Dean of Student Affairs

Parent Orientation Questions from the Dean of Student AffairsMoving in


 Answers:

The biggest challenge college students have is accepting responsibility for their academic program, living arrangements, social life, and free time. College classrooms, laboratories, and studios require initiative and independence, sophisticated critical thinking and writing skills, and independent research. Life in the residence halls is similarly challenging as students with a diverse range of prior experiences and values work together to develop rhythms for studying and living together. All of these freedoms and responsibilities are intertwined with students' explorations of old and new identities.
During orientation students receive course schedules, complete placement testing in foreign languages and quantitative reasoning, and meet their faculty advisor. They attend informational sessions regarding the Skidmore Honor Code and related issues of community values and learn about life in the college residence halls. They are introduced to Scribner Seminars: The Human Experience and begin discussing their summer reading. Students meet returning students and learn about clubs, organizations and leadership opportunities at Skidmore.
First year students face numerous challenges and some struggle a lot at first. We advise them to give it a little time, get engaged with their academic work, eat the right foods, engage in regular exercise, get enough sleep, get into their academic work, invest in their relationship with their roommate, join a co-curricular group, and establish a good working relationship with their advisor or another faculty or staff member.
Our educational and student-development philosophy, as well as the professional confidentiality codes observed by medical and counseling professionals, and Federal laws require us to honor a confidential relationship with students in nearly all matters affecting their lives at Skidmore. Consequently, we do not routinely report students' occasional or ongoing academic, social, medical, or personal problems to their parents. We contact families only when, in our best judgment, the students' well being demands a family consultation. In such cases, we usually ask the student to make the first contact with his or her parents.
In the case of academic problems, the student should work closely with his or her professors and faculty advisor, make use of the academic support services at Skidmore—and seek further advice from the Dean of Studies Office if necessary.

First year students are often reluctant to acknowledge their difficulties. Please encourage them to bring their academic concerns to their faculty advisors. We will help them assess their difficulties and develop a plan of action.
For social problems, the student might work with the student residence-hall staff and with the many administrative offices concerned with students' aspirations and problems. This includes the Counseling Center and the College Chaplains as well as the Campus Life offices.
We understand it is not easy for parents to cope with their daughter or son having academic or social problems far from home. However, please be assured we are available to help and in our experience the very large majority of students manage to work through and grow from the challenges they encounter. If your son or daughter is struggling, encourage them to ask for help. If you are uncertain about who your son or daughter might call about a particular problem, Beau Breslin, Director, First-Year Experience, can counsel the student directly or make a referral.
The Skidmore campus and Saratoga Springs community are exceptionally safe. However, students cannot take their safety for granted. Personal safety is the product of good judgment and sensible precautions. Campus Safety officers provide educational programs in the residence halls and they are available twenty-four hours a day.
The abuse of alcohol and other drugs among college students is a serious concern on campuses across the country. Skidmore actively limits the availability of alcohol on campus, educates students about the risks inherent in alcohol and other drug use, and provides resources to students concerned about their own or others' use of alcohol or other drugs.

While our efforts are educational whenever possible, we also respond forcefully to students who violate Skidmore or New York State regulations regarding drugs and alcohol.
Students should expect to face significantly more sophisticated expectations in the college classroom, and require work hours twice or three times greater than in high school. College students are also expected to manage their own time effectively, do more reading, questioning, thinking, and writing on their own, and keep track of their academic progress in each class and as they complete degree requirements. That being said, Skidmore faculty want students to do their best and are eager to help students work through intellectual challenges and to improve their academic skills. The College also offers a number of academic support services and has professional staff advisors available in, especially, the Dean of Studies Office and the Office of the Registrar.
Skidmore is blessed with so many talented faculty and intriguing courses, and with intellectually engaged students, that it would be impossible to list the myriad opportunities for an exciting academic life. The excitement and intellectual growth depend heavily, moreover, on the commitment of time and interest the student brings to each activity of the classroom, studio, and laboratory. Among the many attractions one might cite for the first-year student are the interdisciplinary challenges of Scribner Seminars, the depth of study demanded even in introductions to the various disciplines, and the independence of thought and judgment required as students become copartners in a process of discovery. The diverse academic program is also enhanced by the hundreds of guest lectures, films, performances, exhibits, and debates sponsored each year at Skidmore, thus exercising the life of the mind beyond the classroom.
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