The College Transition
The transition to college involves change and new experiences for students as well as parents and families. Cal Poly offers many programs and services to assist students in making a successful transition to college and to help them feel supported during their first-year experience. We offer resources and support for parents also, as you manage your changing relationship with your “adult” son or daughter.
Read The Parent and Supporters’ Handbook
The Transition section describes what you can expect when you son or daughter begins college. It lists the differences between high school and university life and provides simple, practical ways you can lend support as your student settles into their new environment. It also addresses typical first-year experiences and provides examples of responses based on “fear” vs. those based on “faith” or trust.
Urge Your Student to Participate in Orientation
University Housing coordinates the Fall Launch housing orientation program for new students immediately following freshman move-in, just before WOW begins. During the school year, University Housing offers enriching residential life and education programs in each of the learning communities developed for the residence halls and Cerro Vista Apartments.
Cal Poly’s Orientation Programs Office coordinates Cal Poly’s nationally recognized Week of Welcome (WOW) program in September. WOW begins after Fall Launch ends the week prior to the start of fall classes. WOW helps new students make a successful academic, social and emotional transition to university life through small group activities that introduce them to new friends, the campus and the community. New students are placed in groups of 15 to 20 with two trained leaders. WOW helps students start adjusting to their new environment before classes begin; provides a number of academic, social and awareness programs; and aids students in forming lasting friendships.
Lend Support As Your Student Settles In
Students are more likely to have a successful transition if they meet people or get involved in activities that anchor them in their new environment. If your student is struggling with the transition, share these suggestions for helping them though their uneasiness:
Get comfortable meeting people. Some students don’t feel comfortable taking that first step to meet other people. If this is the case with your son or daughter, remind him or her that their peers are probably experiencing similar feelings, but are going to be open to meeting new people as much as they are. Everyone has to make that first step. Suggest they ask a neighbor to go to dinner, hike to the Poly P, or venture downtown SLO to have coffee, browse Farmer’s Market or a watch a movie. Encourage them to form study groups with classmates.
Choose from 101 ways to have fun in San Luis Obispo. There are a lot of fun things to do on campus an in the city of San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly’s Peer Health Educators have put together a list of just a few. These educators are a group of emerging student leaders that promote healthy lifestyle choices and believe in making a difference in the lives of their peers.
Get involved in a student club or organization. Involvement in activities beyond the classroom is an essential part of the college experience. Participation in athletics or academic, social, professional and interest-based clubs and service organizations is an integral part of a student’s social and personal development and helps them to meet people outside of their residential and academic circles of friends. Students can learn about club membership by visiting Cal Poly’s Student Organization Directory.
Become a student leader. Student Life and Leadership’s programs provide opportunities for students to develop leadership skills, make decisions, set goals, and experience group dynamics and diversity. Students can participation in Greek Life, the Multi-Cultural Center, Orientation Programs, the Pride Center, Women’s Programs, SAFER, the Community Center and Sports Clubs.
Associated Students Inc. offers opportunities for students to be involved in student self-governance and service to the student body through leadership opportunities. These students are the voice of Cal Poly.
Hang out in the student union. The University Union features two large study lounges, a big-screen TV, a surfboard shaping shop, Mustang Lanes bowling alley and Poly Escapes outdoor adventure rental center. The union also includes a climbing wall and is the center of activity for Student Life and Leadership programs, Associated Students Inc. (ASI) student government and all campus clubs.
Enjoy campus recreation. ASI Recreational Sports offers aquatics, exercise and instructional classes, intramural sports programs and informal recreation. Students are admitted free to the gym with their student ID and pay a nominal fee for some classes and programs.
Cheer on the Cal Poly Mustangs. With 20 intercollegiate sports teams, Cal Poly competes at the Division I level of the NCAA. Students are admitted free to all athletic events with their PolyCard (Cal Poly student ID).
Find a part-time job. Working a part-time job helps students stay busy and productive, allows them to meet new people and puts a little spending money in their pockets. If they can balance work with school—8-12 hours is usually good to start, a job is a great way to help students transition. Some students do better in school when they are working because they learn to prioritize their responsibilities and organize their time. Students can locate part-time employment on or off campus through “Mustang Jobs,” Career Services’ online job search tool. Mustang Jobs can be accessed through the Cal Poly portal or on the Career Services website.
Talk with someone who understands. There are many people –staff, faculty and peers—who students can turn to when they are struggling with the transition or other personal matters that are affecting their transition to college.
University Housing staff—the Resident Advisors (RAs) and the Coordinators of Student Development (CSDs)—are available to talk to and mentor students in the residence halls or Cerro Vista Apartments. RAs are student leaders. CSDs are full-time professionals with Master's Degrees skilled in leadership, program development, advising, and resource referral.
Counseling Services staff provides psychological counseling to students struggling with the transition or other personal matters.
Students can also confide in their academic advisors, or any member of the Cal Poly staff or faculty with whom they feel comfortable, about uneasiness, homesickness or other feelings that occur during the transition.
What To Do When The Uneasiness or Homesickness Lingers
The length of a student’s transition can vary. Some students adjust to college during their first quarter away. For others, the transition is more gradual. If your student’s uneasiness turns into a prolonged sense of unhappiness, suggest counseling or consider calling the Parent Program Helpline if you, as a parent, would like to talk through the situation with Cal Poly staff. Cal Poly parents are also available to provide advice based on their experiences. To contact one of them, visit our Contact a Parent webpage.