Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

What First Year Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

Many first year students are trying to decide on a college major.  They might also be wrestling with their summer plans.  As your student goes through this process of making these important academic and life decisions, your primary role will be to listen, motivate and encourage.

Major Choice

Many students are inclined toward the majors they believe will create the greatest volume of job opportunities when, in fact, Wake Forest has a national reputation as a liberal arts college and the majority of our recruiters are looking to hire our students with any major.  So when your student elects to major in English over Education, Economics over Business, or Theatre over Biology, you might respond by simply listening and posing a few open-ended questions.

  • “I don’t know a lot about that major, tell me about it.”
  • “What do you think you will like/dislike about it?”
  • “How can you gather more information about this major?”
  • “How might you gather more information about the types of jobs and careers that result from pursuing this major?”
  • “I heard that the career office has an online self-assessment, Focus 2, that can help you confirm majors that fit you best given your interests, values, skills and personality.  You might like to check it out.”

Summer Internship Search

What about summer plans?  College begins that time when your student should start to connect with the working world.  The summer is the optimal time to experiment with different job functions and skills and experience each function firsthand.  Support your student as they try something new.  If they must return to their old high school job, encourage them additionally to volunteer, do short-term projects or job shadow in another field.

Plant the seed for a thought toward the future.  The earlier your student begins to stretch beyond their comfort zone, the stronger their foundation of knowledge will be – about themselves and about the working world.  As they discover their interests and passions and how those interests and passions fit into the world of work they may open doors to new opportunities they never dreamed possible.  People learn best through experience, so encourage and facilitate new and varying experiences to enable your student to grow and learn.

Connect with Adult Friends

Over the winter break introduce your student to some friends and family members who will share information about different types of organizations, careers and jobs.  Coach your student on how to conduct an informational interview and allow them to begin to develop their personal information gathering style with familiar and friendly adults.

Use the Career Office

Upon returning to campus, your student will benefit from a one-on-one appointment with a Career Counselor where ideas and plans can be shared, evaluated and developed.  Our counselors have access to many tools, such as the Focus2 assessment, which students can take online in brief 15 minute modules to identify career options that align with their interests, values, skills and personality.  Reassure your student that he or she does not need to “have it all figured out.”  Most students do not.  Our counselors have advised and assisted thousands of Wake Forest students with all different majors, backgrounds, interests and plans and they look forward to working with your student, too.

If they haven’t already done so, students should attend a DeaconSource Registration meeting to activate their DeaconSource account.  DeaconSource is the only Wake Forest-specific internship and job posting site and keeps students informed about internship and job opportunities and educational events.  Over 37% of all first year students are already registered.

All of these interactions will enable your student to begin developing a confident selection of first, a summer work experience, and second, a college major.

Category: Tips for Parents

5 Responses to What First Year Parents Need to Know at Winter Break

  1. Andy Chan says:

    HI Betsy,
    Thanks for the note. To motivate your first year student to start thinking strategically about the ‘college-to-career process’, I recommend that you ask her to listen to my blog post on 10/7/2010, College: Olympic Marathon Training Camp. Please let me know how that works.
    All the best,

  2. Cindy Watson says:

    Our Freshman daughter, Kelly, is already discussing summer plans and possible majors. Thank you for the information about the “strategies” for each major. We can isolate which summer opportunities will be most productive by listing how many strategies each opportunity will accomplish. We are both educators and appreciate the time Wake Forest applies to informing parents. Merry Christmas!!!

  3. valerie robert says:

    This is really excellent reading and fully aligned with the discussions we are having with Quentin. Thanks so much for your partnering with us and helping Quentin make the most of his Wake years.

  4. Betsy James says:

    My husband and I look forward to these informational emails. I continue to encourage my daughter to take advantage of these wonderful resources. Unfortunately, I do not think she is. I think she is like many first year students who think it is so far away, when, in fact, we know how quickly four years can pass. Do you have any suggestions on how I might get her more active in this process without sounding like a “nagging” parent. Thank you. Your presentation was our favorite at the orientation!

  5. Mitzi Royster says:

    This is very helpful information. Thank you and Merry Christmas!