As we near the end of summer break, our sleepy campus will soon be packed with students who are ready to tackle a new year and new semester. Our incoming graduate students, in particular, will likely feel equal parts excitement and anxiety in starting a new program on a new campus and (possibly) in a new state or country. We’ve got a few ideas to help students feel more at home at Illinois.
Foster Connections Among Students
The connections that new graduate students make with returning graduate students are critical to success in graduate school. New students will have a ton of questions, from “How do I register for classes?” to “Where is the best place to get a haircut?” While our new students will likely meet others at the departmental orientation activities, introducing them to a smaller group can help them feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed.
Some ideas include:
- Host a Meet and Greet. Find a park, a classroom, or another space and invite your current advisees or students in your lab or studio to meet your new students. If you have students who are joining remotely, consider creating a Zoom event where they can join in and get to know their classmates.
- Start a Group Chat. Keep communication going beyond the start of the semester by starting a group chat. Some of our departments have recommended using Slack or Discord. This is an especially great way for students who are joining virtually to stay involved.
Create a Welcoming Atmosphere
Many of our buildings have felt empty and quiet this summer. Open the doors and windows and welcome the students! Seeing faces in spaces can bring the building to life and help students see how they can fit in.
Some ideas include:
- Keep your office door open. Yes, it can be noisy as students are moving from class to class, but it makes the hallways feel like a more welcoming atmosphere. It gives you and the students an opportunity to put names and faces together. And if someone is lost while trying to find their classroom, the restroom, or the nearest place to get coffee, you can point them in the right direction.
- Host an informal open house. Show off your lab, studio, or workspace by allowing students to drop by, look around, and ask questions.
- Offer drop-in hours before classes start. New students experience a lot of stress and anxiety in the days leading up to the first week of class. Consider holding drop-in hours so that new students can ask you any lingering questions they have.
Share Our Resources
The Graduate College has several resources that can help you plan. We've developed a GradMAP Canvas Community for our students. These pages have strategies to help students navigate graduate life at Illinois and explore campus and community resources. Our GradMAP pages have information ranging from living in the community to health and safety and funding and employment. Our Orientation Toolkit includes resources from the Graduate College, campus units, additional tips, and checklists.