Scholar of successful high-school-to-college transitions offers advice for parents and students
July 21st, 2010
SMITHFIELD, R.I. - Laurie L. Hazard, director of Bryant University's Academic Center for Excellence and a national expert on how high school students can make a successful transition to college, says the best way for high school seniors — high achievers and struggling students alike — to prepare to "make the change" to college freshman is simply by reading over the summer months.
Perhaps the biggest surprise students face when they start freshman classes "is that there's much more reading required in college," said Hazard, a psychology professor who studies and writes about student personality types and classroom success. "Parents can really help their college-bound son or daughter by encouraging them to increase their volume of reading over the summer, before classes begin," she said. "If your child is not a big reader, you should actively engage them and get them to read anything of interest to them."
Working with your child to get them to read several books on any topic over the summer will help them prepare for college.
"If your student is an accomplished natural reader, there's a lot more you can do," said Hazard. "College and university Web sites offer a treasure trove of information and ideas for reading. Help your child do some investigating online; do it as a team. Once you find out who their professors are going to be in the fall, go to their pages and look for the titles of the books they'll be assigning. Lots of campuses have Blackboard sites, and an incoming freshman can usually secure a campus e-mail address and password over the summer, before classes start."
Hazard said that accessing your child's instructors' Blackboard sites "to help them prepare for what's ahead" can give them a valuable edge once classes begin.
"Don't assume that because your child has always been a really good student they'll make an easy transition to college," she says. The reason for this, she maintains, can often be hard for many actively engaged parents to swallow: "Today's parents are more directly involved in their children's lives, more involved in their school work and daily programs than ever before. They overschedule their kids with daily activities, help them with homework, closely monitor their progress in the classroom and on the playing field, and it can be really hard for many of them to let go of this control. It can also be confusing for students who no longer have this management situation in their lives when they start college, and even more difficult for those who do."
First-year students need to combat procrastination and "learn how to self-regulate" and manage their own homework and reading assignments, she says. "Parents can do their new college student a huge favor by understanding that this time represents a developmental shift in their child's life," she notes. "Transitioning your relationship from an adult-child to an adult-adult relationship will help immensely.
Hazard, who teaches and designs curricula for first-year experience programs, can offer insights on the growing popularity and impact of transitional programs on college campuses nationwide. She assesses these programs for their effectiveness-and has taught courses in college reading and study skills, liberal arts seminars, psychology, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, and social psychology. "One important lesson that many of these programs fail to emphasize is the importance of making friends during your first semester-and the impact that the kind of friends you make can have on your success in college," she says. "For example, she says, "it's very easy for procrastinators to attract other procrastinators, and too many students become friends with other students who can, and too often do, aid them in sabotaging their own academic success."
She is also co-author of the book Foundations for Learning (2006, Prentice Hall), which is designed to help students make a successful transition to college. "The book encourages students to take responsibility for and claim their own education," she says. She is the recipient of a "Top 10 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate" award, co-sponsored by the University of South Carolina's National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
Hazard initially wrote the textbook for Bryant University's required class for all incoming first-year students; it has since been adopted by other colleges and universities around the country. Richard J. Light, the Walter H. Gale Professor of Education at Harvard University Calls Hazard's book "a winner for any college student" that is "beautifully written joy to read."###
You can reach Laurie L. Hazard at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., at 401-232-6746 or 401-465-7764 (cell) or email@example.com or contact Tracie Sweeney on campus at 401-232-6391 or firstname.lastname@example.org