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We’re wired to make friends, and the college years can be the time to sow seeds of friendship that continue to flower through the decades after graduation. Masks and physical distancing pose new challenges. But they’re challenges held in common – and, hey, we get to take our masks off to eat!

Despite This Unusual Year, Your Student Still Can Make Connections

New opportunities, new interests, connections, new friendships – they are all key parts of the college experience. So we share your concerns if you’ve been hearing from your student that it’s harder to jump into the swim in this time of masks, physical distancing and smaller in-person groups.

But the good news is that your student still can forge valuable connections, even if this is their first year on campus. We have some encouragement to offer and a few practical tips, too, from parents like you, as you cheer your student on during their first weeks.

“Your student should plan to attend next week’s virtual Involvement Fair with their FYE (First-Year Experience) group. (Encourage your student to continue participating in their FYE group, too. These small weekly groups are held in person and are a great way to connect with other students navigating the same experiences.) And, even before they go to the Involvement Fair, they should check out our list of student orgs – there were more than 100 at last count. Students should also check out our new physically distanced intramural sports: We’re offering cornhole, badminton (singles), ping-pong (singles) and N.O.R.B.E.R.T. (otherwise known as H.O.R.S.E.).” – Shelly Mumma (Leadership, Student Engagement and First-Year Experience)

“We know the importance of family mealtime! So we’re encouraging students to use our in-person dining spaces more to help them meet people and build relationships. If your student can stay engaged on campus, their education will be richer, their connections to faculty will be more meaningful, and they will do better in the short and the long run. I always encourage parents to make sure that their son or daughter stays on campus for the first six to eight weeks, to the extent that it’s possible.” – President Brian Bruess ’90

“Students can still participate in service opportunities through our awesome Sturzl Center.” – Cabrini Jablon ’97 (Admissions)

“Students should read SNC News, the campus internal newsletter sent to them via email every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There’s always something new to do advertised there, in person and virtual, and they can check the list of upcoming events. They should go – or “go,” if virtual – to everything until they find what particularly interests them.” – Leah Zimmer ’22, student editor in the office of communications

“Students could join their hall's community council by contacting their area coordinator, and they should get to know their RA or ALIVE team ministers. And check out the LSE Emerging Leaders program, too.” – Joe Totman (Residential Housing & Education)

“A campus job is a great way to meet people, as well as a new way to understand the workings of the college, a way to learn skills and build a résumé, and a help toward paying for college.” – Erika Ditzman ’21, publications student associate in the office of communications and editor of the student newspaper

“We absolutely encourage you to visit your student(s). Students appreciate seeing their family, and now is a time of great fall weather that’s perfect for a picnic outdoors. Please mask on campus, indoors and out!” – Julie Massey (Student Affairs)

Remember that it’s normal to experience homesickness and loneliness as students transition to college life. After all, they’ve left behind four years of friendships in a high school where, by the time they’re seniors, they’ve learned all the ropes. In fact, homesickness was the topic of When Students First Leave Home, It Can Affect Everyone, an article we ran in our August 2019 issue. Every student suffers from it to some extent – and every student thinks they’re the only one.” Melanie Radzicki McManus ’83, editor, Parents of St. Norbert College

Here are a few additional ideas we love that were shared by awesome SNC parents like yourself on the St. Norbert College Parents’ Facebook group.

  • Put up a “Let’s eat dinner together” board in the hallway, where freshmen can add their name and join others looking for a buddy to go to dinner with.
  • My daughter and her roommate went around to every room in their dorm with an open door and introduced themselves. With masks!
  • While it’s nice, encourage them to go outside. Have a dance off. Play frisbee golf. Explore the campus.
  • Just have them keep talking to people, and when they have info about clubs and such, have them look into those things as well. First semester of college is always hard, and I know COVID isn’t helping.
  • Encouraging mine to get those camp chairs they were asked to bring and sit outside and meet people.
  • Have them try to introduce themselves to one new person every day.
  • We sent my daughter the game Cards Against Humanity. It turned out to be a great icebreaker and she met a lot of fun people this weekend.
  • [Remind them] that many kids are feeling the same and things will get better.
Lastly, make sure you’re staying connected yourself. Parents can keep an eye out for emails from St. Norbert, follow the college and/or join in the conversation on social media, attend virtual events, visit their students, check snc.edu and snc.edu/covid19 regularly, and make a particular point of looking into our parent involvement opportunities.

We here at Parents of St. Norbert are all rooting for your students, and particularly for the first-years, the newest members of our community. All best wishes for a great semester!

Susan Allen, director of pubications, and the whole parent newsletter team

Sept. 10, 2020