center

– Resident Advisor (trained peer mentors who can provide advice and mediation)
– Area Coordinator (trained professional who can provide advice and mediation)

Counseling Services at Perrella Wellness Center (counseling professionals on staff are available to meet individually as well as in group therapy sessions)
Wellness Education Office (4th floor of Dewar Union in the Division of Student Experience)
50-50 Peer Counseling (available to students by calling extension 5050)


Kimberly Hastings
Director of Alumni, Parent & Family Relations