We asked one of UVM students' favorite professors, Ilyse R. Morgenstein Fuerst, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Religion & Director of Middle East Studies Program to share some advice for new families.

While there are lots of blogs, columns, articles, and books geared toward helping parents help their children transition from high school to college she offers some simple advice as a professor in the religion department and an advisor to many first year students.

So, here are two things you can do—and one thing you should avoid—during your kid’s first year at UVM:

1. Do encourage them to visit their professor’s office hours.  Everyone gives this advice because it is, quite honestly, the best academic advice to give.

Faculty often have regular office hours that are drop-in, first-come-first served style, but I’d recommend making an appointment.

This accomplishes a few things: (a) your student gets practice at sending professional emails to set up an appointment, (b) they have to locate a new building on campus, and most importantly, (c) they get one-on-one time to ask a question, introduce themselves more intimately, and start what should become a semester-long conversation.

The students that come early in the semester to chat usually feel comfortable when the work picks up and the assignments get harder. And the better I know a student personally, the more I can do for them throughout their college career.

2. Do encourage them to fail. This may sound oxymoronic, but I wish more of my students felt entitled to try—and thus, entitled to stumble and even fail—in college.

Sticking to subjects they were good at in high school infinitely limits their possibilities! UVM offers so many majors, minors, and concentrations in areas of expertise well beyond what even the best high schools offer.

Let them try, ask them how they’re being challenged daily, and reinforce the message that the best learning usually happens when students are challenged.

In my experience, students—and first years in particular—rise to the high bars we set, even if they stumble along the way.

3. Do not be tempted to direct your child’s academic career from afar. This includes contact your child’s professors or advisors directly, planning their schedule of classes, keeping tabs on assignments and deadlines, and so forth.

I assume my students can make (and keep) appointments, turn in assignments, manage their syllabus, seek help, ask about grades, and set next semester’s schedule with their advisor.

I also assume that this is a learning process, assisted by faculty, program coordinators, and advisors of various stripes. I treat my students like the (young) adults they are and they are often undermined if parents try to manage their affairs from afar.

Let your student be the adult that we faculty expect them to be. Trust me, we want to see them succeed and thrive, in and out of our classrooms!

Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst, Ph.D - Faculty Feature

Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst Faculty Feature Video

What makes our faculty members tick? In this video series, get up close and personal with our professors. Hear them talk about their passions, their paths to UVM and why they love what they study, from the mysteries of Lake Champlain's sculpin to the stories of homeless children in Pakistan.

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