The Parentals Guide

The Parentals

(A newsletter for parents of first-year U of T Mississauga students - To sign up to receive the monthly Hotlink e-newsletter, please follow this link: https://registrar.utm.utoronto.ca/student/newsletter/index.php.)

Welcome to U of T Mississauga’s guide for parents and family members of first-year students. It has been designed to address common questions shared by parents and family members of new university students. It will also provide some insight into the new world that your son or daughter has entered, some of the challenges they face, and how you can help them succeed in their first, and subsequent, years of study.

We also invite you to explore the Office of Student Transition website, which offers information and programming for parents and families of first-year students.

The Basics

Links to key publications or web-based information and applications that your son or daughter need to succeed at U of T Mississauga.

  • Academic Calendar – Contains information on all courses offered at U of T Mississauga, as well as rules, regulations and policies. All first-year students receive a printed version of the calendar.
  • Fall-Winter Registration Guide for New Students – A must-read companion to the Academic Calendar – it contains important academic and financial deadlines, instructions on how to enroll, and much more.
  • Academic Timetable – The online schedule of classes offered at U of T Mississauga.
  • ACORN – The online student web service. All courses selection, registration, student records, including grades, are accessed here. 
  • Office of the Registrar – Information regarding tuition, admissions, exams, academic and financial advice, and important dates/deadlines.
  • Residence Life – The web portal for students living on campus.
  • Student Services – Support services, including a health clinic, career centre, and international student resource centre.
  • New Student Orientation – Held before classes begin, all new students take part in a series of activities and events to welcome them to campus and meet other students.
  • Transition and Orientation programs – A variety of resources to assist students in their transition to university. Also info for parents and families!
  • FAQ Database - A resource with answers to frequently asked questions about academics, financial aid, and more.

Students in lab coats

The First-year Challenge

Entering first-year university is probably one of the most significant challenges your son or daughter will face to date. For most, it will involve a change in the way they organize their daily lives and, as family members, you should be aware that they face demands on their time and attention that they did not experience in high school.

How can you help?

Students who live in residence or on their own find the new demands placed on them to be very stressful. They have to keep on top of their studies, meet deadlines, eat properly, wash their clothes, clean up and nurse themselves through colds. They may even have a bout of homesickness from time to time. Each student adjusts in his or her own way. It may take longer for some, though, and they’ll wish you were around to help. Obviously you can’t be there all the time, nor should you be, but here are a couple of ways to keep in touch and be supportive:

  • An e-mail, phone call, or Skype video chat — even a text message
  • An ol’ fashioned greeting card or a small gift through the mail (or ordered online)
  • If you live in the area, meet them for lunch or drop by with some snacks (but, call or text first)

Students who live at home need the same type of support and encouragement as those who live on their own. They also deserve some special consideration from all family members. In addition to their new environment and academic responsibilities, they may face traffic jams or missed buses, and the inconvenience of not having the same easy access to campus facilities as a student living in residence. This could mean waiting on campus for a particular event or, perhaps, for a ride home. Making allowances for meals at odd hours, providing a quiet place to study and helping with transportation are just some of the ways to help “day students” adjust to the particular demands of their university experience.

Working: Maintaining a Balance

The main job of university students is to learn about and explore the world around them. However, the reality is that many students need to work, at least on a part-time basis. And, aside from a paycheque, there are certainly benefits to holding a job. The challenge is keeping a balance between studying and working. We recommend that students work no more than 10 to 12 hours per week. This is critical. Students who work more than that are more likely to do poorly in their coursework, or fail altogether.

Students using light table

Attend classes

You may be amazed to learn that some students do not show up for class and, not surprisingly, they do poorly or fail. It happens, but it shouldn’t. Everything students need to succeed is right here on campus, and they need to be here, and not rely solely upon on the Internet. Your son or daughter must realize that it is critical for him or her to show up for classes regularly, to listen to the lectures, to take notes, to participate in discussions, to attend tutorials and labs, and to use on-campus resources, such as the library. It will probably mean they need to spend time in the evening on campus and provisions have been made to provide a safe environment. Remember, as a rule of thumb, students should expect to do two to three hours of studying and preparation for each hour of class — that equals about 40 hours a week.

Student lying on bed

Parental Access to Information

One of the hardest habits for parents to break is to intercede on their child’s behalf. Throughout high school, parents were kept informed by notices of important events and deadlines, phone calls regarding attendance, parent/teacher interviews and, of course, report cards. It’s different at university. While your interest in your son or daughter’s progress is certainly encouraged, many parents find it disconcerting to learn that they do not have automatic access to student records. It is university policy — and, in fact, it is the law — that the university cannot release details about a student to anyone, even parents, without the student’s written consent. If there are concerns regarding performance, rules and deadlines, for example, it is up to the student to address them directly. In most cases, that is done through the Office of the Registrar, which employs a staff of experienced and concerned academic and financial advisors to assist your son or daughter to succeed.

Independence

One of the hallmarks of the university experience is for students to develop a greater sense of independence. It is a natural and necessary stage of becoming an adult. That’s another reason why students need to interact in the university community on their own. For many parents it will be a challenge, either because it is difficult for them to visualize their children as being adults, or, in some instances, because the culture they grew up in has a strong tradition of parental involvement. Nevertheless, encouraging your son or daughter to become more independent during their university experience will allow them to succeed here, and after they graduate.

Is something wrong?

One day you may get an e-mail or a phone call from your son or daughter that doesn’t sound right. He or she may sound panicked, depressed, angry or homesick. This is often the result of a build up of pressure and can come at any time, but it particulary happens to first-year students in October and November. It may be the only time there’s a strong urge to communicate with you. Be patient. Often, just listening is enough. It may make you feel stressed, but it works wonders for a frustrated student. But, if you are worried that something really is wrong, trust your instincts and make a follow-up call, for example. And, if you think there’s a serious problem, call a residence co-ordinator or the Health and Counselling Centre or seek the assistance of your family physician or the appropriate medical personnel.

Keeping in touch

All students are assigned a University of Toronto e-mail account (ending in @mail.utoronto.ca). E-mail is the official method used by the university to communicate with students on all academic and administrative matters. The university will send e-mail only to a student’s utoronto e-mail account. It is important that your son or daughter check their e-mail on a regular, if not daily, basis. As well, all information concerning grades and fees is accessed by students online through a computer application called "ACORN" (Accessible Campus Online Resource Network). Please ensure that all emergency contact information on their ACORN account is up to date.

Grades

Many first-year students are dismayed when they get their first few assignments back after marking. The grades they receive can be low, sometimes much lower than they’ve had before. This is common. Even straight-A high school students may experience difficulties because of the different approach to studying required by university-level courses. It can be discouraging, but as they adapt and better understand the caliber of work required, the marks usually start to rise. If, however, they don’t, they should seek out assistance from the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre whose counselors are experts in providing students with methods for improving their study skills.

Students in costume

The right fit

Sometimes students discover that they have enrolled in a program for which they are not suited, or for which they have lost interest. For example, a student who had always wanted to be a doctor may have difficulty in life sciences, but discover a passion for, and succeed in, the study of philosophy, English literature or business. It can be confusing for parents and students alike. So don't be surprised if your son or daughter fine tunes his or her program of study. It's quite common – more than half of university students switch programs – and, in fact, U of T Mississauga’s curriculum allows students to explore and assemble a course of study that builds upon and rewards their strengths. Their best chance at succeeding is to have a passion for the subject they are studying.

Rules and deadlines

It is important for students and parents alike to be aware of the rules and regulations that govern the university and its students. Of particular importance, are deadlines for completing assignments and paying fees (and/or receiving refunds and withdrawing from courses). All deadlines are outlined in the Academic Calendar and the Fall-Winter (and Summer) Registration Guides. Students are expected to read, understand and abide by university deadlines and regulations. When in doubt, they should consult either of those publications or speak to someone in the Office of the Registrar. The university will not be responsible for a student who acts upon incorrect information provided by a peer or someone unfamiliar with university regulations.

Keep up to date with Hotlink

Each month, the Office of the Registrar sends students an electronic newsletter – Hotlink – to advise them of important dates, special student-focused success sessions (i.e. career advice, choosing a major), key events and other news. If you'd like to keep up to date and receive your own copy of Hotlink by e-mail, all you need to do is sign up here: https://registrar.utm.utoronto.ca/student/newsletter/index.php

And, to see more resources for parents of U of T Mississauga first-year students, please go to http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/transition/parents-families

U of T's Parents and Families website, eNews and Twitter account

Visit this website for more information on being the parent or family member of a U of T student, to subscribe to the free quarterly e-newsletter, and follow @UTFamily on Twitter for up-to-the minute news and resources.

A final word

Your son or daughter is embarking on an exciting journey, and the University of Toronto Mississauga community is dedicated to helping make sure he or she succeeds. We all have a role to play. We wish you and your son or daughter great success. We suggest that you keep a copy of this handy for reference purposes throughout your son or daughter's first year.

Updated: Aug. 31, 2016