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ORL Family Newsletter: September

Seasonal Student Issues

There's a seasonal ebb and flow when it comes to student issues. Here are a few things your student may be experiencing this month:

  • Exploration and acknowledgement of personal values
  • Long distance relationship strain
  • Feelings of loneliness and homesickness may increase
  • A desire to feel connected to campus
  • Roommate adjustments
  • Experimentation with alcohol and other drugs
  • Getting acclimated to a new type of academics
  • Figuring out how to get organized and manage their time
  • Searching for a sense of belonging

Time Management Strategies for Students

As your student gets in the “school groove” this month, learning to work smartly and efficiently is a key to her success. Consider discussing time management strategies with her, such as the following…

Beware That Stuff Steals Time. It’s so true. When you have too much stuff in your living space, you spend more time looking for things. By doing a “stuff purge,” your student will be better able to get to things quickly while staying more organized.

Decompress Your Mind. A stressed, overactive mind is not as time efficient as a calm, collected one is. So, whether your students uses breathing techniques, exercise or other stress management tools, it’s important to make them a natural part of her everyday life. Not only will her time usage be more efficient, her body will be healthier!

Don’t Over Schedule. There comes a time in some students’ schedules where they just can’t fit anything else in. So, learning to say “no” is important. It’s much better to be realistic than trying to be all things to all people. The latter is bound to disappoint someone and to overwhelm your student.

Use the In-between Times. That 45-minute chunk of time between a class and a meeting can be used wisely instead of wasted. That’s several pages of reading for a class, studying for a quiz or buying a birthday card at the bookstore, writing it and mailing it out (or finding an e-card that’ll serve the same purpose). Those in-between times add up quickly!

Avoid Weekend Reliance. During the busy weekdays it’s easy to say, "I'll get to that over the weekend." However, weekends often get full, plus it’s important for students to give themselves some down time, too. So, encourage your student to try not relying on weekends as his time to get most things done. Instead, he can dose it out over the weekdays, for maximum efficiency.

Time Stealers
Random texting, chatting endlessly due to unlimited cell phone minutes, spending hours on video games or Facebook… all are Time Stealers. Ask your student if this is how he wants to be spending his precious free time.

Fire Safety Facts

Fire safety both on and off campus requires vigilance and common sense.

So, what can students do to keep themselves fire safe? Here are some recommendations:

  • Respond to every fire alarm quickly and compliantly – you never know when it's the real thing
  • Know where the fire exits are – have at least two ways out of each room
  • Attend fire safety programs and awareness-building events
  • Keep fire doors closed instead of propping them open – these are what keep fire at bay
  • Don’t tamper with fire alarms, fire extinguishers or sprinkler systems – they serve a vital purpose
  • Follow the “no candles in the residence halls” rule – they often cause fires when burning unattended – and be extra careful if you choose to burn candles off campus
  • Know how to use a fire extinguisher – use the PASS system: Pull the pin, Aim low at the base of the fire, Squeeze the lever and Sweep side to side slowly
  • Keep an eye on your cooking and stay in the kitchen – unattended pans are the #1 reason for cooking fires
  • Don’t allow your laptop to become overheated on your lap – it can start a fire
  • If you’re going to smoke, do so outside, never in bed, and consider the risks when you’re drowsy or have been drinking – more people die from smoking-related fires than any other type
  • Be alert – alcohol impairment greatly increases your chances of dying in a fire

For these and more tips, head to

Be Aware

The majority of fatal fires happen in off-campus housing. What do many of them have in common?

  • Smoke alarms were missing or disabled
  • Automatic fire sprinklers were lacking
  • Smoking materials were disposed of carelessly
  • Alcohol consumption impaired people's judgment

Learning Inside & Outside the Classroom

A great advantage your student has on campus this year is that he can learn both in and out of the classroom. This comprehensive take on learning will help him juggle tasks, get involved on campus and learn in a variety of ways. They include:

Classroom Knowledge. Lecture notes, class discussions, textbooks and projects will help students dig into specific subject matter. Don’t be surprised if your student is excited about anthropology or astronomy next time you talk!

You Can… Ask your student what she’s learning. It’ll be great to hear her excitement, plus by sharing the knowledge with you, it’s helping her clinch it in her own brain even more.

Service Experience. By participating in class-based service learning projects and out-of-class community service initiatives, your student is learning about giving back and engaging with the community.

You Can… Role model community involvement and the value of giving back. Also, talk with your student about the people he’s meeting through his community service.

Campus Leadership. Getting involved with the biology club, student government or the campus radio station can enhance students’ sense of belonging because they really feel a part of something. Plus, they’re learning how to follow, how to lead, how to work with a wide variety of people and how to be part of a team.

You Can… Stay in touch with your student about what her group(s) is up to. Is there a program happening this weekend? Has she been working on a particular project? Ask her about it.

Assisting a Professor. Sometimes students have an opportunity to get involved with a research project. If your student decides to do this, he’ll enhance his classroom learning through practical experience.

You Can… Try to understand the research your student is involved in, even if you feel like it’s “over your head.” By explaining things to you in layperson terms, you’re helping him be in a teaching role.

Your student is surrounded by in and out of class learning opportunities. The combination is unbeatable!

Involvement & Academics Go Hand-in-Hand

Research says that students who get involved on campus will likely do better academically, too. In and out of class involvements complement one another!

Voting While Away at College

When it comes to voter registration and absentee voting, each state has unique laws. The Harvard Institute of Politics offers a comprehensive online resource full of all the state-by-state info college students need to vote by absentee ballot when they’re away at school. It’s available at

JMU also has a voting information web site:

Spreading Their Wings

Students need to express their autonomy and spread their wings when they get to school. This doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped needing you – of course not! What it may mean, though, is that your student needs a chance to:

  • Make his own mistakes
  • Decide how to confront challenges
  • Communicate with others when there’s a problem
  • Choose how to spend her time
  • Take responsibility for his actions
  • Struggle a bit
  • Learn from experience

Be there to talk things through when your student needs that and to offer support. The actual “doing,” though, is primarily up to her. This independence is one of the main ways that she will learn, grow and develop into a strong adult.

A Healthy Breakfast

Eating a healthy breakfast is a proven way to refuel your body and start the day right. It can also help teens concentrate more effectively, have better problem-solving skills, be more alert and creative, meet daily nutrient requirements and be more physically active, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Here is what forms the core of a healthy breakfast:

Whole Grains. Include whole-grain rolls, bagels, hot or cold whole-grain cereals, low-fat bran muffins, crackers or melba toast.

Low-fat Protein. Include hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, lean slices of meat and poultry, or fish, such as water-packed tuna or slices of salmon.

Low-fat Dairy. Include skim milk, low-fat yogurt and low-fat cheeses, such as cottage and natural cheeses.

Fruits and Vegetables. Include fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, 100 percent juice beverages without added sugar, or fruit/veggie smoothies.

They suggest choosing one or two options from each category to round out a healthy breakfast. These options are available in campus dining halls – students can get creative with what they mix and match to create good, healthy breakfasts.


Preparing for Family/Parent Weekend

It will soon be time to visit campus for this annual ritual. To make it a calm, positive occasion, here are a few questions to consider and act on ahead of time:

  • Where to Sleep? Book a place to sleep, if you’re planning to stay overnight. Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds typically book up quickly.
  • What to Do? Look through the campus listing of all there is to do that weekend. You may need to make reservations for certain things.
  • What Does He/She Want to Do? Check with your student to see what he’d like to do during your visit. He may have certain things he’d like to show you and people he’d like you to meet.
  • How to Compromise? Express the types of things you hope to do when on campus, too, so that everyone has some input into how things will go.
  • Who Will Come? Determine if siblings and other relatives will be joining you.
  • Where and When to Eat? Make meal reservations in town – it’s a busy weekend! See if your student has a favorite joint she’d like to show you or if there’s a restaurant that she’s been itching to try.
  • What to Bring? Ask your student if he’d like you to bring anything he needs to school and/or take anything back – that’ll help you plan your vehicle space.

We look forward to having you on campus with us!