A strong START

START includes two separate tracks — one for students and one for parents. Parents are going through a transition as well, especially when they send their first child away to college. Image from START in summer 2016.

UWL welcomes new students and families to campus during nine days in June

Throughout June, incoming UW-La Crosse students will begin the transition to becoming full-fledged college students.

First-year students and their families will come to campus for START (Student Advising, Registration, and Transition), a one-day program that first-year students are required to attend. The dates of START are June 12, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, and 26.

During START, first-year students receive information about attending UWL and academic advising related to selecting first semester courses, along with registering for fall classes.

In small groups with the help of a current UWL student Eagle Guides, incoming students can begin to understand what life as a UWL student will be like and discuss aspects they may feel nervous about. Students who didn’t know anyone at the beginning of the day often leave with new Facebook friends and new phone numbers or email addresses of other incoming students.

During START, incoming students receive information about attending UWL, receive academic advising related to selecting first semester courses, and register for fall classes. Image from START in summer 2016.

“It helps them feel they are part of the campus community,” says Jennifer Hartzheim, UWL first year experience coordinator.

Some of Hartzheim’s best advice for new students is to not gauge how they are feeling at START based on how other students look. A student sitting next to them who is outwardly smiling and talkative could be just as nervous on the inside. Instead, Hartzheim advises students to focus on the new opportunities in front of them as they begin college. “Take advantage of it and try something new,” she says.

START is also for parents

START includes two separate tracks — one for students and one for parents. Parents are going through a transition as well, especially when they send their first child away to college. START helps parents think of how their role may change.

“At UWL we have a parent philosophy that we are partners with parents,” says Hartzheim. “We talk about campus resources for them as parents.”

Those resources include a website specifically for parents and communication with them throughout the year through an email newsletter, UWL Eagle Mail.

“This is our one real face-to-face time with parents before students come to campus,” explains Hartzheim. “We want to establish communication with them, so they know how they can reach us and we know how we can reach them.”

START is a continuation of UWL’s recruitment efforts, says Corey Sjoquist, UWL director of Admissions.

“As we’ve worked with students and families over the last 18 months, this helps them take that step to starting their college career,” he says.

UWL employees play a big part in START

One of the most helpful things for an incoming student and family to see on campus is a friendly face, says Hartzheim.

“If you see someone wondering around, take time to stop and ask if you can help them find a building,” she says. “That goes a long way in helping them see that UWL is a friendly and helpful place.”

Also, when students arrive in the fall, it is important to be courteous in helping students navigate new territory. Instead of simply sending students to a different office, consider walking them there or calling the office where they are going to help them prepare for the student. When answering questions in person, via phone or email, take time to understand concerns in order to connect new students to the right resources.

“The little things add up to providing a positive student and parent experience,” she says.

Hartzheim and Jackie Briggs, assistant director of Admissions, lead START with a committee of representatives from diverse sectors of campus, including College of Science and Health Academic Services and dean’s offices; Records and Registration; the Academic Advising Center; and the Provost Office. University Reservations also helps with logistics.

Sjoquist says he is grateful for the many people across campus who contribute to START.

“I know the experience students and families have at START makes a tremendous impact,” he says.