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As you know, people can differ in their approaches to communication and disclosure. Some students are a wealth of information, happy to share their feelings and the comings and goings of their days. Others are more hesitant and may require additional probing to gain insight into how they are doing. “How was your day?” may result in a ten-minute accounting of the day’s activities, or it may elicit a conversation-stopping “fine.” 

Open-ended questions tent to lend themselves better to lengthier conversations, and with that in mind, the questions on this Conversation Calendar may be appropriate to ask at various times through the coming year. The answers to these questions will help you gauge how your student is doing and whether they might benefit from campus resources. 

First-Year Student Conversation Calendar

August-September

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Homesickness 

  • Adjustment to new living situation 

  • Navigating an unfamiliar campus 

  • Assuming responsibility for day-to-day actions 

  • Forming new relationships 

  • Adapting to a more challenging academic environment 

  • Time management issues and other academic issues 

  • Balancing academic and social obligations 

 How can you help? 

Communication between families and students is especially important at this time of year. Provide reassurance, but resist the temptation to step in and fix your student’s problems. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

 “What is it like living in the residence hall?” 

Roommate frustrations are common. Look for clues that your student is getting to know residence hall neighbors. Encourage them to get to know their Resident Advisor and utilize them as a go-to reference. 

If your new student is living off campus, make sure they are spending time on campus between classes and forming connections with other students, faculty, and staff. It is important that they feel part of the UK community even if they aren’t living on campus. 

 “What is the social scene like?” 

While you want to hear that your student is making friends, you will also want to make sure your student is not neglecting their academic responsibilities while pursuing an active social life. Look for clues that your student is making good decisions regarding alcohol (abstinence or low-risk drinking) and other drugs. 

 “Do you like your class schedule?” 

 Many students will alter their schedule during the add/drop period. Academic advisors are knowledgeable resources throughout the year, so encourage your student to stay in touch with them.  

 “What are your professors’ names?” 

If your student can’t answer this question, it may signal lack of academic engagement, including frequently skipping classes. 

 “Would you like us to come for Family Weekend?” 

The answer is likely to be a resounding “yes,” but it never hurts to ask. 

 “How has college differed from high school so far?” 

  • Students manage their own time, including getting up in the morning, going to class, and going to bed at a “reasonable hour” at night. 

  • Students must balance their own responsibilities and set their own priorities. The challenge often comes in balancing academic responsibilities and an active social life full of extracurricular commitments. 

  • Students often have time during the day in between classes. Fewer hours per week are spent in class, but more out-of-class work is expected. 

  • Significant out-of-class study time is needed to do well in college. Student should treat college as a full-time job and devote at least 40 hours a week to classes and studying. 

  • Students are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be directly addressed in class. Class lectures proceed from the assumption that students have mastered assigned material. 

  • Assistance is available, but students are often expected to initiate requests for help. 

  • Professors expect students to read, save, and consult the course syllabus and assume everyone is aware of class expectations and assignments. 

  • Professors may not formally take roll and expect students to take responsibility for their own attendance. Despite this lack of structure, it is crucial that students go to class. 

  • Subject mastery is often seen as the ability to apply what students have learned to new situations and to solve new kinds of problems. Information synthesis and application is essential. 

  • When it comes to grades, results count. Though effort is important in regard to a professor’s willingness to help students achieve good results, it will not substitute for results in the grading process. 

October

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Academic stress as midterm approaches 

  • Reluctance to visit instructors or advisors 

  • Time management issues 

  • Balancing academic and social obligations 

  • Social stress with new friends or uncertainty caused by not finding a core group of friends  

How can you help? 

Continue to encourage use of academic resources, especially if midterm exams did not go as well as your student would have liked. Remind your student to meet with their academic advisor prior to spring registration, which begins at the end of the month. Suggest that your student seek out a student club or organization to become involved with. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“Where are your favorite places to eat around campus? Is your meal plan working for you?” 

Make sure your student is getting out and exploring campus and Lexington. If your student needs to change a meal plan or add Flex Dollars, they can do so on the UK Dining website

“What do you and your friends do for fun?” 

You’re looking for signs of growing friendships as well as signs that your student is making responsible choices. 

“Have you visited your professors during office hours?” 

Too few students take advantage of this time to get to know professors and seek assistance if needed. 

“How much time do you spend studying each week?” 

Significantly more study time is needed in college than high school. Encourage your student to treat their schoolwork like a full-time job – at least 40 hours a week.  “How have you learned to balance your many responsibilities?” 

This is an ongoing struggle for many college students, so you may hear some frustration. The key is that an attempt at achieving balance is being made. Remind your student about integrated success coaching, a free, no-stress way to learn the skills and resources to be successful in college and beyond. 

“Have you made plans for your spring semester schedule yet?” 

Students should have some ideas in place before meeting with advisors; myUK GPS has some useful course planning features that your student can use in preparation for their advising meeting. 

“Where do you want to live next fall?” 

Students need to thoughtfully consider the advantages and disadvantages of living on campus versus living off campus. The University of Kentucky strongly recommends that all first and second-year students live on campus. Our Lexington community tells us that the best tenants for rental are those who have lived on campus at least their first two years. UK Housing has several options for upper-level and graduate students, including University Flats

November

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Procrastination, difficulty with assigned work, or perceived lack of ability 

  • Deadlines for major class projects or papers 

  • Pre-finals stress as preparation begins for exams 

  • Financial worries as funds from summer work and families begin running low 

  • Colds or other health issues 

  • Academic pressures, which can cause tension with roommates 

How can you help 

Remind your student to make wellness a priority by eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“What campus activities are you participating in?” 

 If your student hasn’t connected to any campus organizations, suggest contacting the Office of Student Organizations and Activities or visiting getinvolved.uky.edu

“How do you feel you have changed since starting college?” 

 Self-reflection throughout the first year of college is important as students further define their goals and values. 

“What are your favorite stress-relieving activities?” 

Wellness is important, especially during stressful times of year. Again, look for clues about responsible choices with alcohol and other drugs. WellKentucky.org is a handy website that connects students to a number of university resources that support all aspects of wellness. 

“What does a typical day look like for you?” 

Hopefully your student is continuing to strive for balance between academics and a social life. 

December

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Difficulty balancing extracurricular activities and class assignments 

  • Stress of final exams 

  • Anxiety about returning home 

  • Financial strain due to holiday gifts and travel costs 

  • Roommate tensions 

  • Questioning their choice of academic major 

How can you help? 

Encourage your student to participate in stress-reducing activities, such as the annual Finals Crunch Brunch. Send a final exams care package. Express your expectations for the winter break prior to your student’s return home. Include them in plans for holiday events and activities. If your student seems anxious, depressed, or hopeless, recommend that they speak with someone at the Counseling Center or Student Behavioral Health Clinic. Make sure your student is not turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or to celebrate the end of the semester. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“Do you feel prepared for finals?” 

If the answer is no, there is still time to seek help during professors’ office hours or from The Study’s peer tutors. 

“How much sleep are you getting?” 

An adequate amount of sleep is especially important before and during final exams.

"What steps can you take now to solidify your major or career choice?" 

Encourage use of the many resources within the Stuckert Career Center, including setting up a meeting with a major exploratory associate and/or career advisor. Students should activate their Handshake account (if they have not already) to access these and other career resources. 

“What will you do differently during the spring semester based on your experience this fall?” 

Encourage your student to reflect on the successes and challenges of the first semester and create a plan of action for the spring. A success coach can assist with that process if your student struggles to come up with and follow through on a plan on their own.  

“What are your plans for winter break?” 

Returning home after a semester of independence can be a time of transition for both student and family. Communicate expectations well in advance. 

January

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Disappointment with fall semester grades 

  • Unwanted weight gain 

  • Difficulty fitting in, especially for new students starting in the spring semester 

  • Considering options for living arrangements for the next school year 

How you can help? 

January’s success may be influenced by how well the winter break went for your student. Encourage them to take a renewed look at new classes and classmates as opportunities for new connections and improved academic performance. Encourage involvement in campus activities and use of academic resources. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“How is your relationship with your roommate?” 

Hopefully all is well, but if problems exist that cannot be worked out, encourage your student to speak with residence hall staff. 

“What are your goals for the semester?” 

Goals may include making good grades, seeking involvement opportunities, or selecting a major. 

“What academic resources have you used since coming to UK?” 

Students should be encouraged to go to office hours and use The Study, Writing Center, and available tutoring resources. Often students don’t seek help until problems have already developed. These resources are most helpful if used early in the semester. 

February

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Relationship issues 

  • Issues selecting an academic major 

  • Thinking about what they would like to do during breaks 

How can you help? 

Remind your student to visit professors during office hours and meet with advisors prior to registration for the fall semester. Begin to discuss Spring Break and summer plans with your student. Encourage your student to pursue the many student leadership opportunities available in February. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“What are your plans for Spring Break?” 

Make sure your student’s plans are well thought out and in line with your family’s expectations. 

“What campus activities are you participating in?” 

If your student was hesitant to commit to campus activities in the fall, now is the perfect time to seek out involvement opportunities by logging in to BBNvolved, UK’s online platform where students connect to campus organizations, programs, departments, and events. Encourage your student to attend campus events to get a sense of the activities available to them.  

“Are there any faculty and staff members who you have gotten to know well?” 

Relationships with faculty and staff are important in a student’s overall satisfaction with college. Your student may need a good letter of recommendation from a professor or advisor at some point in the future. 

March

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Focus on Spring Break and warmer weather 

  • Difficult decisions about behaviors in which they may not normally engage 

  • Sickness 

  • Anxiety about midterms 

  • Housing and roommate selection for the fall 

How can you help? 

Communicate or reiterate your values and expectations regarding alcohol and drug use. Remind your student to balance social and academic commitments. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“What are your plans for the summer?” 

Options might include summer classes, internships, job shadowing, or paid employment

“What fall semester classes do you plan to take?” 

It is time to meet with advisors and register for fall semester classes; myUK GPS has some useful course planning features that your student can use in preparation for their advising meeting.

April

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Stress and fatigue due to academic and social obligations 

  • Academic issues due to procrastination 

How can you help? 

Encourage the use of academic resources and wellness resources, such as the Johnson Student Recreation Center, as final exams approach. Offer words of support and send a care package. Here are some ideas for questions that may help to start the conversation. 

“Are you ready for final exams?” 

Motivation typically suffers a little after Spring Break, but it is important to stay focused on a positive end to the semester. 

“How do you think living at home this summer will be different than last summer?” 

As it was in December, returning home is a transition for both student and family. 

“Who have your closest friends been this year?” 

Just as it was in high school, it is important to know who your student’s friends are and seek opportunities to get to know them. 

“How have your relationships with high school friends changed?” 

The summer will bring opportunities to reconnect with old friends while maintaining relationships with new college friends. 

“Based on the past year, what will you do differently in the fall?” 

It is never too early to set goals for the fall. 

“Do you know how proud we are of you?” 

Everyone likes to be reminded that their loved ones support them no matter what. 

May-July

Your first-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Transition of returning home 

  • Attending summer classes 

  • Working a new job 

  • Reconnecting with old friends 

  • Conflict over independence and family responsibilities 

  • Anxiety over challenges of sophomore year 

How you can help? 

Talk to your student about your summer expectations. Acknowledge the possible differences in your lifestyles if you have lived apart for the past year. Encourage your student to reflect on the past school year and its successes and challenges. Discuss how initial academic interests and career plans have been affected by the first year of college. This can be an occasion for increased motivation towards original goals or an opportunity to explore alternative plans. Help identify problem areas such as time management and encourage your student to use campus resources. Discuss academic strategies and priorities for the fall semester. 

Challenges in the sophomore year are similar as students continue to form new relationships and work toward a specific major or career path. New concerns may include a new living situation, new extracurricular activities, and new classes. Continued themes include balancing academic and social responsibilities, making responsible decisions with alcohol, and managing stress and other wellness issues. Encourage use career counseling services, especially if your student is unsure about a major or career path. About all, celebrate your student’s successes and anticipate great things in the years to come at UK! 

Second-Year Student Conversation Calendar

August

 What can your student do to have a successful year? 

  • Get involved and take on leadership roles.  First-year students may have spent time trying out a lot of different organizations and activities. Sophomore year is a good time to make a deeper commitment. Run for an office in a student organization. Attend most of an organization’s activities. Help plan those activities. Get to know the other people in the organization. Look into organizations that match major/career goals

  • Touch base with the Counseling Center and the Career Center. Both can help students make decisions about majors and careers, and they also provide a number of other workshops. The Counseling Center provides programs on test anxiety, relaxation, and stress management, as well as individual and group therapy. Therapy can help students develop more self-confidence and stronger interpersonal skills. The Career Center can also help with career exploration and planning for the future, as well as helping students develop skills in interviewing, creating resumes, and writing cover letters. 

  • Find out about other campus resources. 

  • Make a plan for this year, next year, and the year after that. Consider educational options such as Education Abroad or National Student Exchange. Speak with an advisor about class schedules and other educational opportunities. Seek out a faculty mentor. Work in a lab on campus or seek out research opportunities with faculty. 

  • Start thinking about co-ops, internships, shadowing experiences and other activities that are good for the resume but can also further solidify thinking about career directions. It may be helpful, too, for those considering professional or graduate school to begin looking at application processes, timelines, requirements, and suggested preparations for entrance exams. Sophomore year may seem early but knowing what to expect can help avoid surprises later in the junior or senior year as well as increase motivation for academic performance while there is still time to make a difference. 

  • Meet with an integrated success coach. Meeting with a coach can give your student the confidence to begin preparing for the next steps, whether it is managing time, studying for midterm exams, recovering academically, getting involved on campus, or prepping for graduate entrance exams such as the GRE or MCAT.  

Adapted from “Help Your Student Avoid a Sophomore Slump” by Dr. Tina Bryant, Dr. Jamie Hopkins, and Dr. Felito Aldarondo, psychologists at the UK Counseling Center 

How can you help? 

“Do you like your class schedule?” 

Many students will alter their schedule during the add/drop period. Some off-campus students will find themselves a little less motivated to get out of bed for class if they know a long walk, bus ride, or hunt for parking is ahead of them. Make sure they are attending class regularly, no matter what they say their professors’ attendance policies are. 

“What are your professors’ names?” 

If you student can’t answer this question, it may signal lack of academic engagement, including frequently skipping classes. 

“How has sophomore year differed from freshman year so far?” 

College sophomores can be like middle children in families: not the youngest kids who require so much attention and nurturing (and are really cute, to boot!) and not the oldest children who are constantly moving into new territory (and get to be the first to do everything). For this reason, sophomores may feel lost in the shuffle. 

“Would you like us to come for Family Weekend?” 

The answer is likely to be a resounding “yes,” but it never hurts to ask. 

September

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Decreased excitement about college because it is less new. This year may feel more routine, which can be a let-down from the something-new-every-day aspect of their first year. 
  • More awareness of what they don’t like about college. As they get to know campus and the initial excitement wears off, sophomores may be more tuned in to things they don’t like. 
  • Increased responsibility and expectations from professors and college staff members. During the first year, many staff and faculty are understanding of the difficulty adjusting to college. By their second year, students are expected to be fully adjusted and knowledgeable about how things work on campus and there may be fewer events and services targeted at helping them navigate those adjustments. 
  • Harder classes. Sophomores will typically be moving past basic introductory classes into more challenging ones. They may also be feeling pressure to choose a major if they haven’t already. And if they will applying to competitive majors, sophomores can feel a lot of pressure to keep their grades high. On the other hand, some sophomores may feel that they don’t have to try as hard as they did their first year or that grades won’t matter until they are juniors or seniors. If students are contemplating graduate school, they may think the first two years of grades are not as important as those in their core or major classes. 
  • Social life changes. This could include increased focus on hanging out with friends or leaving less time for academics. It may also include difficulty seeing friends who have moved off campus or difficulty staying connected to campus if your student has moved out of the residence halls. And students who didn’t make many friends last year may find it more difficult to make friends this year now that it seems most people have formed their social groups. 

How can you help? 

“What is it like living in your apartment/house/residence hall?” 

Sophomores may be experiencing their first time living off campus. While roommate frustrations are common no matter what the living situation, students in apartment or houses with multiple roommates often find themselves squabbling over noise levels, dirty dishes, and more. Look for clues that your student is settling in and staying connected to campus by attending classes, participating in student organizations, and going to events. 

“What is the social scene like?” 

While you want to hear that your student is making new friends and maintaining existing relationships, you will also want to make sure your students is not neglecting their academic responsibilities while pursuing an active social life. Look for clues that your student is making good decisions regarding alcohol (abstinence or low-risk drinking)

October

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Academic stress as midterm approaches 

  • Reluctance to visit instructors or advisors 

How can you help? 

“Have you visited your professors during office hours?” 

Too few students take advantage of this time to get to know professors and seek assistance if needed. As your student gets into major-specific classes, forming relationships with professors is so important. Professors can connect students with special academic opportunities like undergraduate research, can serve as references, and can offer guidance on future employment and/or graduate school.

“Are you ready for midterm exams?” 

This is an important time for students to get feedback on their academic performance. Students with strong midterm grades will know they need to keep doing what they have been doing; students who are struggling need to come up with a plan to improve their situation. If improvement does not seem possible, they may need to consider dropping a class prior to  the final deadline of the semester. Encourage them to speak to an advisor before doing so. 

“Have you made plans for your spring semester schedule yet?” 

Students should have some ideas in place before meeting with advisors; myUK GPS has some useful course planning features that your student can use in preparation for their advising meeting. 

“Where do you want to live next fall?” 

The University of Kentucky strongly recommends that all first and second-year students live on campus. Our Lexington community tells us that the best tenants for rental are those who have lived on campus at least their first two years. UK Housing has several options for upper-level and graduate students, including University Flats

November

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Attempts to balance academic and social obligations 

  • Academic and social stress 

  • Time management issues 

How can you help? 

“What campus activities are you participating in?” 

If your student hasn’t connected to any campus organizations or is looking for new opportunities, suggest contacting the Office of Student Activities and Organizations or visiting BBNvolved. If your student has already declared a major, encourage them to look for major-specific organizations. 

“What are your favorite stress-relieving activities?” 

Wellness is important, especially during stressful times of the year. Again, look for clues about responsible choices with alcohol and drugs. 

“What does a typical day look like for you?” 

Hopefully your student is continuing to strive for balance between academics and a social life. 

December

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Stress of final exams 

  • Anxiety about returning home 

  • Planning for spring semester 

How can you help? 

“Do you feel prepared for finals?” 

If the answer is no, there is still time to seek help during professors’ office hours or from The Study’s peer tutors. 

“How much sleep are you getting?” 

An adequate amount of sleep is especially important before and during final exams.

“What will you do differently during the spring semester based on your experience this fall?” 

Encourage your student to reflect on the success and challenges of the first semester and create a plan of action for the spring. A success coach can assist with that process if your student struggles to come up with and follow through on a plan on their own. 

“What are your plans for winter break?” 

Returning home can be a time of transition for both student and family. Communicate expectations well in advance. 

January

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Anxiety about future living arrangements 

  • Uncertainty in their major 

How can you help? 

“How is your relationship with your roommate(s)?” 

Hopefully all is well, but if problems exist, coach your student through possible solutions. Off-Campus Student Services has a number of resources to help if your student is living off campus, and Residence Life is a support system for our on-campus residents. 

“Tell me about the classes you are taking in your major. OR Do you feel ready to declare a major this semester?” 

It is not uncommon for students to change majors or doubt if they have chosen the right path. If this is the case, encourage your student to reach out to professors and advisors for assistance. UK’s Counseling Center and Career Center can also help students who are uncertain if they are in the right major and those who have no ideas what they want to major in. 

UK’s online Academic Exploration Tool allows students to search and explore the many majors offered here. Students must declare a major by the time they have accumulated 60 earned credit hours. 

“What academic resources have you used since coming to UK?” 

Students should be encouraged to go to office hours and use The Study, Writing Center, and available tutoring resources. Often students don’t seek help until problems have already developed. These resources are most helpful if used early in the semester. 

February

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Thinking about what they would like to do during breaks 

  • Asking for recommendations for summer jobs or internships 

How can you help? 

“What are your plans for Spring Break?” 

Make sure your student’s plans are well thought out and in line with your family’s expectations. 

“Are there any faculty and staff members who you have gotten to know well?” 

Relationships with faculty and staff are important in a student’s overall satisfaction with college. Your student may need a good letter of recommendation from a professor or advisor at some point in the future. 

March

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Focus on Spring Break and warmer weather 

  • Registering for classes 

How can you help? 

“What are your plans for this summer?” 

Options might include summer classes, internships, job shadowing, or paid employment

“What fall semester classes do you plan to take?” 

It is time to meet with advisors and register for fall semester classes; myUK GPS has some useful course planning features that your student can use in preparation for their advising meeting. 

April-July

Your second-year student may be experiencing: 

  • Stress and fatigue due to academic and social obligations 

  • Academic issues due to procrastination 

How can you help? 

“Are you ready for final exams?” 

Motivation typically suffers a little after Spring Break, but it is important to stay focused on a positive end to the semester. 

“Based on the past year, what will you do differently in the fall?” 

It is never too early to set goals for the fall. 

“Do you know how proud we are of you?” 

Everyone likes to be removed that their loved ones support them no matter what.