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Advice on Midterms from Lynanne Yndestad, Director of New Student and Family Programs

Your student may be preparing for one of the most stressful times of the semester –midterms! Many professors give exams or have students complete group projects or writing assignments during the month of October since it’s the midpoint of the semester. Below are some tips to that should help you support your student during this crazy time.

Encourage your student to seek out academic resources.

Your student probably has an idea by now of how he or she is performing in each class. If your student is struggling, encourage him or her to utilize additional time with professors during scheduled office hours. Remind your student that there are resources like the Campus Learning Center and Writing Center to help, not only during midterms, but at any point throughout the semester. This also might be a great time to reassure your student that asking for help does not indicate weakness, but rather shows that they are mature enough to know when they need a little assistance to achieve success.

Remind your student that self-care is really important during stressful times.

This means eating regularly and trying to select healthy options, exercising to relieve tension, getting adequate sleep, and being mindful about how stress is being handled. Did you know that Dining Services has a dietitian on staff to help students figure out things like how to snack healthy, maintain solid nutrition on a budget, and incorporate more produce into their diet?  Cary Street Gym offers a variety of group exercise classes that are creative and fun like Aqua Zumba, Sunrise Yoga, and Hip Hop-We Don’t Stop, in addition to the individual cardio and weight training options available. The Wellness Resource Center provides individual consultations about stress and sleep management. University Counseling Services also provides individual and group therapy to help students. Challenge your student not to be afraid or ashamed to utilize the resources available.

Ask them to think about where they study best.

Some students are able to focus really well in the space where they live. Others find that this can be distracting because they are too comfortable there. Perhaps your student is able to focus only in complete silence or needs background noise. Did you know that the floors in Cabell Library are designed to accommodate all noise preferences? Encourage your student to check out “Club Cabell” (the second floor) if he or she prefers a more collaborative study environment with noise, or to check out one of the higher floors for whisper-only or complete-silence study environments. Consider making a deposit on your student’s RamBucks account so he or she can grab coffee or a snack at Starbucks to get through late night or early morning study sessions. There also are wonderful study spaces in the University Student Commons and Academic Learning Commons, in addition to many other locations on campus.

Stress the importance of starting early.

If we are all truly honest with ourselves, we can probably all admit to waiting until the last minute to begin working on a project. College students are no exception! While some students perform very well under pressure, it’s important to remind them to start studying and working on projects early to avoid all of the negative behaviors associated with procrastination like missing sleep, skipping meals, and being irritable toward friends and family. As I mentioned in my last post, time management is one of the hardest lessons to learn in college. Professors give out exam and assignment dates early (usually in their syllabus at the beginning of the semester) because they want students to have plenty of time to study and complete these assignments. If your student is struggling to remember information for an upcoming test, encourage him or her to spread the material out over a couple of days or weeks instead of cramming the night before the test. They can even utilize a planner or their Google calendar to plan study times or set goals for what they will accomplish each day leading up to exams.

Provide a little encouragement.

Sometimes receiving a little pick-me-up around this time is important. This may come in the form of a phone call or text just saying that you are proud of them and wish them the best on midterms. You might also consider sending your student a care package from home with a handwritten note or utilizing the VCU Care Package Program to order a special package to be sent to your student. You can be assured that your student will appreciate your support in whatever way you feel inclined to offer it.

Spring Semester Academic Advising

While your student is preparing for midterms and fall reading days on Oct. 19-20, this is also an important time for students to meet with their advisor. Students can use this time to discuss spring courses and prepare for class registration. VCU encourages all students to make at least two advising appointments each semester with their designated academic advisor.

Ask your student if he or she has scheduled an appointment. If your student hasn’t scheduled an appointment yet and doesn’t know where to start, he or she can visit the University Academic Advising website for instructions about how to meet with an advisor before class registration begins.

Student registration dates are determined by the number of credits a student has earned. The schedule for registration dates by credit is available here.

Voting Information for Students

Get out the vote! With the gubernatorial election less than a month away, there is still time for your student to get involved in the electoral process. We hope you will encourage your students to exercise their right to vote on Election Day.

The voter registration deadline in Virginia is Monday, Oct. 16. Students can register online here or they can stop and talk to one of the many volunteers around campus who are assisting students in getting registered. Many of these volunteers can be found at The Compass and the Student Commons.

Voting for Students Living on Campus. For students living on campus who have registered to vote using their campus address, here is the link with more information on where they should go to vote on Election Day.

Absentee Ballots. For students who may be registered to vote in their hometown in VA, they can request an Absentee Ballot until Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. Absentee ballots can be requested online here.

For out-of-state students, please check here to see your state’s requirements for Absentee Ballot voting. You can find more information on Absentee Voting by state here.

Virginia Voter ID Information. Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of photo identification (photo ID) when voting in person at their polling place. There are many different types of photo IDs that voters can use when they vote. A list of acceptable ID forms can be found here.

Featured Post: Supporting Students Going Through Roommate Conflict

This month, we are featuring a blog post from VCU alumnus, Samuel West, who graduated this past spring and served as a Resident Assistant (RA) and an Orientation Leader (OL). Check out his advice for students who may experience issues with roommates during this stressful time in the semester.

Conflict is an issue that many college students, myself included, avoid at all costs. “Oh it’s okay” or “no big deal” were phrases that I would involuntarily spout when in reality, my roommate was getting under my skin. It wasn’t until I went through my first year of Resident Assistant (RA) training that I began to face conflict head on and understand different methods for dealing with conflict.

Don’t Let It Fester. As someone who would try to avoid conflict for as long possible, this is perhaps the best piece of advice that I can give you. Instead of letting small moments of disagreement or annoyance build up over time, encourage your student to face issues the moment they occur. If I wasn’t happy with a roommate leaving dishes in the sink for the third day in a row, I’d tell them just that. If they were being particularly loud at a time that we had designated as  “quiet study time”, then a quick text was all that was needed to remedy the situation. If your student is living on campus, this is the perfect time to pull out the copy of their roommate agreement they should have completed with their RA at the beginning of the year. While this agreement is not binding, it is a starting point for students to begin resolving conflict. It’s possible that some circumstances have changed since they initially filled out their agreement and they had not considered their schedule or other factors. This is a great opportunity to review their roommate agreements and make any adjustments as needed.

Respect is a Two-Way Street. It’s important to realize that everyone has had a different life experience coming into college. Some students have siblings and have been accustomed to sharing their rooms and belongings with others.  Other students,  like myself, were only children that have little experience sharing rooms with others. One value that my parents instilled in me is: no matter how much you may disagree with someone you should still show them the same respect as you would anyone else. While I was well aware of this value my first-year, I certainly wasn’t the best embodiment of the value that I could have been. In hindsight, it was unreasonable of me to bark demands at my roommates when I’d hit the boiling point and to expect they simply do as I say because I think I’m right.

Who to turn to if all else fails. If it seems like your student is getting nowhere with their roommate, perhaps it’s time for them to ask for help. One of the best resources for your student is their Resident Assistant (RA). RAs receive annual training on how to conduct roommate mediation. This mediation process can help resolve many of the issues roommates might encounter and it can continue to be a valuable life skill as students move through college and beyond. The point of mediation is not to punish one party or the other but to find common ground where the roommates can agree upon and build from there.

Additional Resources 

Off-Campus Roommate Agreement:

Residential Life and Housing Roommate Tips:

Family Weekend

We hope that you will join us Friday, Nov. 3 to Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 for Family Weekend — an exciting opportunity to experience your student’s campus life, meet their friends, connect with other families and enjoy the VCU and Richmond communities. You are invited to participate in this annual fall event year after year as long as your student is enrolled in classes at VCU.

Registration is now open! Families may registration for Family Weekend online at through Friday, Oct. 27. Walk up registration will be available at the event. There is a $5 registration fee per attendee for the event which provides each registrant with an access pass granting admission into non-ticketed Family Weekend events, as well as discounts at local restaurants and shops. In addition, there are low-cost ticketed events that you can register to attend. Ticketed events sell out quickly, so don’t delay purchasing your tickets.

Download RamGuide to plan your Family Weekend experience! Download the app to personalize your schedule, browse events, view maps and stay up-to-date on the latest information from your phone, tablet or computer. Get the free app here:, then search for “VCU Family Weekend 2017” Guide and you’ll have the most up-to-date information about our event right in your pocket.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Important Fall Dates

Classes begin on Thursday, August 24, 2017.

Add/drop and late class registration will take place August 2430, 2017.

The university will be closed for Labor Day on Monday, September 4, 2017. Dining and residence halls will remain open.

Reading days will take place October 19-20, 2017. No classes will be held.

The last day to withdraw from classes with a mark of “W” is Friday, November 3, 2017.

Family Weekend is November 3-5, 2017. Please note this is a change from the dates published in the Parent and Family Calendar you may have received at Orientation.

The university will be closed November 22-26, 2017. Classes beginning at 12 p.m. or later do not meet on November 22.

The last day of classes is Saturday, December 9, 2017.

Final exams will be held December 11-19, 2017.

The university will be closed for Winter Break from December 21, 2017 -January 1, 2018.

Other important fall semester dates can be found here.

Family Weekend

We hope that you will join us Friday, Nov. 3 to Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 for Family Weekend — an exciting opportunity to experience your student’s campus life, meet their friends, connect with other families and enjoy the VCU and Richmond communities. You are invited to participate in this annual fall event year after year as long as your student is enrolled in classes at VCU.

Families may registration for Family Weekend online. Registration will open in late August and you will receive an email inviting you to register. There is a $5 registration fee per attendee for the event which provides each registrant with an access pass granting admission into non-ticketed Family Weekend events, as well as discounts at local restaurants and shops. In addition, there are low-cost ticketed events that you can register to attend. Ticketed events sell out quickly, so don’t delay purchasing your tickets once registration opens. When you register, you may also purchase a commemorative Family Weekend t-shirt to serve as a memento of the great time you’ll have with your student on campus!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Move-In Tips

It’s almost time for students to move into the residence halls!  Move-in is Saturday, August 19, 2017. You can find out all of details you need to know by checking the VCU Residential Life and Housing move-in website here. On this website, you will find a move-in guide for your student’s residence hall and will find many helpful tips for moving in including a list of what to bring and what not to bring.

Please download the VCU Ram Guide app (the same app you used for Orientation) and open the Move-In Guide to find out information about your student’s assigned move-in time. Instructions for downloading the app may be found on the move-in website.

There will be many VCU representatives directing traffic, but it is helpful to know where you are going.  You can find an interactive map of both campuses here.  If you have questions regarding move-in, please contact VCU Residential Life and Housing at (804) 828-7666 or

Please see the video below for some helpful tips regarding move-in!

Welcome Week

Your new Ram can plan out their Welcome Week experience by downloading the VCU RAM Guide from the Apple or Google Play app stores and searching for VCU Welcome Week.

Using VCU Ram Guide, your student can personalize their schedule, browse events, view maps and stay up-to-date on the latest information from their phone, tablet or computer.

Students can swipe their VCUCard at Welcome Week events, which will enter them for a chance to win prizes at the Student Organization and Volunteer Opportunities (SOVO) Fair. Prizes include iPads, flat-screen TVs and more. Swipe at 10 events (two of each of the five categories) for a chance to win the Grand Prize: one semester of free undergraduate in-state tuition!*

Prizes will be awarded throughout SOVO Fair on Friday, August 25 from 3-6 p.m., so encourage your student to attend that and to listen carefully for their name while they learn and explore. Your student must be present to win any prize.

*Free tuition is based on the full time in-state tuition rate and is awarded in the spring semester 2018. If the prize winner is enrolled less than full time, the award will be based on the number of hours enrolled and awarded at the in-state rate. As with all financial aid, the award may be adjusted if the prize winner exceeds financial need or cost of attendance.

New Student and Family Programs hosts two events during Welcome Week. Check out more information below.

Encourage your student to start this year with a splash at Water Wars on Monday, August 21 from 5-7pm! VCU students are invited out to the Cary St. Field to celebrate the beginning of an amazing academic year. Activities include a water balloon war zone, slip’n’slide, and water slide. Free t-shirts are given to the first 100 student attendees and free King of Pops popsicles are available for the first 500 students to enjoy! Students can stay after the event and check out the rest of the events happening at Rec Sports Night!

Convocation is your student’s formal welcome to the VCU academic community and the official beginning of the school year for all new students. On Tuesday, August 22 from 4-5pm students will hear from VCU’s leaders, including VCU President Dr. Michael Rao, and learn more about their new school.