Parent Guide 2020-2021

A Message to Parents, Guardians, and Supporters of University Students  

Congratulations on your student’s admission to the University of Guelph!     

The University experience is one of profound growth and development.  During the first  year in particular, you  can expect your student to experience challenges associated with adapting to a new university and social environment.  The University recognizes that such challenges may at times be stressful but, ultimately, they result in new learning, personal growth and development. Rest assured that the University understands these challenges and has taken measures to establish resources, policies and protocols designed to support your student throughout their time here.    

This guide is intended for you as a parent to guide your student on their U of G journey  as they become more  independent. Some resources require a login or suggest you direct your student to startonline.ca. When you come across these, we encourage you to remember the name of the resource and refer your student back to it later.    

Get  your Student STARTed this summer by encouraging them to explore the summer and fall programs and support we offer students to transition to university. For the summer, your student should concentrate on checking their U of G email weekly and reading startonline.ca. Important information, dates, and deadlines are shared by email and on startonline.ca.     

We know that Covid-19 has created a lot of uncertainty, in so  many different ways. The university is committed to keeping everyone in our community updated, including new students, on the university’s Covid-19 website. U of G is responding to the evolving situation, balancing student safety and well-being with ensuring a quality academic experience in September.  

Irrespective of age or experience we regard all students as adults and, as such, it is important for interactions and engagement with the University to be through them.  It is our expectation that students will initiate any correspondence, action, request or meeting with our academic or administrative units and, if required, they will invite a support person to accompany them. In these instances, the presence of a support person can help the student feel confident to express their own opinions and to advocate for their own needs.    

The University is bound by the Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA); provincial legislation that governs the University’s collection, use and sharing of personal information.  Under this legislation, University faculty and staff are prohibited from discussing, changing or divulging a student’s personal information.  This means that we will not provide you with information on grades, academic progress, financial status, disciplinary history, etc.  Your student is always welcome to discuss their university experience with the appropriate University academic or administrative resource.     

Should you be concerned for the well-being of your student, we invite you to call us to seek advice on how you can support and help your student, and encourage them to speak with a University resource person if needed.  We will be happy to walk you through the range of support services that are available to them.  We will gladly reach out to your student to discuss their university experience directly with them.    

Understand the highs and lows of your family member’s development as a student and provide the support and encouragement where they are needed most. Students may have the perception that these are supposed to be the best years of their lives. When they are afraid, confused, and overwhelmed it is important to realize their experiences are a normal part of life.  

Some of the most common questions family members have are whether their students will do well academically, achieve their goals, what services are available to support them, which points in the year are challenging, and how to talk to their student about academics.   

The Student Experience    

First year courses at university emphasize new skills and ways of learning. In university it’s not just about working hard but it’s also about working differently; it’s a learning process that is normal and part of being challenged academically. University courses will challenge students in different ways: managing time, controlling procrastination, self-motivation, adapting to new kinds of learning, advanced writing and research, and working independently. University courses have more freedom, and require students to set goals, establish priorities, and keep deadlines for themselves. Encourage your student to step up and meet the challenge by setting goals and using university resources.   

Even though not all first-year students experience a drop in their grades, many of them do find that their average goes down to some extent from high school. The drop in grades reflects the transition to university style-learning, academic adjustments students make, and taking on experiences outside of the classroom including connecting with peers, clubs, volunteering, or working. A drop in marks does not mean they aren’t suited for university study or won’t be able to reach their goals. A mark drop does suggest that students could benefit from advice, information, and resources so they approach their studies more strategically and manage their time more effectively.      

Resources 

Academic supports for students are available online – they have been for years, especially through the library’s online resources. Discuss with your student if they have accessed any of these to help with their transition. When students start their semester it’s helpful if they look at their course outline, textbook requirements for each class, and which U of G resources would support them in that particular class.    

With all campus resources, encourage your student to initiate contacting the resource. This is because campus resources speak to students directly, especially about private and confidential information. Ways to support your student in talking to campus resources include: practicing or going over what they plan on asking or talking about with the resource, and only joining the conversation if your student asks for that direct support.   

  • The START Team: If a student does not know where to start with a question or concern, all students can email start@uoguelph.ca or book a meeting with a professional staff member at www.startonline.ca/Questions.  

  • Academic Advising: Encourage the student to get to know what Academic Advising is available before September. Encourage your student to contact their Program Counsellor when they are unsure about specific degree requirements, course requirements, or help with course selection.    

  • McLaughlin Library: Students can access many services including: one-on-one appointments and supported learning groups (SLGs) about many topics or classes. The library has resources on virtual coursework, writing, math and science.    

  • Professors, Instructors, and Teaching Assistants (TA): Students can talk to the instructors of their course when they have questions. How an instructor prefers to be contacted by students is shared on the course outline (document that has details about the course) and students receive course outlines in the first week of class.     

  • Gryphons Nest Communities & Residence Communities: Students are assigned a virtual community or in-person community. An upper-year student leader will support the community and your student in academics, wellness, and social life. If your student does not know their community, encourage them to email start@uoguelph.ca.  

  • STARTonTrack (September – November) and BounceBack (January – March) are peer-to-peer programs students can sign up for at any point in the second/winter semester. Students meet with an upper-year student to speak about goals, challenges, or figuring out university life. Many students find it helpful to talk to someone who has recently experienced first year at U of G.  

What to Expect & How to Support     

  • June – August: Summer is an important time for new students to prepare for the fall semester. Encourage your student to check their U of G email weekly because important information, dates, and deadlines are shared by email from the university. The new student website www.startonline.ca has helpful information. The START Team has been supporting new students through online transition programming since 2003 - we are able to support your student in being ready for Fall 2020 irrelevant of the course delivery. New students can email start@uoguelph.ca with any questions from June 1 and throughout their entire first year.    

  • Orientation Week: O-Week is a one-week program with hundreds of events, that supports students in both academics and social transition to university. Encourage your student to attend events, including the UNI series for academics and a mix of social events to meet other students.  

  • September: September is a busy time for incoming students as they are adjusting to their new life as Gryphons. Many students begin to realize that they need to learn how to take notes, study for midterms, write essays, and talk to professors. Some students may find it difficult to get into “study mode” at the start of the year.   

    • If living off-campus, students are assigned a community as part of the program Gryphons Nest. Each Gryphons Nest community is led by an upper-year student (Online Community Mentor) and includes around 40 other students in the same academic program. If one of the few students living on-campus, students are a part of a Residence Community led by an upper-year student (Residence Assistant) and includes a group of other students. These communities support success in academics, wellness, and social life. If wanting additional support and connection, all students are invited to sign up for STARTonTrack, a program where an upper-year student will regularly meet one-to-one with a student to support them in goals, challenges, and adjusting to university life.   

    • Questions to ask: How are you enjoying your classes? Have you found a good place to study? How are you meeting other new students? What types of supports does the library offer that you’ve tried? How are you planning for all the different assignment deadlines and tests? What would be helpful support from me?   

  • October: Most courses have midterm examinations in October; students may be experiencing heightened levels of stress during this time as they undergo their first exams of university. Students are also exploring course offerings for their next semester. Talk with your student to see if they’ve met with their program counsellor to discuss course requirements for their upcoming course selection (they pick courses for winter 2021 before the fall semester ends). During this time students also have larger tests, assignments or deadlines coming up. 

    • Questions to ask: How many midterms do you have? How are you feeling about your grades? Do you have a study plan to balance the multiple assignments or tests you have in the short period of time? Have you chatted with your program counsellor? Is joining STARTonTrack an idea that interests you to help you meet your goals and face challenges?  

  • November: By now students have received some midterm or assignment grades back. Students could experience a drop in expected marks because of the academic adjustment. Talk with your student to see how they are doing, if they indicate things aren’t going as planned, encourage them to look at the academic resources on www.startonline.ca. Deadlines for term papers and final exams quickly approach as the semester nears an end.   

    • Questions to ask: How are you feeling about your grades? Have you started to prepare for your final exams next month? Have you explored the supports the library has to offer? Have you looked at your exam schedule?   

  • December: Final exams begin in December. Although students do not have classes during this time, they may be feeling the pressure of preparing for multiple exams at once. Students will receive their final grades in December.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you been taking study breaks? Is there anything you need from me?    

  • January: Once winter break has concluded, students return for the winter semester. At this point some students may decide their program is not for them and consider changing programs which is normal! If students struggled in their first semester, refer them to an academic resource or BounceBack (meetings one-on-one with an upper year student for goals and challenges). Similar to September, students may struggle to get back into a “study mode”.   

    • Questions to ask: How are you feeling for the new semester? Is there anything you would like to do differently this semester? Have you considered signing up for BounceBack? Do you have any plans for Reading Week in February? Do you need anything from me?   

  • February: Students are preparing for their midterms which often take place around Reading Week. Reading Week gives students a week off classes to: catch up with courses, connect with friends or family, travel, volunteer, or many other options. Ask your student if they have spoken with their Program Counsellor in preparation for their summer and fall course selections.   

    • Questions to ask: How are you feeling about your grades? How are your midterms going? Is there anything you need from me?   

  • March:  Similar to November, students are wrapping up their semester with final assignments and preparing for final exams. Students may experience feelings of stress or some may feel comfortable now that they have experienced a round of final exams in December.   

    • Questions to ask: How are you feeling for exams? Have you looked at your exam schedule? What are you doing the same or differently from your December exam prep or final assignments? Are you taking any summer courses? Have you talked with your Program Counsellor about Fall course selection?   

  • April: Final exams for the winter semester begin in April. With students' second period of final exams, they may be experiencing similar feelings to December. Some students may also consider taking courses in the summer semester which are offered in person or online. Many students take an extra semester to catch up on a missed course and often students return for an extra semester to complete their degree.    

    • Questions to ask: Have you been taking study breaks? What are you doing the same or differently for exams this semester? What are your plans for the summer? 

Being a university student requires the ability of incorporating the “life” side of the work-life balance or prioritize academic needs with busy social calendars. Setbacks and failure are a normal part of university and being able to bounce back in the face of adversity is a big part of university; this is where student supporters can make a huge impact. When your student faces adversity, help guide them to the tools they can access for help, this will foster independence in the student, and they can use the resource the next time a problem arises. Encourage your student to seek the help they need from on-campus and off-campus resources-both proactively and reactively. Each student’s university experience is unique to them which means they will need different supports at different times.  

What to Expect & How to Support   

  • September-December: During the semester, many students find that habits or practices they had before university have not continued into first semester. This might be sacrificing sleep to study at night, forgetting to take study breaks because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of work, beginning an unbalanced diet. During exam times, students might have high levels of stress. If stress or habits are impacting parts of your student’s life, explore Student Wellness’ resources.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you explored the resources Student Wellness has to offer?    

  • January: Students may begin to reflect on challenges they had in their previous semester and how they want to adapt and change their new semester as they set New Year’s Resolutions. Some students may consider purchasing a gym membership at this time or changing their diet.   

    • Questions to ask: Is there anything you need from me? Have you explored supports on campus? How are you going to have a healthy second semester?   

  • February-April: Some students may begin to feel anxious as they consider what their plans are for the summer. Students may also begin to feel overwhelmed as course work begins to pile up for the semester.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you been taking studying breaks? Have you accessed any of the services from Student Wellness Services? How are you going to self-care during stressful times in the semester?   

Resources   

With all on campus resources, encourage your student to initiate contacting the resource, and join the conversation if your student asks for your support. Resources speak directly to students about private and confidential information.    

  • Student Wellness Services: provides health and well-being support and services to students and to the campus community, including Wellness Education, Health Services, Counselling, and Accessibility Services. Mental Health resources are listed here. 24/7 Urgent Supports for Students: Here 24/7 at 1-884-437-3247, Good2Talk at 1-866-925-5454, HelpPhone at 1-800-668-6868, or for texting support text ‘UofG’ to 686868     

  • Student Experience Advisors: Indigenous, BIPOC, LGBTQ2IA+, and International Students have specific Advisors available as a support. U of G also has a Multi-Faith Resource Team. Students can book meetings with an Advisor at www.startonline.ca/Questions.  

Student Experience honours diversity and respects all individuals. We affirm the dignity and worth of every person, regardless of ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender expression and identity. Together, we work to create positive spaces where everyone is afforded equal opportunity to thrive. If your student is looking to explore an aspect of their personal identity or connect with a specific community, we are here to help.     

U of G has many opportunities for your student to get involved such as volunteering, various clubs, employment, and communities related to their identity. Encourage your student to visit www.startonline.ca to explore programs that may be of interest to them and discover the supports available. Students begin to explore extracurriculars to get involved in at the U of G. There are hundreds of clubs, organizations, volunteer and work opportunities.    

What to Expect & How to Support  

  • September: Students have jam-packed days full of meeting people, adjusting to university life, and figuring out their courses. Students also begin to explore ways to get involved as a student.    

  • Community in September: If living off-campus, students are assigned a community as part of the program Gryphons Nest. Each Gryphons Nest community is led by an upper-year student (Online Community Mentor) and includes around 40 other students in the same academic program. If one of the few students living on-campus, students are a part of a Residence Community led by an upper-year student (Residence Assistant) and includes a group of other students. These communities support success in academics, wellness, and social life. If wanting additional support and connection, all students are invited to sign up for STARTonTrack, a program where an upper-year student will regularly meet one-to-one with a student to support them in goals, challenges, and adjusting to university life.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you explored www.GryphLife.ca for activities and clubs on campus?    

  • October-November: Thanksgiving weekend is often a time where students may realize how much they have changed in a short time and some relationships have changed. It can be difficult figuring out how to balance the person they are becoming through their experiences at university, and their home life. 

    • Questions to ask: How have you felt so far about university? What has changed for you?   

  • December: Similar to Thanksgiving, December has a longer break from courses, where students may feel a wide range of emotions about university and home life, with some students figuring out what their new routine is with family and friends. International students may experience reverse culture shock and may have some difficulty readjusting to their home culture after spending time in Canadian culture.  

  • January: Many campus organizations start recruiting during this time for the next academic year. Students who may have chosen not to be involved in the previous semester, may feel that they are better able to accommodate the extra time commitment that extracurricular activities may involve and seek involvement opportunities.   

    • Questions to ask: Are you interested in being involved on campus next year? What interests you on campus?   

  • February-April: Some students plan to go home for Reading Week in February which includes visiting friends, returning home, or possibly travelling. Students also consider what they want to be involved in for the next year. Students also begin to reflect on their experience at U of G so far and what they have accomplished.   

    • Questions to ask: Do you have any goals you would like to accomplish next year? Are there any opportunities you’re interested in?   

Resources    

With all on campus resources, encourage your student to initiate contacting the resource, and join the conversation if your student asks for your support. Resources speak directly to students about private and confidential information.    

  • Student Experience Advisors: Indigenous, BIPOC, LGBTQ2IA+, and International Students have specific Advisors available as a support. U of G also has a Multi-Faith Resource Team. Students can book meetings with an Advisor at www.startonline.ca/Questions

  • GryphLife.ca is the website where U of G posts how to get involved in events, clubs, and more.   

  • STARTonTrack (September – November) and BounceBack (January – March) are peer-to-peer programs students can sign up for at any point in the second/winter semester. Students meet with an upper-year student to speak about goals, challenges, or figuring out university life. Many students find it helpful to talk to someone who has recently experienced first year at U of G. 

Every student is a part of a community, whether they are living at home, commuting, living off-campus in Guelph, or living in Residence.  

If your student will be living on or off campus, sending your student off to school can be a very emotional time for families as it may be the first time your student is living away from home for an extended time. There are many resources available to our students living on and off campus as discussed below.      

For students who have housemates or roommates, they may experience conflict. In Residence, all students are assigned an RA (Residence Assistant) which is a live-in student staff position to support your student’s transition to university. RAs are in place to mediate conflict, ensure students are safe, and enjoy their experience in residence. For students living off-campus in Guelph, ‘Off-Campus Living’ is a positive resource for housemate and landlord conflicts. In Gryphons Nest virtual communities, it’s possible to have a conflict as well, and OCMs (Online Community Mentors) are resources. Encourage your student to talk to their RA, OCM, or Off-Campus Living if they are experiencing conflict or would like to chat with someone.    

What to Expect & How to Support  

  • September: Move-in Day(s) for Residence. Some rental leases begin. Students living at home adapt to a new schedule. All students start to adapt to their new way of living and learning.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you met your RA or OCM? Have you connected with anyone in your community?    

  • October-November: Students become more familiar or comfortable with who is in their community. Some students may experience conflict with other students. If this happens, refer your student to their RA or OCM for support in navigating the situation. It is very common for students to be encouraged to use conflict resolution skills, and this may be a new – but important – skill for your student to learn. Many students go home for the Thanksgiving break.    

    • Questions to ask: How have you been enjoying your community? Have you attended any events with your community?  

  • December: If living in Residence, students are required to check out within 24-hours of their last exam or by noon on the day after the conclusion of the exam period (whichever comes first) - encourage them to check their email for instructions. Students can leave belongings in their room but may not return until January. Students who cannot go home can apply for an extension. Residence enforces 24-hour quiet hours during the exam period to ensure the building is quiet for sleeping and studying.   

    • Questions to ask: When do you need to be out of residence by? What things do you need to pack to come home? How will we get you home?   

  • January: Students planning to move off-campus in Guelph for their second year start to put their plan in place. There are decisions about where to live and who to live with. Many first-year students unnecessarily panic about finding a place off-campus in the first few weeks of January. Off-campus rental options increase as the semester continues. Many students find housemates through their community or by connecting with Off-Campus Living. Some students choose to live with peers and not their close friends because they prioritize shared house expectations (finances, cleanliness) over closeness with housemates. Some students who had unresolved conflict with their current housemates or roommates may experience boil over as they did not resolve the conflict in their first semester. Encourage your student to touch base with their RA or OCM.    

    • Questions to ask: Have you decided where to live next year? Any thoughts on who you may ask to be housemates with? Do you need anything from your RA or OCM? Can I support you in any way?   

  • February-March: Students who are exploring places to live next year continue to search for a rental unit. Some students may experience conflict with friends about where to live and who to live with. Students can consult their RA or seek advice from Off-Campus Living staff.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you found a place to live yet?  

  • April: Students need to juggle studying for their final exams, while also packing up their personal belongings to move out of the place they’ve called home for the last eight months. Similar to December, students in Residence are required to move their belongings out 24 hours after their last exam or by noon on the day after the conclusion of the exam period (whichever comes first). For students moving from Residence to off-campus living and not going home for the summer, this means that they may need to find accommodation and/or storage for a couple weeks until their lease starts.   

    • Questions to ask: Do you need help moving? What’s the plan?  

Resources    

With all on campus resources, encourage your student to initiate contacting the resource, and join the conversation if your student asks for your support. Resources speak directly to students about private and confidential information.    

  • For Residence, read over the Information for Parents from Student Housing Services24/7 Residence Desks for room issues that need service. Here you can find more information about residence facilities and what is provided. Residence Assistants (RAs) are upper-year students in each community support students in their transition into university.    

  • For living off-campus or commuting to Guelph, Off-Campus Living can support in rental questions, housemate and landlord challenges, and more. Students will be assigned a community in the virtual Gryphons Nest program.  

  • For living at home, the Library has resources on how to set up a positive and productive university study space at home. Students will be assigned a community in the virtual Gryphons Nest program.   

Many students and their supporters find that university life costs more than they had anticipated. Students are highly encouraged to make a budget that includes their costs and responsibilities for the upcoming academic year.    

U of G provides a Student Financial Success Guide and finance info on www.startonline.ca/Finances so students know what to expect for payments and support. For all financial questions and information, your student will want to connect with Student Financial Services. Before your student arrives on campus, it’s important to have conversations with them about who and how your student is paying for university – for all four years. U of G offers a range of resources to help students from finances, jobs, and how they can approach money as a student. Some students may explore jobs on or off-camps, through co-op opportunities, or summer positions. Students may also start to look at loans, bursaries, scholarships, or other forms of financial aid.   

What to Expect & How to Support   

  • June – August: All students pay the registration deposit for classes in August. Information is sent directly to their U of G email. Your student should plan how they are paying for university and have honest conversations with you about what support looks like. Some financial paperwork requires information about parents and guardians, whether or not financial support is being provided.   

    • Questions to ask: Who will be paying for university, and for how long? What does this look like? What are the expectations around this, both ways? What is the plan for finances for your entire degree / time as a student (not just first semester)?     

  • September: Fall Semester payment is due at the beginning of September. Students should refer to their Webadvisor account to access their bill. Late fees will apply after this date. Students will look into financial aid to help pay for their time at university or explore employment opportunities. Students can also opt-out of the dental plan (see Student Financial Services).   

    • Questions to ask: How is managing your money going? Are things going as expected? How can I support you in figuring this out?   

  • October-December: Students may consider getting a job if they don’t have one while considering the time commitment it may take while also considering the impact it may have on academics. Other students who are possibly balancing a job may realize it is too stressful to also balance schoolwork. In December students also consider how they’re going to pay for the Winter Semester in January.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you considered getting a job? How are you planning to pay for the Winter Semester?    

  • January: Winter Semester Payment is due; students should be checking their email frequently and Student Financial Services for payment deadlines.   

    • Questions to ask: When is your tuition due for the semester? Do you need anything from me?   

  • February-April: Students will start to look into summer jobs during this time, scholarships, or bursaries to help pay with their next year. Students taking a summer course also have payment due in May.   

    • Questions to ask: Have you looked at employment for the summer? What are you thinking about for this summer – employment, summer courses? How are you going to pay for tuition in the fall?   

Resources   

With all on campus resources, encourage your student to initiate contacting the resource, and join the conversation if your student asks for your support. Resources speak directly to students about private and confidential information.    

  • Student Financial Services helps students to be financially prepared for university and can help with understanding OSAP, deadlines, application forms, how to keep their financial account in good standing, and much more. Financial Advisors can support students to help plan and also to help when the unexpected happens.   

  • If a student would like to speak to a Student Experience Advisor about finances, they are welcome to as well. Student Experience Advisors: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Student of Colour), LGBTQ2IA+, and International Students have specific Advisors available as supports. Students can book meetings with an Advisor at www.startonline.ca/Questions.   

  • Experience Guelph: the university employs many campus students, if your student is interested in working on campus direct them to this site for more information.